It’s been about 7 months since an NCHSAA-sanctioned athletic event was held in Union County, but the start of practice is right around the corner for some sports.

Starting on Nov. 4, county cross country and volleyball teams can begin practicing, with games starting as early as Nov. 16, according to nchsaa.org. Volleyball teams across the state will be limited to 14 conference-only matches during the regular season and will have a limit of two matches a week, while cross country teams can have 14 meets during the regular season and no more than two per week.

A shortened season isn’t ideal, but the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the NCHSAA to cram seasons in for 15 sports into a six-month window.

Union County is a state powerhouse in cross country.

Cuthbertson has won the past two girls 3A state championships in cross country, while the Weddington boys also took home a state title in 2018. This season, regional championships will be held on Jan. 16, with the state meet coming the week after on Jan. 23.

Marvin Ridge is once again expected to be the class of Union County in volleyball. The Mavericks went 30-4 overall and 14-0 in Southern Carolina Conference play last season after winning the program’s first-ever state championship in 2018.

The only other sport to start competition this calendar year is swimming and diving, which begins on Dec. 7. Marvin Ridge has won four girls state titles and three boys state titles since the start of the 2014 season, although the Mavericks went home empty-handed in 2019.

Public high school basketball also starts practice this calendar year, on Dec. 7, and games will begin as early as Jan. 4.

High school football is usually played in the fall, but the NCHSAA has moved the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. High school football practice will be on Feb. 8 and the first games can be played on Feb. 26.

The normal 11-game football schedule has been reduced to seven games, and the size of the playoff field has also shrunk.