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Public high school athletes poised to play — but only if they’re vaccinated

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 8:51 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 23, 2021 at 6:36 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Department of Education is moving ahead with plans to allow public high school athletics to resume practices and workouts on Friday.

About 35,000 public school student-athletes have been sidelined because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ll be able to play if they’re fully vaccinated.

The DOE had already delayed the start of the fall athletic season by a month so prospective players could complete their shots in time.

“I’m super grateful and blessed that we’re going to get this opportunity to watch our kids hopefully play this season,” said Gail Dias, whose son, Gabe Araki, is a defensive lineman for the Leilehua High School varsity football team.

Araki, a senior, will be putting on the pads and suiting up for the first time in nearly two years. He’s eager to show college coaches what he can do.

“I was fortunate enough to play a game in the varsity as a sophomore, but it’s still kind of rough because I’m trying to put myself out there for these coaches to know who I am,” said Araki.

Students have to submit proof that they took their first dose of the vaccine by Aug. 20, and the second dose three weeks later.

But, how many students are ready?

“That question is going to be answered on Monday when the kids actually show up,” said Leilehua athletic director Nolan Tokuda. “We have a process as far as to see the list of kids that are fully vaccinated, and then the kids that got their medical or religious exemptions.”

However, with the new rule in place, there will be students who’ll be cut from the team if they don’t meet those requirements.

“It’s very unfortunate for them because if they need to fully vaccinate, it will be another six weeks wait for them, but when that does happen, then they’ll be ready to try out,” said Tokuda.

For the Dias family, they said it was a very simple decision.

“We were vaccinated very early on, not only because we believe in the vaccination but also because we have other family members that we need to protect,” said Dias.

Athletics officials are confident that despite the vaccine requirement there will be a fall sports season — not just for football, but for softball, cheerleading and cross country as well.

“Everything looks ready to go, and hopefully enough kids went out and got vaccinated and they will be able to play,” said Chris Chun, executive director of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association.

Araki said he’s looking forward to play.

“Especially for the other seniors that are trying to make it to college and get film out there. It feels good after missing one season that probably could have made a lot happen for them,” he said

Although sports will be allowed to resume, spectators still won’t be allowed.

“When I first heard the news from my son, I was so disappointed because it’s his senior year,” said Dias. “We’ve already lost one season, and I really want to go out there and I want to cheer his name from the stands.”

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