SALT LAKE CITY — On April 14, the Utah High School Activities Association cancelled spring sports seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even so, there is one sport that has found a way to continue to let its athletes compete, and even have a state tournament.
The Utah High School Horseshoe League began its season back in March, along with all other spring sports, but has managed to keep going despite COVID-19 restrictions. According to Utah High School Horseshoe League Director Seth Ohms, all it took was a little creativity and a lot of technology.
"When sports started to shut down, we thought that we would be able to get through the season just fine because with horseshoe, physical distancing is normal," Ohms said. "You are standing at least 12 feet away at all times when throwing horseshoes, and there is very little physical contact. But as things progressed, we knew that we needed to stop having official meets."
As the director of the league, the Canyon View High School coach, and the father of the reigning state champion, Elly Ohms, Ohms knew that he needed to do something to salvage the season.
"Virtual competitions have been going on for a while now between casual and even competitive horseshoe players," he said. "I knew that a virtual season could be done, but it was just a matter of implementing it and having athletes be able to participate."
Ohms decided that he would have athletes record themselves on a Facebook Live video that would be posted to the group, which is also set up on the social media platform. He posted an instructional video on the Utah High School Horseshoe League page that outlines exactly how players need to record and score themselves.
"Since starting the virtual competitions, we have had all of the athletes participate," Ohms said. "Some will take turns going to their local horseshoe park, but most will play in their yards with a stake in the ground. They will set up a camera that shows where the horseshoes land, and they will score themselves and post the video for other competitors and teams to see.
“It has gone really well, and has been really good for these kids to keep going with something when everything seems to be changing so much."
The Utah High School Horseshoe League is in its third year and includes 42 total athletes from Cedar, Canyon View, Panguitch and Hurricane high schools, and a combined team from St. George. There are JV and varsity teams like other sports, and it is scored much like cross country with the top five players being the ones who score.
Ohms said with the continuation of this season into a state championship, he hopes it will help get athletes going in this sport that has been such a big part of his family’s life.
"I am a third-generation horseshoe player," Ohms said. "It is a sport that really takes skill and proficiency if you want to get good at it, and it has been so great to see these athletes improve. I have had so many parents tell me that their child didn’t fit well in other sports and activities, but that horseshoe has given them confidence."
Ohms said that he is hopeful that the league can hold a state championship with all the athletes present together; but if not, they are ready to do it virtually. The state championship is scheduled for May 12.