Athol High School explores adding golf and cross country

  • Athol High School is exploring the option of adding golf and cross country to its upcoming fall sports catalog. STAFF FILE PHOTO/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 9/2/2020 4:39:31 PM

During unprecedented times, the Athol High School athletic department is thinking outside the box.

Athletic Director Dan Bevis said Wednesday that the school is exploring the option of adding sports for the upcoming fall season. Franklin County ADs voted last month to approve games and meets for the sports of field hockey, golf and cross country. Currently, Athol offers only field hockey from that trio, which Bevis said would limit the options for student-athletes in his district.

The school is inquiring whether students would be interested in participating in either golf or cross country, should it decide to add those sports to their catalog of offerings. Bevis is asking interested parties to reach out via email (

“I think in talking with my principal, we’re trying to just get the kids involved as best as we can,” Bevis explained. “If there’s enough interest to try and give the kids something else this fall, we’ll explore as many options as possible.”

Participation for all sports still requires school committee approval, which is expected to take place at the organization’s next meeting on Sept. 16. The first day of preseason for MIAA sports is scheduled for Sept. 18, and games and meets would likely follow around Oct. 1.

“Given the circumstances this year, we’re trying to be creative and figure out what we can do for our students,” said Bevis. “If it’s possible that these sports, which we haven’t had here for awhile, are able to get off the ground, hopefully that adds to the experience of being a student-athlete at Athol High School.”

Athol hasn’t had a golf program since 2009, when the sport moved from a spring to fall offering. There wasn’t enough interest following the switch to a new season. Cross country was dropped as a varsity offering in 2002, also due to lack of numbers. That decision was particularly surprising because just one year earlier, the Athol boys team went 19-0, captured a Pioneer North Division championship, and won the program’s first WMass Division II title. In 2002 however, the school only managed to get four boys and four girls out for their teams, and wound up running as a club program.

Soccer, which is a popular fall offering at Athol High School, was jettisoned to the new “fall II” season created by the MIAA that will run from late February through April, as Franklin County ADs determined the necessary modifications created by the state in order to play were too difficult to implement this fall. Football, volleyball and cheer are also expected to be played during that same floating season.

“We’re in a different time,” began Bevis. “I think everybody is trying to do what’s best for their kids. For us, that means exploring as many diff avenues and opportunities as we can. We aren’t making any hard commitments right now, just gauging interest to see if it’s worth going forward.”

The window of opportunity would be tight for Athol. If the school determines there is enough interest to add either golf or cross country, it would be added to the discussion along with the rest of fall sports at the Sept. 16 school committee meeting. If approved at that time, the sport(s) would then have to register through the MIAA. There’s a quick turnaround from that meeting to the start of preseason.

“There’s a lot of steps we’d have to take but I do think it’s feasible, if we have enough interest and participation,” Bevis explained. “Ultimately, anything we do in regards to athletics needs to be approved at that meeting.”

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