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Fairmont Senior's Emily Starn attempts to steal the ball from North Marion's Karlie Denham during a game last season. 

FAIRMONT — Following a month of uncertainty, the high school sports world in West Virginia received a bit of clarity and finally a morsel of good news on Monday.

High school winter sports are slated to begin practicing Feb. 14, with the first competitions permitted on March 3, Governor Jim Justice announced during his Monday press briefing. Teams and individual players will have to accrue the usual 14 practices before they are eligible to compete in actual games.

The announcement by Justice sets the course for the resumption of high school winter sports in West Virginia, which have twice been delayed by Justice, first to Jan. 11 and then to March 3.

The Feb. 14 practice start date for teams as well as the subsequent March 3 date to begin games, however, is dependent on teams’ respective county’s COVID-19 metrics on the state’s weekly DHHR map. Any counties labeled red on the weekly map will not be permitted to practice or play, Justice said. The map, however, is expected to undergo changes in terms of what qualifies a county as red or orange, Justice said Monday, with the new metrics likely to be announced during Justice’s Wednesday briefing. It’s expected the alterations to the metrics will move more county’s from red to orange, Justice said Monday, aligning West Virginia’s labels closer to other states across the nation using a similar system.

The most recent DHHR map on Sunday showed 42 of the state’s 55 counties labeled red, with another 11 counties labeled orange, in accordance with the state’s current metrics. There were no counties labeled either green or yellow on Sunday’s map.

With Justice now having set official dates for the start of practice on Feb. 14 and games on March 3, the WVSSAC is expected to release a revised schedule for winter, and perhaps spring, sports soon.

The last high school sporting event played in West Virginia was on Nov. 28 when Fairmont Senior defeated Bluefield in the Class AA state football semifinals and St. Marys defeated Pendleton County in the Class A state football semifinals. The WVSSAC announced later that evening that the remainder of the football state playoffs had been cancelled, including the Super Six Championships.

Email Bradley Heltzel at bheltzel@timeswv.com or follow him on Twitter @bradheltzTWV.

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