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With the IHSA’s 2021 spring season right around the corner, The News-Gazette will host its annual Faces of Spring photo shoot this coming Sunday.

But it will look quite a bit different from Faces of Spring events of the past — for two key reasons.

One is the COVID-19 pandemic, which previously affected our Faces of Fall and Faces of Winter shoots. We conducted both outdoors and scheduled each school’s athletes into abbreviated time slots in order to prevent excess gathering.

The other reason is the difference in “spring sports” during this school year. Football, volleyball and boys’ soccer — traditionally fall events — are occupying a spring position on the IHSA’s calendar, in response to the pandemic.

For those unfamiliar: Our “Faces of” events welcome athletes from each school in our coverage area to The News-Gazette’s Champaign office for a photo shoot ahead of their athletic season.

Those images will run in our print pages during the season and be published on our website leading up to the campaign.

This is an opportunity for athletes to represent their respective programs in a format offered by no other outlet statewide.

We typically have the athletes participate in more activities than just having their photo taken — such as recording radio promotional material and goofing off on video for the creation of a GIF — but the pandemic has prevented us from running our “Faces of” series to its full potential this school year. We hope to bring back those elements for the 2021-22 athletic season.

Up to two athletes per team are able to come to our Faces of Spring event, and those athletes are selected by their coaches. They’ll drop by our office at a previously established time, enter our facility (alphabetically by school) in five-minute intervals for a couple quick photos and depart. They’re required to wear a mask whenever they aren’t being photographed, and all involved News-Gazette staffers will be masked.

We decided to hold the spring photo shoot indoors because of unpredictable weather, though we may opt to return to our outdoor setup if weather permits.

We’ll repeat this process sometime in April for our first-ever Faces of Summer shoot. This will include athletes in baseball, softball, girls’ soccer, track and field and boys’ tennis. Wrestling will not be involved — despite being in the IHSA’s summer sports calendar — as those athletes participated in our Faces of Winter event.

COLIN LIKAS

College/Prep Sports Reporter

Colin Likas covers Illinois football and high school sports at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).

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