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It’s that time of the school year once again. Well, not really. But it will have to suffice.

We’re not close to the calendar-defined beginning of winter of 2020 — Dec. 21.

Even so, we’re conducting our annual Faces of Winter photo shoot on Sunday, outside our office in Champaign. Athletes from boys’ basketball, girls’ basketball, wrestling and boys’ swimming and diving teams around the area will come out to represent their schools ahead of their respective seasons.

The first question that will be asked by some: Why is this transpiring so early?

Indeed, we usually wait until sometime in November to run our Faces of Winter shoot. However, as we did with our Faces of Fall event in August, we’re conducting all of the proceedings outdoors and it tends to get pretty chilly as we head into November.

This is in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in an effort to avoid breaking the state’s indoor gathering rule. By the same token, we’ll limit our outdoor gathering size by spreading out photos much more than we typically do. Each school is getting a five-minute block in which athletes will drop by, answer a couple quick questions (the responses will appear in The News-Gazette) and get their picture taken in their sports gear. We utilized this format during our fall shoot, and it worked like a charm.

Unlike with our fall shoot, each team is able to send up to two kids for photos. That number was just one for Faces of Fall because schools had up to six teams participating. There will be just four in Faces of Winter, and several of our area schools have only boys’ and girls’ basketball in the winter.

There is no restriction on who can attend — a senior or a freshman, for example. This is entirely left up to the coaches.

One concern some folks might have surrounds what we’ll do with these photos if the IHSA winter sports calendar is again altered in response to the pandemic.

Whether winter sports go on as scheduled or don’t get started at all, we’ll publish each attending athlete’s photo in print and at news-gazette.com. In the worst-case scenario of winter sports being called off, these photos at least give us a way to provide these kids with their just due.

Colin Likas is the preps coordinator at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at clikas@news-gazette.com, or on Twitter at @clikasNG.

Prep Sports Coordinator

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