For nearly a year, the coronavirus pandemic has led to the cancellation of nearly every sporting competition on Guam, save for virtual events, motocross racing and drifting.

But at 2 p.m. Friday, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero signed Executive Order No. 2021-04, reducing the island’s restrictions to Pandemic Condition of Readiness 3 and allowing for noncontact sporting competition to resume on Monday, March 1.

“Today, I will be signing Executive Order 2021-04 to transition our island from Pandemic Condition of Readiness 2 to Pandemic Condition of Readiness 3, that will take affect on Mon, Feb. 22, at 8 a.m.,” Leon Guerrero said. “This means most businesses and activities will be permitted to operate under moderately restrictive conditions.”

“On Monday, March 1, at 8 a.m., noncontact athletics may resume competition again, subject to Public Health guidance, to include limits on spectators, requirements for sanitation and wearing of masks whenever possible,” Leon Guerrero said.

Leon Guerrero based her decision on the low number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, few daily reported coronavirus cases, and more than 16,000 Guamanians having been fully vaccinated.

“It took each and every one of us and everyone’s cooperation to contain the spread of this virus, to flatten the curve,” she said. “You stayed at home when I asked you to do so. You wore your masks when the experts, based on science and data, said that wearing masks would help contain this virus. You washed your hands, and you watched your distance.

"Together we overcame not one, but two surges and lockdowns.”

“I promised that, with progress, we could see fewer restrictions,” she added

Kaia Malakooti, a junior at St. John’s School and back-to-back defending girls’ tennis singles champion, is excited to have the opportunity for the three-peat. More importantly, she is thrilled for some semblance of normalcy.

“It will be good to see students from other schools again,” she said. … “Not being able to spend quality time with my friends in school takes away part of the joy in my high school experience.

“Camaraderie with teammates is just as important as academics. You perform better in all aspects of life when you’re happy.”

Maria Gregoire, the No. 1 singles player for the Academy of Our Lady of Guam Cougars, can’t wait to try to dethrone Malakooti. But like her friendly foe, she is ecstatic that restrictions have been lifted and that she will be able to compete, represent her school, and make lasting memories.

“I can’t wait to get out on the courts and see the other schools,” Gregoire said.

“This is a student-athlete’s piece of normalcy back, and the chance to reveal the champion within,” said Cougars tennis coach Jan Guevara.

For many months and countless board meetings working on return-to-play guidelines, the Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam had been dreaming and working toward the day when it could announce to its student-athletes, coaches, athletic directors and stakeholders that competition could resume. Since early December, the IIAAG has been conducting training sessions, but now its student-athletes can put the training to the test.

“Our athletes have been preparing, training and practicing since December and we've been anxiously awaiting the governor's consent to proceed with team competition,” said IIAAG President Terry Debold. “We’re looking forward to resuming competition in beach volleyball and tennis as early as Tuesday, with cross-country following shortly after.

“We are also getting schedules ready for other sports to follow in the coming months.”

Rod Pama, Tiyan High School Titans boys volleyball coach, has been training his players for the past few weeks and is ready to lead his team into battle. Even though he knows the season will be anything but normal - with a limited number or teams and matches to be played only against other teams in the Guam Department of Education Interscholastic Sports Association - he praised government leaders and promised to keep up the fight against COVID-19.

“I really praise what the Government of Guam has been doing with vaccinations, health protocol and the COVID response,” Pama said. “Our athletes are happy that they can return to some kind of normalcy, but I continue to remind them to not be complacent and continue the guidelines and protocol we have set for practices and competition.”

Making sure that all Guamanians understand that the pandemic is not over, Leon Guerrero asked for continued vigilance and cooperation.

“I am asking you, as we move forward, to always wear your mask, watch your social distancing and wash your hands,” she said. “These are the very simple public health prevention measures that have gotten us through this God-awful pandemic.”