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COVID: Athletes At Largest U.S. Girls High School Basketball Tournament In Livermore Hope To Beat Omicron

LIVERMORE (KPIX) -- The largest girls high school basketball tournament in the country is happening in Livermore this week. And there are some concerns it could be a COVID super-spreader event. Roughly 105 girls' high school teams from California, Nevada, and Texas are competing this year.

The popular West Coast Jamboree tournament is known for the strong competition and bringing teams that would never otherwise play against each other.

The 2nd ranked team in the country, DeSoto Texas, was competing against a California team on Tuesday.

"Getting to play and having this opportunity, I'm just really grateful for it," said Abby Kennedy, a shooting guard for Half Moon Bay High School girls basketball team.

Kennedy, who hit the game winning shot for Half Moon Bay against James Logan High with two seconds left, said she was worried about the omicron variant.

"Just being so close to the other team, cause I don't know if they're vaccinated or if they have the booster or not, just worried about getting it and giving it to my family," said Kennedy.

"We're all vaccinated. So it's one of those things where we're comfortable. We've kind of done our part. And we hope that everybody else does their part, then we should all be fine," said head coach Antonio Veloso of the Half Moon Bay basketball team.

Organizers said vaccination is not mandatory but teams are required to get tested before they play and follow all Alameda County health guidelines.

"A super-spreader? I want to think not, okay? We took precautions," said Harold Abend, co-director of the West Coast Jamboree tournament.

Abend said some teams were playing with fewer players because of health and safety protocols.

Organizers said about 15 to 20 teams have dropped out mainly due to COVID concerns or players testing positive.

"If things really go sideways, we could possibly have to cancel. But we never prepared for that. We prepared to push forward. We owe it to these young women," said Abend.

Many parents said they balanced the pros and cons before allowing their daughters to participate in the tournament.

"Especially playing with other teams from other states, we know what we're doing here in California, but we're not quite sure what they're doing in their state," said parent Tuvalu Tuigamala. His twin daughters play for the James Logan High varsity team in Union City.

Given most players are vaccinated, according to organizers, both parents and students believed the tournament is also good for their mental health.

"If there's something going on in your life that's not basketball-related, then you can come here for an escape," said Kennedy.

The three-day tournament will continue on Wednesday and wrap up on Thursday. The tournament will also hand out scholarships to some of the student athletes.

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