Prep sports: WIAA revises prep sport seasons, fall sports on deck

Fall sports would be the first to return under an amended prep sports schedule announced by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association that could see high school teams return to practices Feb. 1 for a seven-week season wrapping March 20.

The WIAA Executive Board voted last Wednesday to restructure its pandemic-revised 2020-2021 seasons, moving traditional fall sports such as football and volleyball, girls soccer, girls swim/dive, cross country, golf (alternate season) and tennis (alternate season) up in the schedule.

The move comes after Gov. Jay Inslee announced a new two-phased “Healthy Washington” reopening plan that redefined COVID metrics to allow most high school sports to conduct games in Phase 2.

To advance to Phase 2, any of the state’s eight regions must show a 10 percent decrease trend in case rates, a 10 percent decrease in COVID-19 hospitalizations, a lower than 10 percent test positivity rate and an intensive care unit occupancy rate under 90 percent. Each region, including Clallam, Jefferson, Kitsap and Mason counties in the Northwest Region, start at Phase 1 and will be reassessed weekly starting Jan. 15.

Previously, traditional winter sports such as basketball, gymnastics and wrestling were slated to begin in February.

But the new state-issued metrics do not mention sports labeled as high-risk, including basketball and wrestling.

“Very clearly basketball and wrestling were not going to work, and also very clearly, football, which we had a big concern about, suddenly (is) very close to being able to play,” WIAA Executive Board President Tim Thomsen said.

“By moving the fall seasons, football, cross country, girls soccer, swimming and volleyball, the only indoor sports in the fall but a moderate risk sport, we can run all of these sports in Phase 2, so that’s a real advantage,” he said.

Basketball and wrestling’s status remains uncertain, as do the timing of potential second and third seasons.

“For basketball and wrestling, the earliest they could play is Phase 3, and they haven’t really announced what it would take to move to Phase 3,” Thomsen said.

“The board didn’t have information or enough details to clearly define the second and third seasons. Will the winter sports that are now bumped from the first season, will they go second or will they go third? Will the traditional spring sports that were in the third season get moved up to second season so there’s more room for the high-risk indoor sports to have the numbers go down and the admissions go down?” he said.

Thomsen said the WIAA will wait to receive more information from the state Department of Health regarding the new guidelines.

“We’ve decided we are going to wait until we get that clarification so we can make a decision, a quality decision based on good data,” Thomsen said. “We are going to wait until our Jan. 19 meeting to determine what sports will be in season two and season three.”

There is room for schedule flexibility as well, as each WIAA league or district can reschedule seasons to best fit their local communities.

That’s important for schools such as Forks, Port Townsend, Chimacum and Quilcene, all members of leagues based outside of the Northwest Region, and potentially paves the way for those schools to play closer to home against Clallam, Jefferson, Kitsap or Mason county counterparts.

“Those regions could mess up a league alignment for a particular year, but what we are saying is if it works for you to stay with your region, if you are going to get more games, then go,” Thomsen said.

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