Tuesday, May 26, 2020
May 26, 2020

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As governor closes schools through June, spring prep sports season officially ends

High schools: Tim Martinez

By , Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
2 Photos
Columbia River's Cole Delich reacts to being called out at Second Base during a game against Ridgefield at the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Center on Tuesday night, April 16, 2019.
Columbia River's Cole Delich reacts to being called out at Second Base during a game against Ridgefield at the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Center on Tuesday night, April 16, 2019. (Nathan Howard/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Monday was a whirlwind day of students, educators, athletes and the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.

Gov. Jay Inslee, along with Chris Reykdal, the state superintendent of public instruction, announced Monday that on-site learning at schools would end for the 2019-20 school year. Learning would continue online through the balance of the school year.

The presumption by many Monday is that also spelled the end of the spring prep sports season.

“It saddens me that we will not have spring sports this year, along with other traditional events,” La Center athletic director Matt Cooke tweeted moments after the announcement. “Class of 2020, my heart goes out to you.”

Prairie football coach Mike Peck tweeted: “Right decision, but my heart hurts for a ton of amazing kids right now. Students, spring sports athletes, and mostly the senior class.”

Fort Vancouver softball coach: Erick Johnson tweeted: “Tremendously sad day for all 2020 students and athletes.”

But right after the governor’s announcement, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association wasn’t quite ready to close the door on the spring sports season yet.

Because high school sports and activities were not specifically addressed in Monday’s announcement, the WIAA sought clarification on how the order impacts regular-season and postseason sports and activities.

“It is understandable that the focus of this measure has been on classroom learning,” the WIAA said in a statement late Monday afternoon. “However, the WIAA is awaiting more information on how events would be impacted if a stay-at-home order were lifted on May 4.”

About an hour after its first statement, as the WIAA clung to hope that it could still find an unprecedented solution to an unprecedented problem, the official clarification came from Inslee. It confirmed that the spring sports season is over.

“The decision was undoubtedly a difficult one for Governor Islee,” the WIAA’s updated statement read. “The WIAA Executive Board and the WIAA staff feel for those students around the state that have had their seasons or careers cut short. This terrible disease has not only prevented students from creating lifelong memories through competition, it has limited the valuable lessons gained through participation in education-based athletics and activities.”

On Monday, Washington became the 14th state in the country to close school buildings for the school year. About a half hour later, Idaho became the 15th state.

Mick Hoffman, executive director of the WIAA, said last week the organization had been “working on contingency plans on top of contingency plans.”

Those plans will now turn to what impact the current health crisis could have on sports in the fall.

“That’s a conversation we have started,” Hoffman told KJR radio in Seattle on Friday, “especially when we hear about the potential of relapse of outbreaks (in the fall).”

The WIAA was already kicking around ideas for ways to celebrate all athletes, especially the seniors, of the spring season if school did not return as normal, even if that celebration could not happen until the fall.

“We are searching, scratching for something for them,” Hoffman said of seniors, “not just to give them hope in the short term, but to reward them for the 31/2 to four years of preparation that they were hoping to execute this spring.”

These unprecedented times are tough on everyone, as Reykdal said “This is a tough day for us in Washington state.”

The challenge is amplified for Hoffman, a longtime Vancouver schools administrator who is his first year as WIAA executive director after taking over for Mike Colbrese last summer.

“I’ve been looking back at Mike’s playbook, and this chapter, he hadn’t gotten to it yet,” Hoffman said. “We are definitely building as we fly.”

But Hoffman closed his chat at KJR last week with an idea I completely support, and I hope all you can, too.

“Once we get back, man I just hope we remember how bad we wanted this,” he said. “And then we can give the officials a little break or the coaches a break. If a kid runs the wrong way on a play or throws a ball out of bounds, we can give him or her a break, and just relish the opportunity to play together.

“Because right now, I’d even watch sports on TV with no fans (in the stands), and I was shaking my head at that three weeks ago.”

Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached at (360) 735-4538, tim.martinez@columbian.com or follow his Twitter handle @360TMart.