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Sunday, December 10, 2023
Dec. 10, 2023

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Martinez: Hopes of some kind of high school sports this fall still alive in White Salmon

High school sports

By , Columbian Assistant Sports Editor

The last hope of having any form of high school sports this fall appeared to have flickered out last week, when the three Greater St. Helens Leagues announced they were pushing their remaining fall sports to March and April.

But there is still a glimmer of hope deep in the Columbia River Gorge.

Howard Kreps, the longtime athletic director at Columbia High School in White Salmon, is holding out hopes that his school can host two or three high school cross country meets this fall.

“Our (COVID-19) numbers in the gorge have been improving,” Kreps said. “And if they can keep improving and there’s a chance we can run a meet safely, then I want to keep that window open. I just want to give our kids something this fall. I’ve got 20-25 of them who have been out running this summer. I want to give them hope, even if it’s a long shot.”

Kreps said he understands the decisions made be other Trico League schools like Castle Rock and La Center, which opted to moving cross country to Season 3 of the WIAA amended 2020-21 calendar, particularly after those schools announced they would open the school year with remote learning.

White Salmon schools are also starting 2020-21 with remote learning, but hope to move to a hybrid of in-person and remote learning soon thereafter, if conditions allow.

That would open to the door for cross country.

“We wouldn’t be able to host a meet until late September,” Kreps said. “But that still gives us six or seven weeks to see what will happen.”

Vancouver private schools King’s Way Christian and Seton Catholic, both of which have plans to provide face-to-face learning this fall, also have left the option of having their athletes participate in cross country this fall.

The idea is for the Bruins to run two or three meets this fall from late September into October, then complete their schedule in Season 3 when the other Trico teams could join the action.

“We feel like we can hold a meet and do it safely,” Kreps said. “Our course is set up so that you can see most of it from one spot. So if we need to keep people in their cars to watch, we’ll do that. We can have an extra long finish chute to keep runners apart, and we can start them off in waves.”

Kreps has also heard from other schools from Southwest Washington, especially those from smaller communities that have been less impacted by the pandemic, that would be interested in running, if one can be held in White Salmon this fall.

So the gorge could be a popular destination this fall.

“I’m even hearing from people in Oregon saying ‘Hey, we aren’t going to have a season this fall, but can our kids come to your meet and run as individuals?’ ” Kreps said. “I’m having to tell them to wait, while I check and see about that.

“Normally, when people want to come to a cross country meet, you’re like ‘the more, the merrier.’ But this year, we may have to take a different approach. I just don’t want people showing up unannounced.”

The school’s cross country course already had one unexpected visitor on Monday.

“I was out by our course this morning and I spotted a black bear out there munching on some blackberries,” Kreps said. “I don’t have enough issues already, now I have to deal with a bear, too?”

Kreps estimates the chances of pulling off this abbreviated fall season for cross country is less than 50-50. But as long as there is a chance, he’s not going to close that door just yet.

“I don’t want to be critical of anyone because I know there are a lot of factors at play,” he said. “I just kind of feel like there have been a lot of decisions made just a little too quickly. We have some time, so let’s just see what happens.”

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