Thursday, August 13, 2020
Aug. 13, 2020

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Tim Martinez: WIAA provides answers, but questions about future remain

High school sports

By , Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published:

High school athletes and coaches got some answers last week about the 2020-21 sports calendar.

There are still plenty of questions.

“And we don’t have all the answers right now,” said Greg Whitmore, the president of the Executive Board of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.

What we do know is there won’t be high school football, volleyball or girls soccer played this fall in Washington. Those sports were moved to the spring.

“What we really focused on (as a board) is making decisions on what we know,” said Whitmore, who is also the athletic director and football coach at Lind-Ritzville-Sprague. “And I think (last week’s announcement) was an example of that. We all felt – and I can’t say we know for sure – that the current conditions would not allow us to get the high-risk sport of football played this fall.”

And the same was true for volleyball and girls soccer.

The only sports left in the fall, for the moment, were low-risk sports of cross country, slowpitch softball, boys tennis, boys golf and possibly girls swimming.

“For us to offer the low-risk sports … a county has to be Phase 3 for them to compete,” WIAA executive director Mick Hoffman said. “For moderate sports (which includes volleyball and soccer) to compete, you have to be in Phase 4. And for the high-risk sports (football), you have to be in Phase 4-plus. And Phase 4-plus has yet to be determined.

“So with 22 of our 39 counties in Phase 2 or Phase 1.5, and we’re frozen (in phases) until July 28, it made the Sept. 5/7 (start) date for anything other than low-risk sports challenging.”

All of the other sports were put into three condensed seasons, the first of which would include winter sports like basketball and start in January.

What the schedules for those condensed seasons would look like is unknown, as is the format for any state championship. As Whitmore said: “We’re at the mercy of COVID.”

Hoffman said the WIAA is looking into holding more regional or sectional championships, if a statewide competition cannot be held.

“If this is a year where we give out five or six state 4A volleyball championships, then so be it,” Hoffman said.

So let’s start with what we do know. The plan is for those low-risk fall sports to begin practicing on Sept. 7 with the first fall competitions held the week of Sept. 14.

But that plan can change.

“We know those (low-risk sports) are in great peril, too,” Whitmore said. “A lot things have to go in our favor in order for those to happen.”

Whitmore said the executive board will meet Tuesday to establish benchmarks that will need to be met for the low-risk sports to go on as scheduled this fall.

Those benchmarks could include the number of counties that can reach Phase 3 of reopening. Another factor is the number of school districts that will allow sports to continue if instruction begins completely online to start the school year.

And of the low-risk sports, the girls swimming season is most at risk.

Even if the benchmarks are met – and that’s a very big if – some swim teams still might not have a place to practice or compete.

For example, here in Clark County, high school swim teams use facilities like Cascade Fitness, LaCamas Swim and Sport and the Clark County YMCA for practices and meets. At this point, those facilities are closed.

They could reopen in Phase 3, but with limited capacity. And that limited capacity might not allow for pool time for high school swimmers.

So the WIAA will remain flexible.

“Our goal as a board was to not create a one-size-fits-all solution,” Whitmore said. “We want to do anything we can that gets kids out and moving again, while keeping it safe.”

With all the uncertainty, we know one thing for certain – the WIAA will keep working hard for our kids.

Whitmore’s tenure as a president of the executive board should have expired in June. But he’s pushing on to help formulate a plan for the coming school year.

“We gave Greg a hard time today,” Hoffman said of the executive board members. “He set the record for board meetings. Normally, you might have five, maybe six a year. I don’t even know how many we’ve had (this year). We’ve probably had 14 or 15 at least. We’ve been meeting every other week, and we’re going to continue that pace through the summer to iron out details.”

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.

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