If there is one thing I’ve learned from the past year, it’s that COVID restrictions and precautions are like springtime weather in the Pacific Northwest — if you don’t like them, just wait; they’ll likely change.
Last week, when Cowlitz County returned to Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan, I had two questions: When a Cowlitz team comes to Clark County — still in Phase 3 — to play a game, does it mean the game will still be played under Phase 3 guidelines? And if a Cowlitz team can’t play a higher-risk sport like basketball or wrestling, does that mean the team can’t play in Cowlitz but could travel to Clark to play?
Initially, the answer to both questions was a hard no.
But then a couple of days later, word came from the state that, yes, games between Cowlitz and Clark teams played in Clark County could be played under Phase 3 guidelines.
Then came news on Monday, which said that Cowlitz basketball teams like Kelso could play basketball if the Hilanders’ games were played outside Cowlitz County.
So on Tuesday, when the 4A/3A Greater St. Helens League opened its basketball schedule, Kelso played a boys/girls doubleheader at Camas.
And that’s how the Hilanders’ schedule will work for the next three weeks, at least — boys/girls doubleheaders at the site of the Clark County school.
During the first week of May, the state will reassess county’s phase status, then who knows what will happen.
This week is when things get interesting for athletes, fans, athletic directors and those of us charged with covering prep sports.
The 4A/3A GSHL is beginning competitions in its Season 2 of its two-season schedule. That means, when the 4A/3A GSHL is added to schedules of other leagues in the region, that there will be competitions this week in 11 different WIAA-sanctioned varsity sports. Next week, boys and girls wrestling will be added.
That leaves fans with a lot of options. So here is what you need to know about the 4A/3A GSHL schedule, which will continue through early June.
Basketball games will be played on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday nights, with each league team playing two games each week, one at home, one on the road — except for Kelso in the opening weeks.
Again, apart from Kelso events, games will be played at opposite sites for boys and girls teams. For example, on Tuesday, Heritage and Prairie boys played at Prairie, while the girls played at Heritage.
Boys soccer games, which will begin next week, will be played on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Baseball and softball games will be scheduled for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, allowing for a window at the end of the week to play any games washed out by weather.
In a significant change from Season 1, the 4A/3A GSHL will cap the seasons for basketball, baseball and softball teams with a traditional bracket-style playoff.
In Season 1, sports like volleyball, girls soccer, slowpitch softball and boys tennis capped their season with a round-robin style of play that gave teams more events against teams of similar ability, but really wasn’t a playoff that crowned a clear champion. It was more about providing more opportunity to play.
Here’s how it is slated to work for boys and girls basketball.
The tournament will consist of all nine teams in the 4A/3A GSHL. Both tournaments will start Tuesday, June 1 with an elimination game between the Nos. 8 and 9 teams in the league standings. Winners of Tuesday games will advance to quarterfinals on Wednesday, then semifinals on Thursday and championship game on Friday.
Baseball and softball will follow a similar format, except with games on June 1-2 and both semifinal and championship games slated for Saturday, June 5.
Boys soccer and girls tennis will conclude their seasons with the round-robin/tiered format used in Season 1.
While the 4A/3A GSHL is opening a new season this week, the 1A Trico League and 2B Central League are completing regular seasons in Season 2 (traditional spring sports) this week, with district tournaments set for next week.
The 2A GSHL will wrap up its regular season in Season 2 next week, with district play the week after.
The smaller-school leagues will then move to Season 3, consisting traditional winter sports.
Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4538, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow his Twitter handle @360TMart.