The announcement last week from the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association has put everyone into scramble mode — high school athletes, coaches and especially, athletic directors.
Last Wednesday, the WIAA Executive Board announced that it was planning to move forward with its proposed calendar bring back prep sports on Feb. 1. But instead of traditional winter sports starting as originally planned, fall sports were moved to the front of the line.
That twist caught many by surprise.
“Wait! What?” was the reaction of Prairie football coach Mike Peck when he heard that prep sports would resume Feb. 1 with fall sports.
A lot of us had the same reaction, Coach.
Now coaches in fall sports have been trying to do whatever the parameters allow their athletes to do in order to be ready to go on Feb. 1.
“One of the good things is because things have changed so many times … we’ve been very open with our coaches saying ‘Everything is on the table. You guys need to be ready within two weeks if we call and say ‘You’re up. You’ve got to have your kids ready to go,’ ” Washougal athletic director Gary McGarvie said. “So (last week), I sent a text to our fall coaches and said ‘You guys are up. They just changed it.’ And they’re ready to go.”
Now, whether or not they will be allowed to go on Feb. 1 remains to be seen.
In the guidelines released by the state last week, low-risk outdoor sports like cross country, golf and tennis could begin practices in Phase 1, but could not hold competitions until Phase 2. For sports like volleyball (moderate-risk indoor) and football (high-risk outdoor), practices could not begin until Phase 2, but games could also happen in Phase 2.
But since the state’s unveiling of the new guidelines last week, the WIAA has been in constant contact with state officials to get clarification and ask for modifications of the new rules.
And the state listened.
New guidelines from the state now allow for low- and moderate-risk indoor sports (volleyball, swimming) to practice in groups of 6 or fewer during Phase 1. Likewise, high-risk outdoor sports (football) may also hold practices in groups of 6 or fewer.
Moderate-risk outdoor sports (soccer) can hold full-team practices and intra-squad scrimmages in Phase 1. Scrimmages against other teams are not permitted.
And perhaps the best news, competitions for low-risk outdoor sports (cross country, tennis and golf) can be held in Phase 1. No spectators allowed.
In all guidelines, masks must be worn at all times, by athletes, coaches and officials.
Now the question remains: if the Southwest Region is still stuck in Phase 1 on Feb. 1, will high schools push forward with low-risk outdoor sports?
February and March is not the best time of year to be golfing. Playing tennis outdoors in that time period will be next to impossible, and covered facilities are very limited.
But there is no reason why cross country couldn’t get running on Feb. 1. In fact, I believe cross country should start on Feb. 1.
Rain? Snow? Cold? Who cares? Cross country runners will eat that up.
If cross country gets started on Feb. 1, it could be the greatest cross country season ever. If cross country is the only game in town, we might see high school athletes running cross country who might have never considered it before.
And if they do, they will be better athletes for it.
There has been a lot of pent-up athletic angst over the past year, and running is the perfect outlet.
The athletic directors of the 4A, 3A and 2A Greater St. Helens Leagues are still in discussion over what to do.
They are planning to meet Thursday after receiving more information from the WIAA. Hopefully, we’ll know more then.