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Jan. 17, 2021

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High school leagues around state make own plans to return to play

Greater St. Helens leagues working on own plans this week

By , Columbian Assistant Sports Editor

When it comes to playing high school sports this year, it appears that it might be every league or region for itself.

Last week, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association announced that its athletic calendar would resume Feb. 1 with traditional fall sports.

However, the WIAA also said that while its season schedule was made in order to provide possible regional culminating events, it is allowing individual leagues and districts to come up with their own plans that best fit their communities.

“The concept of the culminating event is moving farther and farther away as we go through some of these challenges,” WIAA Executive Board president Tim Thomsen said last week.

That means playing games in your own league, or nearby leagues in other classifications, with no regional postseason events.

This week, more and more leagues are taking that option.

Last month, the Wesco Conference in Snohomish County made that determination, announcing a return to play with traditional fall sports on Feb. 22.

On Tuesday, the Kingco Conference, a 4A/3A league in the Seattle area, announced it will return with fall sports on March 1.

On Thursday, two Tacoma-area leagues, the 4A South Puget Sound League and 3A Pierce County League, announced a plan that would start Feb. 1 with football and Feb. 8 for other fall sports (including boys and girls golf) and run through March 20, Scorebook Live reported.

The leagues would follow with spring sports (including boys swimming and girls tennis) from March 22 to May 1, and conclude with winter sports (plus boys tennis) from May 3 to June 12.

The 2A SPSL will follow a similar format, but start one week later for fall and spring sports, with one week of overlap between spring and winter, Scorebook Live reported.

Because the members of the South Puget Sound League span three geographic regions in the state’s “Healthy Washington” reopening plan, one 4A SPSL member, Olympia, will leave that league and join the 3A South Sound Conference, the Tacoma News Tribune reported.

Olympia is in Thurston County, which is the West Region. The majority of the SPSL is in the Puget Sound Region.

“We’re just trying to make decisions based on the information we have to do what’s best for our kids,” Olympia athletic director Bob Kickner told the News Tribune. “We just think this is a whole lot less complicated if we don’t have to leave our county borders.”

Conversely, 3A South Sound members Gig Harbor and nearby Peninsula will join up with the 4A SPSL.

Another 4A SPSL member, South Kitsap, may opt to play games in Kitsap County, which is the Northwest Region. The same could be true for 3A South Sound Conference member Central Kitsap.

Regional overlap is one issue the 4A-1A leagues in Southwest Washington don’t have to do deal with. All members of the 4A, 3A and 2A GSHLs and the 1A Trico League reside within the Southwest Region.

Leagues on the east side of the state are coming up with plans that would have sports return later in February or even in March because harsher winter weather.

“As we all know, weather is different on the west side than on the east side,” Greater Spokane League director Ken Van Sickle told the Spokane Spokesman-Review last week.

The 4A Columbia Basin-Big Nine (CBBN) Conference in the middle of the state has made the decision to split up, at least for this year, because it has schools in different regions.

Yakima-area schools Davis, Eisenhower, West Valley of Yakima and Sunnyside will seek contests against each other, as well as nearby members of the 2A Central Washington Athletic Conference like East Valley of Yakima, Ellensburg, Grandview, Prosser and Selah.

Contests against Mid-Columbia Conference teams could also be possible because the Tri-Cities schools are in the same region (South Central) as Yakima, the Yakma Herald reported.

Other 4A CBBN schools (Eastmont, Moses Lake and Wenatchee) along with 2A school Ephrata, seven 1A schools, nine 2B schools and eight 1B schools have banded together to former the North Central Region High Schools of Washington, Moses Lake athletic director Loren Sandhop announced Wednesday in a press release. The coalition contains schools from three WIAA Districts and seven leagues.

“The schools have elected to seek this regional opportunity to schedule interscholastic athletic competitions, across classifications, this COVID school year,” the release said. “Obviously, not all schools carry teams in each of the sports.”

The North Central schools will start with fall sports on Feb. 16 for football and Feb. 22 for all others and continue until April 3. Spring sports will run April 5 to May 5 and winter sports from May 17 to June 19. The WIAA Executive Board is slated to make decisions regarding Seasons 2 and 3 and where traditional winter and springs sports will fall in its calendar on Tuesday.

But, more leagues might have made their own plans by then.