Monday’s announcement from Gov. Jay Inslee that all Washington schools will be closed throughout the remainder of the 2019-2020 year dashed hopes that high-school athletes could still compete in a spring season.
Brian Macy, athletics director for Naselle schools, called it “a sad day for Comet athletes and coaches, as it was for athletes and coaches across the state.”
As recently as last week, Mick Hoffman, executive director of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) was putting together contingency plans that could have saved the state track meets and provided for some kind of baseball, softball and boys soccer regional or local contests.
Those actions had offered hope to coaches in Ilwaco and Naselle like Macy.
“I think we all figured it was heading in this direction, but holding on to all hope that things would get better, and we could return to ‘normal’ and provide our athletes, especially our seniors, with a spring sports season,” he said.
“I think everyone feels especially bad for the seniors, as this disease has robbed them of a last go-around on the bases and the track — not to mention a spring quarter with their classmates.”
His comments were echoed by Tim Harrell, athletic director at Ilwaco. “Our heart goes out to those students who are not able to show what improvements they have made. And they are not able to create those lifelong memories with their friends. It’s not just the seniors. The underclassmen don’t have a chance to be mentored by an older student. It’s a lot of missed opportunities.”
Junior Beonna Vivlemore, Naselle cheerleading captain, said all her fellow students were upset with the closure and their lost opportunities.
Many of her squad who were active during the boys and girls basketball season, like sisters Kylee Tarabochia and Brynn Tarabochia, were set to compete in softball during the spring. Junior Emma Colombo was expected to turn out for track with high hopes in the javelin after a seventh-place finish at the state 1B tournament last year.
“While this does put a damper on cheer try-outs for next year, we all have been adjusting accordingly,” Vivlemore said.
The extension of the statewide school closures is necessary to help control the spread of the Coronavirus, Inslee said at a joint announcement with state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal. The press conference did not mention sports, so the WIAA leadership was in touch with the governor’s office.
A statement posted on the WIAA web site Monday night read: “The WIAA has received clarification that the order issued by Gov. Inslee on Monday includes the cancellation of all in-person extracurricular athletics and activities through the end of the school year. This will include all regular season contests and practices, as well as all post-season tournaments and championship events.”
It continued, “The decision was undoubtedly a difficult one for Gov. Inslee. However, it was done so to keep the students and families of Washington safe. The WIAA executive board and the WIAA staff feel for those students around the state that have had their seasons or careers cut short.
“This terrible disease has not only prevented students from creating lifelong memories through competition, it has limited the valuable lessons gained through participation in education-based athletics and activities.”
All Washington schools, including Ocean Beach and Naselle districts, were closed until April 24; the governor’s statewide “stay home, stay healthy” order for all activities was set to continue until at least May 4. Monday afternoon’s announcement changed only the schools portion of that.
Reykdal said plans are being made for the possibility that distance-learning strategies may have to continue in the fall. WIAA has not addressed what would happen if the governor’s order is still in place when fall sports practice times roll around.
Macy, Naselle’s athletic director, was sad but philosophical. “We are all in this together, however, and must do our part for the greater good,” he said.