Spring sports plans

Naselle’s Courtney Paul came off the mound to field a grounder down the third-base line during a practice before all Washington state schools were closed to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

RENTON — The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) announced that it plans to go forward with May state championships in spring sports if schools reopen as scheduled after April 24. If schools are closed any longer, there would be no Regional and State tournaments. But schools, leagues and districts would remain free to schedule games.

One constraint schools face in putting together a schedule is the requirement that athletes get ten practices in before participating in a sport, practices that can’t start until April 25. The WIAA is holding firm on the practice requirement, which exists for player safety. But they are waiving limits on daily practice time to allow athletes to cram 10 practices into five days and get the season started. That still means games can start no earlier than May 2. WIAA is treating May 30 as a firm limit for how late it can hold its state championships, in order to avoid conflicts with graduation.

The WIAA has left it up to leagues and districts to figure out procedures to get teams and athletes qualified for State.

“Undoubtedly some creativity and imagination will be needed at the local level…to choose qualifying procedures that best apply to your league and district.”

It will indeed require creativity. In track and golf, District and sub-District tournaments were already scheduled for mid-May. The regular season has no bearing on the post-season in those sports, making it relatively easy to do without. In soccer, baseball and softball, on the other hand, teams ordinarily play all teams in their league to qualify for the District tournament, and to set up seeding for that tournament.

The WIAA added a recommendation that schools and leagues organize more games for teams that don’t qualify for State, to provide something closer to a full season for the players.

Ilwaco’s Pacific League is far from reaching definite plans on any of the three team sports. Baseball will be the biggest challenge, Ilwaco athletic director Tim Harrell said. With Regionals set for May 23, “Districts would have to be done by the 16th.” That leaves just two weeks for the league season and District tournament. And baseball has pitch count rules which become more restrictive the fewer days of rest a pitcher has. There are nine Pacific League schools planning to field baseball and softball teams this year.

Naselle’s 1B Coastal League is much smaller, with only three or four schools fielding baseball teams this year and about five fielding softball teams.

“We’ll probably try to at least play everyone once to seed to the District tournament,” athletic director Brian Macy said.

Because there are so few 1B baseball teams, the District tournament usually covers all of Western Washington, not just District IV.

“We’ll probably have to talk to the other Western Washington districts,” to see what they want to do, Macy said.

Before the cancellation, the District track tournament was scheduled for May 20, at a site to be determined. Macy said schools will likely want to get some meets in before Districts.

“The State tournament isn’t until May 30, so that should give us some flexibility,” he said.

Aaron Mead is a sports writer for the Chinook Observer. Contact him at 360-642-8181 or aaroncmead@gmail.com.

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