RENTON — If all goes according to plan, it will be a high school sports season like none other in Washington. If it doesn’t, thousands of student-athletes across the state will feel the bitter disappointment that many already felt earlier this spring.
On July 21, the WIAA Executive Board voted to approve a modified four-season sports calendar for the 2020-21 school year that it cautioned was tentative and could be tweaked as the covid-19 pandemic evolves in the state. Most notably, the new calendar moves the football, volleyball and girls soccer season from fall to early spring, to be followed by a late-spring season of the traditional spring sports.
The changes leave cross country as the sole sport on the calendar at Ilwaco or Naselle High School this fall. Greg Whitmore, president of the WIAA Executive Board and athletic director of the Lind-Ritzville School District, said the board held out on postponing the other fall sports seasons as long as it could before moving forward with the new plan.
“[We’re] just following what statistics and science shows the virus is doing, and what our [state] Department of Health is doing, because of course we’re at the mercy of the Department of Health and the guidelines — and to some extent even the school reopening plans,” said Whitmore, who is also a health teacher at Lind-Ritzville High School.
Football is classified as a high-risk sport for covid-19 transmission, Whitmore said, while volleyball and soccer are moderate-risk sports. High-risk sports, he said, would require the county a school resides in to be in Phase 4, the highest phase, of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start Plan — and even then it still may not be safe enough. Moderate-risk sports require a county to be in Phase 3. No counties in the state are in Phase 4, and 22 of the 39 counties are in Phase 2 or lower.
The WIAA is now focused on establishing benchmarks that must be met in order for low-risk sports, such as cross country and slowpitch softball, to continue this fall. For the rest of the sports calendar, Whitmore said the WIAA is waiting to see how the situation unfolds.
The four seasonsA break from the traditional three-season sports calendar of fall, winter and spring, this school year’s four-season sports calendar could be one to remember if all goes to plan. Whitmore stressed that the current calendar is tentative and can be changed at any time.
The fall sports season is scheduled to begin on Sept. 7, the first day low-risk sports can begin practicing. The fall season would last through early November, with a nearly two-month break before the winter sports season — consisting of the typical winter sports — begins Jan. 4 and continues through the first week in March.
The new early spring sports season would also begin the first week in March, and last through the beginning of May before making way for the late spring sports season. The late spring season would consist of the typical spring sports of baseball, softball, golf and track and field on the peninsula, the sports whose seasons were canceled this spring because of the pandemic. The late spring season would run through late June.
The hope, by then, is for the 2021 fall sports season to return to a pre-pandemic normal and allow for football, volleyball and girls soccer to resume at that time along with cross country. If that does happen, the teams of those sports would begin their next season less than four months after the conclusion of their previous season.