It has been a long, dry spell for high school athletes. Ten months have gone by – think back to late March 2020 – since anyone engaged in real competition.
But the end of the sporting drought is in sight, as athletic directors from throughout the South Puget Sound League 2A have finalized calendars for what is being termed Season 1 of the academic year.
Of course, everything is dependent upon health metrics allowing a transition to Phase 2. But here’s how things look this week.
The word on Season 1 schedules came Friday, showing the season’s first football games slated for the evening of Friday, Feb. 26 (although some, like Enumclaw, will begin a day later with a Saturday contest). In a prep campaign unlike any other, the Plateau’s Battle of the Bridge, the annual Hornet-Hornet tussle between teams from Enumclaw and White River high schools, will be the season finale, on tap for April 2. Those April 2 games will cap an abbreviated, six-game schedule.
Athletes and coaches have been getting ready for the coming season with informal training sessions allowed by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.
The WIAA’s Season 1 will get rolling in earnest Feb. 10, the first formal, official day of football practice. All other Season 1 sports (cross country, volleyball, girls soccer, girls swim and dive, boys and girls golf and cheer/dance) will see official turnouts beginning Feb. 15.
On the local scene, competition will take a different form from seasons past, as Enumclaw has dropped down from Class 4A competition and is now a member of the South Puget Sound League 2A where White River resides.
A year ago, the SPSL 2A was a 10-team league divided into a pair of five-team divisions. That configuration was originally shaped by the periodic reclassification exercise ordered by the WIAA, which strives to have schools competing against other of similar size. As part of the shuffling process the SPSL 2A lost Eatonville, River Ridge and Highline, while gaining Enumclaw and Tacoma’s Foss High.
The result was a single, one-division league of nine teams.
But that plan was turned on its head when Eatonville found itself alone in the athletic wilderness. The Cruisers were set to drop to a Class 1A league but those schools, found in the South Sound, were set to launch their seasons before Eatonville could have been up and running. In the end, the Cruisers appealed to the SPSL 2A, which granted Eatonville a one-year membership.
IF KIDS PLAY, WHO WILL BE WATCHING?
One of the things still being decided is how many fans will be allowed at sporting contests.
Chris Gibson, the athletic director at White River and president of the SPSL 2A, said options are still on the table. One way to easily reduce numbers would be to allow “home” fans only, he said, while emphasizing nothing has been decided. Tacoma schools, he said, have taken the extreme step of mandating no fans in attendance at any athletic event.
The SPSL 2A’s athletic directors have met and discussed the issue without coming to concensus. The ADs are slated to meet again next week to debate fan attendance.
SOME RECENT HISTORY
Thinking back nearly a year, high school athletic administrators managed to complete the 2019-20 winter season and get 2020 spring turnouts under way before their plans crashed into the realities of a COVID-19 world. The entire spring season (baseball, fastpitch, track and field, boys’ soccer and girls’ tennis) was wiped out. Things were no better as everyone reeled through the summer months and into fall, keeping school buildings closed and athletic fields empty.
Now, despite unrelenting COVID numbers and a nationwide death toll that has easily hurdled the 400,000 mark, high school athletes see a season on the horizon.
THE REST OF THE YEAR IS PLANNED
The WIAA Executive Board voted Jan. 19 to approve the schedules for Seasons 2 and 3, setting dates for traditional winter and spring sports.
The SPSL 2A has its own calendar, with Season 2 running from March 29 to May 1 and Season 3 opening May 3 and concluding June 12. Season 2 will include baseball, fastpitch, boys soccer, girls tennis and track and field; Season 3 consists of boys and girls basketball, boys and girls wrestling, boys tennis, boys swim and dive, gymnastics, lacrosse and bowling.
When the WIAA’s Executive Board outlined the framework for a uniform season schedule, it granted each WIAA league or district around the state the ability to reschedule seasons to best fit their local communities.
“Based on the risk levels assigned to traditional winter activities compared to traditional spring activities, the executive board made the decision that those spring activities will have the opportunity to play much earlier than winter activities,” said WIAA Executive Director Mick Hoffman. “The board will continue to monitor the status of activities over the coming months to ensure that those traditional spring sports receive a chance to participate.”
Founded in 1905, the WIAA is a membership organization of over 800 middle level and high schools from every corner of the state. The WIAA supports and sponsors 23 sports along with five activities that involve more than 500,000 student participants.