To borrow a banal sports cliché, the organization that oversees high school sports in Washington state has moved the starting lines again for prep athletes hoping to compete in winter sports — or any other sports in the 2020-21 season.
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) executive board decided last week to adjust the remaining schedules for what the WIAA is calling Season 2, delaying the start of that season to Feb. 1, 2021, and shortening Season 3 and Season 4 to seven weeks each later in the year.
The WIAA actions came after Gov. Jay Inslee imposed a number of restrictions to combat the spread of the coronavirus in the state last week. Under the orders, gymnasiums are closed for at least four weeks.
WIAA Season 2, which includes traditional winter sports such as boys’ and girls’ basketball and wrestling, is now scheduled to begin with practices on Feb. 1 and end with a regional playoff on March 20. It had originally been scheduled to run from Dec. 28-Feb. 27, and Liberty Bell High School basketball teams had been practicing until the governor’s order last week eliminated that option.
Season 1 was from Sept. 7-Oct. 31 and included cross country. The Liberty Bell cross country teams practiced and had time trials but did not compete.
The WIAA schedule includes cross country as an “alternate” in Season 3, now set from mid-March to early May. Also included in Season 3 are football, volleyball, boys’ and girls’ 1B/2B soccer, and tennis as an alternate option.
Season 4, which starts in early May and continues through the end of the school year, includes fastpitch softball, track and field baseball, and tennis an alternate option.
“The decision comes in light of surging COVID-19 cases around the state, putting in jeopardy the ability to begin WIAA Season 2 which was scheduled to begin on Dec. 28,” the WIAA said in a press release.
The WIAA board also approved an extension of the “open coaching window” to Jan. 23, which allows coaches in all sports to work with student athletes in the same fashion as the summer coaching window.
Although pre-season practice times and competitive seasons are defined, whether teams can compete or not depends on what phase of the state’s re-opening plan the schools’ counties are in. Okanogan County remains in Phase II. The WIAA earlier decided that competition would not be allowed unless a district is in Phase III.
The WIAA has identified “higher risk” (such as football and wrestling), “moderate risk” (such as basketball and soccer) and “lower risk” (such as running and golf) sports to establish its protocols.