Washington State football coach Nick Rolovich wearing the jersey of Portland Thorns forward and former Cougars’ women’s soccer standout Morgan Weaver during a scrimmage Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Washington State University Athletics)

Washington State football coach Nick Rolovich wearing the jersey of Portland Thorns forward and former Cougars’ women’s soccer standout Morgan Weaver during a scrimmage Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Washington State University Athletics)

COLUMN: Ray of hope for return of some league games

Peninsula’s infection rates low, but not elsewhere

A USEFUL DISTRACTION, a break from the monotony that comes along with living a cautious and careful life during the pandemic, the return of offseason practices to college and high school courts, fields and trails on the North Olympic Peninsula is a reassuring sign of forward progress.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced a loosening of coronavirus restrictions impacting youth sports back on Oct. 6, and the WIAA followed suit, updating its return- to-play guidelines that same afternoon. Having demonstrated the ability to follow health guidelines during a period of summer practices, some Port Angeles prep teams were able to get back to work as early as Oct. 12.

Quilcene also hit the ground running last week with football, softball, volleyball, baseball and cheer sessions offered for students in grades 6-12.

Sequim football is offering workouts on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Forks High School football, volleyball, girls soccer, cross country and cheer will begin three-week, sport-specific workouts Monday.

Now, official practices for actual seasons are not set to start until Dec. 28, so this initial effort will be a good measure of how athletes, coaches and administrators adapt to this strange, highly restrictive athletic world.

And projections for a rise in cases nationwide have me pessimistic that these practices will ever lead to games and contests during this school year, particularly since Jefferson and Clallam counties have not been hit as hard by virus cases as neighboring counties.

But there is some hope, as counties such as ours that have low COVID-19 activity, which is fewer than 25 new cases per 100,000 people over 14 days, could resume league games for low-, moderate- and high-risk sports, which includes football, basketball, wrestling and cheerleading and dance with contact.

If there are games, it very well could be that we see more contests that make geographic sense such Sequim-Port Angeles or Port Townsend-Quilcene contests, than those that require crossing the Hood Canal Bridge.

Keep your fingers crossed, your social circles small and your masks on in public, and we just might get there.

Maybe he’s a reader

New Washington State football coach Nick Rolovich endeared himself to the Cougar community when he picked up the tab for dinner for a number of takeout orders at Pullman eateries early on in the pandemic.

Saturday, he put another good foot forward, eschewing the virtue of one of Washington State’s best-ever women’s soccer players, Morgan Weaver.

Weaver led the Cougs to an NCAA Final Four appearance during the 2019 season and was selected to the U.S. Women’s National Team for the first time soon after, before she was drafted by Portland with the No. 2 pick in the 2020 National Women’s Soccer League Draft.

A few hours after Weaver woke up bright and early to wave Ol’ Crimson with Portland’s Providence Park as a background during the flag’s 248th consecutive College Football Gameday appearance on ESPN on Saturday, Rolovich sported Weaver’s Portland Thorns jersey during the Cougars’ first football scrimmage of the fall and during his Zoom press conference with the media.

Rolovich told reporters Weaver was one of the first WSU athletes he met when he arrived Pullman and that he bought the jersey six months ago.

“I appreciate what she’s done here and what she’s doing,” Rolovich said. “I like her passion for the Cougs.”

Weaver answered back on social media, thanking Rolovich.

“Honestly, love this school and everything it brings. Thank you @NickRolovich for the support and continuing to show what it means to be a Coug!” Weaver tweeted.

Just like with Russell Wilson and his display of respect for the accomplishments of Sue Bird, Rolovich’s reverence for Weaver’s Cougar spirit is uplifting, well-deserved and an example to follow.

________

Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected].

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