Sequim football players run out of the tunnel before their 2019 season opener against Washington last September. High school football has been moved to March under a four-season high school athletics plan released by the WIAA. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Sequim football players run out of the tunnel before their 2019 season opener against Washington last September. High school football has been moved to March under a four-season high school athletics plan released by the WIAA. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

PREPS: Area athletic directors, coaches embrace path forward

WIAA decision lauded as hopeful

PORT ANGELES — The WIAA’s move to delay higher-risk prep sports from the fall to the spring and only field fall activities that are played outside and can provide physical distancing between competitors is the best outcome available, area coaches and athletic directors said.

Given the rise in positive coronavirus cases statewide over the last month, there was no way the majority of fall prep sports could be played under current health guidelines, Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) administrators said.

The move to a tentative four-season schedule means condensed seasons for all sports, but if counties are able to reach stated metrics and prep athletes are allowed to hit the field/court, that’s a victory in and of itself, coaches and athletic directors said.

They praised the decision as a means to keep hope alive and keep athletes engaged.

Port Angeles athletic director Dwayne Johnson said boys basketball head coach Kasey Ulin summed up his reaction to Tuesday night’s announcement.

“This is done very well by WIAA, all things considered,” Ulin said. “There are questions to be asked, but in the meantime, there is a plan in place to give people hope and vision for the future. Let’s keep pulling a rope in the same direction and we will get through this.”

Johnson said that staying hopeful has been an important piece of discussions with coaches and athletes.

“I’ve talked about not killing the dream and maintaining the hope that we are going to still have a season. I’m joyful that we are able to pursue this. We have our West Central District meetings [Thursday] and an Olympic League AD meeting Tuesday that will cover transportation, facility usage, field availability and what we can and can’t do through the state’s guidelines.”

Sequim athletic director and coach Dave Ditlefsen is glad to have a potential path forward to return to athletics.

“We have our target now, we know what to prepare for, and it’s good to know what we are aiming for,” Ditlefsen said.

New Roughriders head football coach Brent Wasche will have to wait until at least March for his debut along the Civic Field sidelines, but he appreciates the opportunity to keep moving forward.

“I’m super excited that we are going to get an opportunity to play this school year,” Wasche said. “The WIAA did a great job in coming up with a feasible plan that works for Washington, the best possible plan given the current situation.

“Ultimately, there are two big things we need to do: ensure the safety of student athletes and coaches, and I want to provide a great football experience for our kids. Ensuring both of those would be very difficult this fall. There’s so much outside of what happens on the field that comes into play for a football team, the interactions, the team dinners, the outings. With the guidelines in place, a lot of those things, our kids would have missed out on.”

A potential rise in the number of athletes who turn out for cross country, boys tennis or girls swim and dive, the three sports that could be offered by area schools this fall, could provide the chance for four-sport athletes.

“That could certainly be an unintended benefit,” Ditlefsen said. “Letting athletes try some sports they normally wouldn’t have access to. I hope it increases participation. The best news is they didn’t allow the season to start and then have to stop. This provides a better chance to move things down the line where we have a better grasp on things.”

WIAA executive director Mick Hoffman joked that they might implement a “heavyweight division” for football linemen looking to stay in shape in the fall.

“We hope we have a record number for cross country,” Hoffman said during a media briefing.

Wasche said he’s hopeful his football players turn out for fall sports.

“I want our kids doing as many things as possible,” Wasche said. “For our kids to be competing, that’s a great thing for us. If they are active, being monitored by a coach and developing a competition mindset, that’s something I love to see. Chasing down a tennis ball builds that ability to move laterally and that does some great things for inside linebacakers.”

Riders girls soccer head coach and boys assistant Scott Moseley is looking on the bright side concerning the delayed season.

“I jokingly told my players and parents in an email that I guess this means that we are the 2019 and 2020 Olympic League champions since nobody else is,” Moseley said.

“The positive is there is still the chance for a season, a shortened season probably with fewer games, a shorter playoff … We want to play, play games and practices, and we want to do it in some way, shape, manner or form. We’ve joked about it, but if it means playing 16 games against Sequim, let’s go for it.”

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

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