PORT ANGELES — West Central District 3 athletic administrators have pushed fall sports across all enrollment levels to the spring, area athletic directors confirmed after a virtual meeting Monday.
And Forks’ debut as a Class 2B school also will have to wait, as athletic director Kyle Weakley confirmed the Spartans debut as a member of the Pacific League has been delayed to 2021 with Forks’ cross country season moved to March.
The decisions came in response to earlier season planning efforts made by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Executive Board.
As positive coronavirus cases increased across the state, the WIAA Executive Board released a modified sports calendar in July that pushed football, volleyball and girls soccer to March.
A week later, the WIAA moved girls swimming and diving to March (Season 3 under the 2020-21 WIAA calendar) and made it possible to hold cross country, golf and tennis in either the fall or the spring.
In the interim, many West Central School Districts, including all Kitsap County districts and North Mason, have decided to begin the school year virtually after receiving guidance from county health officials and the office of Gov. Jay Inslee.
Last week, Inslee said schools in the majority of Washington’s counties should strongly consider online-only learning for students this fall due to COVID-19 and canceling or postponing sports and all other in-person extracurricular activities.
“With the Kitsap schools all making the decision to not offer sports while the students were kept at home for distance learning, the rest of the [Olympic] League followed suit,” Sequim athletic director and coach Dave Ditlefsen said.
The West Central District covers a wide swath of the western portion of the state with schools in King, Pierce, Thurston, Kitsap as well as Clallam and Jefferson counties.
“Inside of our Presidents meeting within the WCD, all WCD schools are vacating all fall sports and moving to season 3,” Port Angeles School District athletic director Dwayne Johnson said. “We wanted to stick together, that was the common thread.”
“The Nisqually League [Port Townsend] is also contained inside of that decision.”
And for fall sports, that includes Chimacum, another new 2B member, that traditionally combines with Port Townsend’s cross country and girls swim and dive teams.
The inability to resume in-person classroom instruction is likely to continue to delay the return of prep sports.
“That was a common thread in the conversation between WCD presidents inside the meeting, but again that is a local decision by each school board,” Johnson said.
The earliest competition would happen for area schools would be when the traditional winter sports — boys and girls basketball, wrestling, boys swimming and diving and gymnastics — start practices Dec. 28.
Now instead of competing over a span of a nine-month school year, the sports calendar has been condensed to six months, leading to concerns for multisport athletes.
The WIAA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee is expected to address this issue and possibly reset the required number of practices needed before beginning a season.
“[Concern for multisport athletes] was part of our discussion,” Johnson said. “The WIAA Executive Board is meeting next Tuesday and they will be discussing multisport athletes transitioning from one season to the next. The current rule is they are allowed five waived practices if they are in a state championship the season before. This is a legal question, that 10 pre-contest practice ruling.”
Rules were previously amended to allow some coaching and light conditioning beginning Sept. 28.
“The majority of schools are not allowing access to their facilities,” Johnson said. “Specifically in our league, everybody except Sequim and Port Angeles have shut down their facilities or not allowed access.”
Sequim and Port Angeles have allowed limited in-person activities in a handful of sports this summer after stringent guidelines were implemented to comply with state health requirements for counties in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan.
Forks votes yes
Forks athletic director Weakley said he cast the lone yes vote amongst fellow Pacific League member schools to hold cross country in the fall.
“Cross country is a sport that we feel could meet the health guidelines and compete if we were able to reach Phase 3,” Weakley said. “Our vote was about making a point, even though we knew it was a moot point, that the way the WIAA has presented their plan is worth our consideration.”
Weakley believes it will be difficult for Forks to offer back-to-back sports seasons in 2021.
“It will be tough to hold all of our sports in our condensed calendar,” Weakley said. He pointed to wrestling, a high-risk sport, scheduled to begin practices Dec. 28.
“It’s stuck right there at the end of December and with the high-risk label, there’s no way it will happen,” Weakley said. “There’s no way for that sport to get off the ground. We are hoping they provide an alternate season in season 4 [along with track and field and baseball and softball].”
And Johnson and Weakley agreed that shuffling the sports season and providing fewer chances at competition has been hard to handle.
“That’s the hard part of this job, removing the opportunity to compete,” Johnson said.
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or at [email protected].