The plan for a return to play for high school sports across the state changed again Wednesday after a meeting of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Executive Board.
The new schedule moves traditional fall sports — cross country, football, slowpitch softball, girls soccer, Class 2B/1B boys soccer, girls swim and dive and volleyball — up to Season 1. Practices are scheduled to start as early as Feb. 1, and the season is set to end March 20. Alternative seasons for golf and tennis will also be available during the seven-week stretch.
The decision to move fall sports up to Season 1 comes after Gov. Jay Inslee announced a new set of guidelines and metrics for a return to competition for education-based athletics and activities in the state on Tuesday.
“The change in guidelines allow all traditional fall sports to be played in Phase 2 while we still do not have a clear pathway to the high risk indoor activities of basketball, competitive cheer and dance, and wrestling” WIAA executive director Mick Hoffman said in statement released by the association Wednesday. “With that in mind, moving fall sports to Season 1 will hopefully provide the most opportunities to participate.”
Dates for Seasons 2 and 3, which will include traditional winter and spring sports, have yet to be determined. The executive board will decide plans for the final two seasons during its Jan. 19 meeting.
Inslee’s new “Healthy Washington — Roadmap to Recovery” plan groups counties into eight regions. Snohomish County joins King and Pierce counties to form the Puget Sound region.
The changes will not affect Wesco’s proposed three-season plan, announced last month, which would begin with traditional fall sports practices on Feb. 22. The league submitted its proposal to the WIAA for review Thursday afternoon, according to league president and Shoreline School District athletics director Don Dalziel.
The Northwest Conference is considering its own plan for a return to play as well, according to Lakewood athletics director Matt Blair. The league hasn’t formally announced those plans or what they will look like.
Blair said that Lakewood has also been in contact with Wesco about possibly joining the league on a one-year basis. This is because Lakewood is the only Northwest Conference school outside of the North Region, which includes Whatcom, Skagit, Island and San Juan counties. COVID-19 benchmark numbers from those counties have been significantly ahead of counties in the Puget Sound Region.
“By next week we’ll have more decisions made regarding to … if there’s a chance to compete, where we’ll be competing,” Blair said.
Emerald Sound Conference president Scott Sifferman, athletics director at Sultan, could not immediately be reached for comment on the league’s plans.
Under the new guidelines, each region will start in Phase 1. To get to Phase 2 a region must see a decrease of 10% or more in both COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents and COVID-19 hospital admission rates per 100,000 residents over a two-week period, as well as an ICU occupancy rate of under 90% and a COVID-19 test positivity rate under 10%.
Under Phase 1, practice can resume for low- and moderate-risk outdoor sports. Only low-risk indoor sports can practice with stable groups of no more than five athletes.
When a region enters Phase 2, low- and moderate-risk indoor sports may begin competition and all outdoor sports can begin competition.
Low-risk sports are cross country, swim and dive, golf, tennis and track and field. Baseball, bowling, gymnastics, soccer, softball and volleyball fall under moderate risk. And football, basketball, wrestling and cheerleading with contact are considered high risk.
In order to maintain Phase 2 status, a region must hit at least three of the following metrics: A decreasing or flat trend in COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over two weeks, a decreasing or flat trend in new COVID-19 hospital admission rates per 100,000 residents over two weeks, an ICU occupancy of less than 90% or a COVID-19 test positivity rate under 10%.