RENTON — Nov. 27 just became a benchmark date for high school sports.
The WIAA’s executive board released a statement Tuesday providing more details about the commencement of high school sports seasons. If, four weeks prior to the start of the season, less than 50% of schools in a classification within a region are not eligible to compete in a specific sport because of coronavirus restrictions, then the season will have to be moved.
With Season 2 scheduled to begin practices on Dec. 28, it means Nov. 27 will be the date when there’s some clarity on whether sports seasons will begin on time.
Tuesday’s statement also split the state into three regions, with play being confined within each region, and outlined how the postseason would work within each region.
Snohomish County’s schools were placed in Region A, which consists of Districts 1 and 2. Therefore, the county’s schools are grouped not only with the other District 1 schools to the north in Skagit and Whatcom counties, but also with those in District 2 to the south in the Seattle and Eastside areas.
To determine whether a region commences with seasons as scheduled, the WIAA has instituted three checkpoint dates in advance of the start of a season. Where a region stands at those checkpoints with regards to having at least 50% of its schools eligible to participate in a specific sport, based on the COVID-19 metrics set forth by the Washington State Department of Health, will determine if a season can commence:
— The first checkpoint is the preliminary update, which takes place four weeks prior to the upcoming season. If a sport, by classification, is below the 50% threshold of participating schools, then plans will be developed for moving the season.
— The second checkpoint is the secondary update, which takes place three weeks prior to the upcoming season. If a sport, by classification, is above the 50% threshold, then it will move forward as planned. If as sport is below the 50% threshold, then the plans for moving the season will be implemented.
— The third checkpoint is the region confirmation, which takes place two weeks prior to the upcoming season. If a sport, by classification, has met the eligibility requirements to commence, then the region will decide whether the season moves forward as scheduled. Once a season begins, it is expected continue through the end without suspending, delaying or restarting.
Season 2 will be the first season affected by these guidelines. The sports that are currently part of Season 2 are basketball, wrestling, boys swimming, gymnastics and bowling. Basketball and wresting are classified as high-risk activities, gymnastics and bowling are classified as moderate-risk activities and swimming is classified as a low-risk activity. The lower the risk, the better the chance a sport will meet the requirements for being allowed to compete.
The WIAA also laid the groundwork for postseason play. The postseason will consist of a regional culminating event during the final week of a scheduled season. The event will be a final four, and a sport must have a minimum of eight participating schools within a classification by the end of the fourth week to hold a culminating event. If a classification does not have at least eight participating schools, the region has the option of combining classifications for a culminating event.