Marysville Getchell’s Malakhi Knight races down the court past Wilson defenders at the Tacoma Dome on March 4. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Marysville Getchell’s Malakhi Knight races down the court past Wilson defenders at the Tacoma Dome on March 4. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

WIAA pushes back return to play for prep sports

Season 2 now begins Feb. 1 and seasons have been shortened to seven weeks each.

The return-to-play date for prep athletes in Washington state has been pushed back.

On Tuesday, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s Executive Board voted to amend the season schedule for the 2020-21 school year, delaying the start of Season 2 until Feb. 1 and shortening each of the three remaining seasons to seven weeks.

Season 2, which includes basketball, wrestling, girls bowling, gymnastics and boys swim and dive, was originally scheduled to begin Dec. 28.

“The decision comes in light of surging COVID-19 cases around the state, putting in jeopardy the ability to begin WIAA Season 2,” the WIAA said in a release.

Season 2 is now set to end with a culminating regional event on March 20.

Season 3, featuring football, volleyball, girls soccer, girls swim and dive, slowpitch softball and alternative seasons for golf and tennis, begins March 15, with football practices starting March 8. The season ends May 1.

Season 4 — baseball, fastpitch softball, golf, tennis, boys soccer and track and field — starts April 26 and ends June 12.

The executive board also voted to extend the the WIAA’s open coaching window to Jan. 23.

The announcement comes just days after Snohomish County set a new record for COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period with an average 281 new cases, nearly seven times the rate in September.

If those numbers don’t improve over the next two months, a return to play will be even further away for many student-athletes in the county.

Guidance set forth by the Governor’s Office and the Washington State Department of Health breaks up individual sports in to low-, moderate- and high-risk categories. It also earmarks individual counties with a three-tier system based on the COVID-19 benchmark statistics of cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period and percentage of positive tests during a week.

Currently, Snohomish County falls into the high-risk category. Only sports in the low- or moderate-risk categories can begin competition when a county is considered high risk. In Season 2, girls bowling, gymnastics and boys swim and dive are all considered low- or moderate-risk sports. Basketball and wrestling fall under high risk.

High-risk sports can begin competition when their county hits the low-risk threshold, less than 25 cases per 100,000 residents and a positivity rate of under 5%.

Snohomish County’s positivity rate is currently 9.1%.

Local student-athletes also have to rely on a dip in benchmark coronavirus numbers in nearby counties.

On Nov. 3, the WIAA announced plans to group its nine districts into three regions. Nearly all Snohomish County schools are a member of District 1, joined by schools from Whatcom, Skagit, King, Island and San Juan counties. District 1 will join District 2, which encompasses most of King County and includes Snohomish County schools Granite Falls and Sultan, as well as a few other outliers, to form Region A.

There are three checkpoints that need to be passed for a season to commence as planned.

The first checkpoint is four weeks before an 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 one week later. If a sport, by classification, is above the 50% threshold, then it will move forward as planned. If a sport is below the 50% threshold, then the plans for moving the season will be implemented.

The third and final checkpoint is two weeks before the start of a 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.

Snohomish County schools account for less than 50% of schools in Region A for each classification.

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