The Greater Spokane League, in collaboration with the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, announced adjustments for its sports seasons on Wednesday, setting dates for traditional spring sports in WIAA “Season 2” and winter sports in “Season 3.”
Moving indoor contact sports to later in the spring gives the league the best chance of clearing the health hurdles in order to hold contests.
“We tried to follow the WIAA’s guidelines, especially for our Season 3 sports,” GSL director Ken VanSickle said. “We want to give them the best chance possible to have a season and be able to compete and play.”
Season 2 sports will run April 5-May 15:
- Golf, tennis and track and field can begin competitions in Phase 1 without spectators.
- Baseball, boys soccer and fastpitch softball can begin competitions in Phase 2.
Season 3 sports will run May 10-June 19, with the exception of gymnastics, which will begin May 3:
- Gymnastics and boys swim/dive can begin competitions in Phase 1 without spectators.
- Slowpitch softball can begin competitions in Phase 2.
- Basketball, competitive cheer, dance/drill and wrestling can conduct individual training in Phase 1 and regular practice/team scrimmage in Phase 2.
A Phase 3 has not been established for competition in indoor contact sports in Season 3.
“I think the state and the WIAA is kind of taking it step by step at this point,” VanSickle said. “Let’s get to Phase 2. Get them competing, the outdoors sports. And then our spring sports, and then hopefully come up with some type of guideline for boys and girls basketball and wrestling.”
In its statement, the league said it will continue to make adjustments based on the regional COVID-19 metrics provided by the Washington State Department of Health and cooperate with the Spokane Regional Health District to insure it is following local protocols.
“We’ve been committed since this started that we’re going to have three sports seasons and we want to give every one of our student-athletes an opportunity to be with their teammates and coaches and have an opportunity to play,” VanSickle said.
“This schedule gives us the best chance to do that.”
On Jan. 15, the GSL released a staggered sports calendar for the resumption of Season 1 (traditional fall) sports. Those dates were delayed when the East Region failed to meet the initial metrics.
The GSL started preseason volleyball practice last Monday. It is scheduled to begin preseason practice for football on Monday and cross country and girls soccer on Feb. 22.
“Those are true start dates,” VanSickle said. “Even if we’re stuck in Phase 1, we want our athletes around their teammates. We want them with our coaches. We’re going to start practices.”
Cross country is the only sport that may conduct competitions while in Phase 1. Earlier this week, the WIAA relaxed the facemask rule for cross country, allowing participants to drop their mask once races begin.
The East Region designated by the state (Spokane and eight other counties) for COVID-19 protocols is in Phase 1 of the “Healthy Washington-Roadmap to Recovery.” The region must meet three of the four metrics in order to move from Phase 1 to Phase 2:
- Decreasing trend (>10%) in two-week rate of COVID-19 cases per 100K population
- Decreasing trend (>10%) in two-week rate new COVID-19 hospital admission rates per 100K population
- ICU occupancy (total of COVID-19 and non-COVID-19) of less than 90%
- COVID-19 test positivity rate of 10%
When the initial metrics were announced on Jan. 7, regions had to meet all four metrics. The East Region met three of the four metrics at the time, with test positivity rate the only outlier.
In the last set of numbers released on Jan. 28 the East met two of the four: hospital admissions and ICU occupancy.
The state is scheduled to release updated numbers and further guidance on Friday.
The league has an athletic directors meeting Friday afternoon in anticipation of the region getting the green light.
“Hopefully, we get to that Phase 2,” VanSickle said. “I’m actually optimistic that it will happen this Friday.”
Two regions – Puget Sound and West – qualified to move into Phase 2 on Jan. 29 and started practicing and holding competitions in fall sports with limited spectators last week.
“I’ve got friends over on the coast that are in Phase 2 and we got pictures sent to us of a cross country meet,” VanSickle said. “It’s exciting for us to see kids back out competing. It’s been almost a year now.
“My hope is that things get better, we get into Phase 2, we’re able to have competitions and show that we’re taking the right precautions and that we’re following the guidelines and we’re not having outbreaks and that our kids are able to compete,” VanSickle said.
“Hopefully, by springtime, with the vaccinations our numbers will keep coming down and the state department of health and the WIAA will come up with some guidelines for Season 3.”
Also on Wednesday, Oregon governor Kate Brown lifted restrictions to allow outdoor contact sports including football to resume, albeit with a “bevy of caveats, ranging from health and safety protocols to in-person instruction mandates, and varies from county to county depending on COVID-19 risk levels,” according to the Oregonian.
Idaho has been participating in high school sports since the start of the school year in September.
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