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Sports >  High school sports

No ‘Fish’: Coeur d’Alene school district cancels spirit competition due to surge in COVID cases in community

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 19, 2022

Coeur d'Alene student fans cheer the Viking boys basketball team in the first half during the rival Fight for the Fish game against Lake City on Jan. 17, 2014.  (COLIN MULVANY)
Coeur d'Alene student fans cheer the Viking boys basketball team in the first half during the rival Fight for the Fish game against Lake City on Jan. 17, 2014. (COLIN MULVANY)

Two weeks ago, the spirit competition “Fight for the Fish” between Coeur d’Alene and Lake City was postponed due to winter weather and hazardous road conditions. On Wednesday, the Coeur d’Alene School District canceled the event, which had been rescheduled for Friday, due to the surge of COVID cases in the community.

Dr. Shon Hocker, superintendent of CdA schools, sent a letter to students, parents and guardians on Wednesday announcing the “difficult decision” to remove the Fight for the Fish student spirit competition from Friday’s varsity basketball games.

In past years, the games have produced overcapacity attendance and part of the competition is judged on the amount of noise generated by the schools’ fan bases.

The games, featuring four teams all ranked by the media and coaches polls, will proceed as scheduled – just without the spirit competitions.

“We believe removing the spirit competition portion of this game may reduce the number of spectators and minimize the often-large crowds that gather for the annual Fight for the Fish spirit competition,” Hocker said in the letter to students.

The district and schools are open to the possibility of scheduling a makeup event later in the school year, which may or may not be in conjunction with another sporting event.

Hocker acknowledged the time and effort put in by the two schools, but “we also know many recognize the challenges facing our schools and community at this time and are supportive of efforts to keep our schools open and limit disruptions as best as possible as we move through this wave of excessive staff and student absences.”

The announcement was met with equal parts resignation, disappointment and understanding.

Coeur d’Alene senior Cole Jaworski is one of the captains of the “Blue Zoo” student cheering section and one of the top players on the golf team for the Vikings.

“It’s kind of a letdown, but there’s a lot of COVID going through our school and community right now,” he said. “It is disappointing, we were all looking forward to it.”

Jaworski hopes his fellow students aren’t deterred from coming to the big games on Friday.

“We don’t know about Lake City, but at Coeur d’Alene we’re still acting like it’s Fight for the Fish and trying to get the whole student body to show up.”

Still, the cancellation has taken the wind out of their sails a bit.

“We’ve definitely put in a lot of hours, a lot of planning,” Jaworski said. “A lot of money has gone into this whole thing to get it running. Just the time the whole community has put into this … that’s the big letdown.”

Lake City senior Sierra Holt is a leader with the Timberwolves’ pep band.

“A lot of people I’ve talked to are really disappointed, but there’s definitely an understanding that it’s probably a good choice considering how many teachers are out sick and how many students are out sick.”

She said it’s hard to justify having students pack the gym, standing shoulder-to-shoulder and screaming for three hours, even if it something they’ve been planning and working on from the beginning of the school year.

“It’s one of my favorite parts of the year,” she said. “I put a lot of effort and time into it, coordinating with student council and the entire band. But we understand.”

Coeur d’Alene second-year coach Jon Adams was looking forward to his first “Fish,” since last year’s was also canceled due to COVID.

“From a basketball standpoint, we’re still playing Lake City, we’re still expecting a great crowd,” he said. “As much as I like the Fight for the Fish spirit award, now it’s just about the game.”

Adams said the spirit competition affects everything in the gym.

“People say it’s so loud in there from people trying to win the spirit competition that you can’t hear,” Adams said. “Coaches have to create flash cards (to call plays). It adds a different dimension to the coaching element, which is fine – it’s just different.”

It’s been a banner year in North Idaho basketball. Lake City’s boys (14-0) are unanimously ranked No. 1 in the state media poll, with Lewiston (11-3) No. 5 and Coeur d’Alene (9-3) sixth. On the girls side, Lake City (16-2) is No. 2, Coeur d’Alene (15-3) third and Post Falls (14-4) No. 5.

“It’s cool to look at the rankings and you’ve got three of the top five or six teams in the state coming out of the north,” Adams said.

“I’ve been gone for 20 years from back in the heyday from when the north was really tough, so it’s cool to come back and see this and be part of it.”

Skylar Burke is a senior standout on the CdA girls team and played in the spirit game as a sophomore when Coeur d’Alene broke a lengthy drought to win the spirit contest.

“Everyone was definitely talking about the news that we got today and really disappointed in hearing that they canceled the events for the second year in a row now,” she said.

Burke hopes canceling the spirit competition doesn’t take away from the importance of the games.

“The team goal is the same – we want to go out and get a win,” Burke said.

“But this game has a whole different feel and not getting it last year everyone was so ready and so excited to get the opportunity to play this year. It’s a different type of energy that this game brings and a different level with so many people in the stands. It’s just such a fun event to miss out on.

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