Will action like this — Coupeville catcher Gavin Knoblich putting the tag on a Meridian runner in the playoffs last spring — happen this season? (Photo by Jim Waller/Whidbey News-Times)

Will action like this — Coupeville catcher Gavin Knoblich putting the tag on a Meridian runner in the playoffs last spring — happen this season? (Photo by Jim Waller/Whidbey News-Times)

Sports shut down along with schools

Coupeville and Oak Harbor High School athletes have had their spring seasons put on hold as the local districts shut down in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“During the extended closure, our athletic department will follow the instructions per Gov. Inslee’s executive order,” Oak Harbor Athletic Director Jerrod Fleury said. “All Oak Harbor High School facilities are closed, but coaches may provide optional individual workout plans for student-athletes. These workouts will be conducted independently from any Oak Harbor High School coaches.”

Coupeville Athletic Director Willie Smith echoed Fleury’s comments.

“Our coaches are not allowed to coach, but we have talked to the coaches about giving their athletes workouts to do,” Smith said. “The athletes are on their own.”

Smith added that he would meet with the school’s athletes this week and assure them that the school will do its best to provide “some kind of spring season.”

What that season will look like is anyone’s guess, both Fleury and Smith said.

“We are committed to providing opportunities for student-athletes at Oak Harbor High School,” Fleury said. “Athletic directors from across Wesco are in constant communication to determine the best course of action. Right now, we don’t know what that will look like, but when a decision is made we will notify our student-athletes, coaches and families immediately.”

Because of the shutdown, the earliest spring sports can restart is April 27.

If the suspension isn’t extended, the individual sports like track, golf and tennis will still have time to prepare for the postseason tournaments.

For team sports, which determine postseason berths through league standings, it’s a different story. There will not be enough time to complete all league games before the state playoffs begin, so conferences will have to “think way outside the box,” Smith said.

He said one possible scenario would be for all the team sports to practice one week and then begin a league tournament with all the of schools involved. As the teams are eliminated from the tournament, they can match up and play “regular season” contests in an attempt to give the athletes a chance to play a full slate of games.

This, Smith emphasized, was just one suggestion and not official.

Another wildcard in how the season will shake out is the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, which is the state’s ruling organization for high school sports.

“We are waiting on them,” Fleury said. The WIAA could alter or eliminate the state playoffs.

The North Sound Conference athletic directors plan to meet this week, Smith said, and the Wesco ADs will gather soon, according to Fleury.

Whatever ideas generated from these meetings will have to “be bounced off the higher ups to see what they are thinking,” Fleury said.

To guess what the spring season will look like after the shutdown is pure speculation, Fleury said.

“Despite the obvious disappointment from our student-athletes, I’m encouraged by the way they’ve handled this time of adversity,” Fleury said. “Our student leaders have stepped up and I’ve been impressed with their maturity. If and when we return to action, I’m confident that Wildcat athletics will be ready.”

Coaches support the suspension of spring sports and understand the reasoning behind it but are disappointed.

“Above all, we all have a responsibility to make sure we are doing our part to minimize and slow down the progress of this virus,” Oak Harbor boys golf coach David Smith said. “It would be irresponsible to do nothing in a situation like this.”

Oak Harbor girls track coach Eric Peterson said, “A large group of our kids had done work in the offseason and were ready for the season, so it’s a bummer for them. The upside is that they are already in shape and just need to hold their fitness during the suspension. The coaches are working to provide students with weekly workouts so they can be prepared and ready when we do come back.”

The Oak Harbor High School baseball team had “high expectations” this season, according to coach Cody Anderson, and the shutdown has put a damper on the team’s enthusiasm for a good season.

David Smith said the Whidbey Golf Club has helped make a bad situation better for the high school golfers.

“During the break, the Whidbey Golf Club has stepped up and is allowing golfers who made the girl or boys teams access to the course during the break,” he said. “I can’t say how much I appreciate this and am grateful for the support we get from the WGC staff and membership.”

Perhaps Willie Smith best summed up the whole coronavirus situation when he said, “It’s just nuts.”

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Oak Harbor girls softball team members are allowed to workout together under current COVID-19 restrictions, but are not yet allowed to return to formal practices and competition. School sports may resume this month if Island County and others in the North region can move into Phase 2. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
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