South Whidbey’s Drew Aposhyan, top, and the Falcon wrestling team hope to return to play Dec. 28. (Photo by John Fisken)

South Whidbey’s Drew Aposhyan, top, and the Falcon wrestling team hope to return to play Dec. 28. (Photo by John Fisken)

WIAA revises guidelines for high school athletics

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, the governing body for high school sports, retrieved its big eraser once again Tuesday, Nov. 3, and edited its guidelines for athletics during the 2020-21 academic year.

When spring sports were canceled last spring, the WIAA admitted that the look of high school athletics from that point would evolve as the world dealt with COVID-19. Almost monthly since then, the WIAA has revised its plans for high school sports this school year.

This week the WIAA divided the state into three regions and stipulated that schools are to play only within their’s. Region A, which runs from Seattle to the Canadian border in Western Washington includes Coupeville, Oak Harbor and South Whidbey. Region B goes from South Seattle to the Oregon border in Western Washington, and Region C is all of Eastern Washington.

The WIAA’s executive board, which includes 13 school administrators, determined this week that for a season to start, at least 50 percent of the schools within a classification within a region must be eligible under the COVID-19 metrics determined by the Department of Health.

If the 50 percent mark can’t be reached, the WIAA could move a sport to a different season.

The board also decided that regional championships would most likely replace state tournaments. The WIAA said it hasn’t totally written off state tournaments, but many pieces would have to fall into place for them to be resurrected.

A region will need at least eight eligible schools in one sport to hold a regional championship. If there are fewer than eight, regions could combine.

This summer the WIAA realigned high school seasons, dividing the school year into four seasons instead of the traditional three. Season 1, which was to run from September to November, was canceled because of high coronavirus numbers. Its sports were moved to later this school year.

Season 2, which is slated to include traditional winter sports (basketball, wrestling and swimming), is supposed to start Dec. 28.

The WIAA set Nov. 27 as the date to begin the process to determine if Season 2 is feasible.

Earlier this fall, the WIAA, working with the governor’s office and the Department of Health, developed return-to-play guidelines. A county’s number of cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents and the percentage of positive tests will determine a school’s ability to return to play.

Sports were divided into three categories — high risk, medium and low — depending on the amount of personal contact. The COVID-19 rates would determine which sports could competed.

Among Season 2 sports, basketball and wrestling are considered high risk. Swimming is low risk.

For high risk sports to hold games, the schools’ counties must have virus rates of less than 25 cases per 100,000 and a positivity rate of less than 5 percent.

According to the Washington State Coronavirus Response website Thursday, Island County had a 48.3 per 100,000 residence rate and a positive test rate of 4.1 percent.

Those marks are better than in Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish and King counties, which include schools Coupeville, Oak Harbor and South Whidbey traditionally compete against, but still not low enough to allow high-risk sports.

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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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