COVID rise makes me wonder about the next season

The spring sports season comes to an end this week — perhaps just in the nick of time.

Although vaccination efforts are underway in every corner of Washington, it’s impossible to ignore that cases have again risen, and that could complicate Season 3, which includes basketball and wrestling and is set to begin next week for the Olympic League and in two weeks for the South Puget Sound League.

Of course, it would be a shame if any portion of the sports season had to be postponed or canceled; student-athletes have already lost more than enough opportunities to create some of their greatest memories, which will last them the rest of their lives.

But, without playing favorites, I’d say there’s reason to be extra thankful that baseball, softball, boys soccer, golf and tennis teams have been able to complete their slates of games, however short the season may have been.

After all, it was the spring season that ended up on the chopping block when the pandemic began. The state basketball tournaments had just wrapped up, state wrestling and state swimming had taken place the weekend before, and the West Sound would have its hoops all-star game serve as the final high school sporting event of 2020.

Then everything went quiet for a year. The spring baseball and softball postseasons take teams through familiar locations — the Fairgrounds in Bremerton, Heritage Field in Puyallup, the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey, the Service Club Ballfields in Kent, Funko Field in Everett, Gesa Stadium in Yakima, and Carlon Park in Selah, to name a few. But all of those places were quiet instead in 2020.

It doesn’t feel like a true spring sports season without the final event of each year – the state track championships at Mount Tahoma and Eastern Washington University, at the end of May, when weather can range from hot and sunny, to a chilly downpour depending on the year and location. I always thought it was a fitting ending because it well encapsulates the unpredictability of each year.

We won’t have that this year as the Olympic League meet took place last weekend, and the SPSL track meet is this week in Sumner, but the Olympic League and SPSL are holding mini-tournaments this weekend to crown a league champion. And in boys soccer, there will be a crossover game between the North and South Divisions in each league.

It’s better than nothing, but it also leaves the imagination wondering about how things might have played out under normal circumstances.

We know the Bainbridge baseball team had a real chance to win a Class 3A state title, but the boys soccer team has also looked strong. South Kitsap baseball and softball have had consistent success in getting to the postseason in recent years and several area soccer teams probably would have at least made the state tournament.

I don’t think any sport has been more affected than track and field. I’ve spoken to more than one coach and parent who observed how much harder it was on their kids to train and keep up with their sport during the pandemic.

I think it also really shines the light on how incredible some of the performances were that I saw at Bremerton High School last weekend — such as North Kitsap’s Alyssa Cullen’s record-breaking times in the 100 and 200, Bainbridge freshman Ella McRitchie’s 11-foot mark in the pole vault, and Kelton Gagnon and Noah Hasselblad of Klahowya and North Mason absolutely dusting the competition in the 3200.

I don’t know what the numbers will say when it comes time to determine which phase Kitsap County is in, but hopefully there are another seven weeks of games still ahead so that we get a few more of those memorable moments.