Rivalries lost decades ago could be reignited in 2021 as the big schools in Kitsap County join forces with the rest of the locals to create an expanded, two-division Olympic League for the remainder of the school year.
South Kitsap, a 4A school, and 3A Central Kitsap and Bainbridge are all on board as high schools around the state are taking a more regional approach to competitions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The league will nearly double in size, with 13 teams participating from Kitsap, Mason, Jefferson and Clallam counties — the same four counties that comprise the Northwest region in the state’s roadmap to recovery plan.
Bainbridge was the last to decide, announcing Tuesday that the school and its student-athletes would be better served competing within their region rather than being dependent on King County and the Metro League, where transmission rates are higher.
The Spartans have a long history of competing in the Olympic League, but departed for the Metro League in 2001.
“This move should open up additional opportunities for our student-athletes during the current state of affairs and allows us to compete with other schools in our geographic region,” said Jim Corsetti, BISD athletic director.
The league will be split into two divisions, with different alignments — one for football, and one for all other sports.
In football, North Kitsap, Central Kitsap, South Kitsap, Bremerton, Bainbridge, Olympic and Sequim will be in one division, while Klahowya, Kingston, Port Townsend/Chimacum, Port Angeles, North Mason and Shelton will be in the other.
In other sports, North Mason and Shelton swap places with Olympic and Sequim.
The move temporarily reunites some old rivals. South Kitsap and Bainbridge regularly met on the gridiron for nearly four decades from the 1920s through the 1960s, but have only played each other once since 1966, a crossover 10th game in 2017. Those two schools, along with Bremerton, Central Kitsap and North Kitsap, all have long histories against one another dating back to the 1920s as well.
Of those five, only North Kitsap and Bremerton, which are 2A schools, are still in the same league. South Kitsap has competed in the South Puget Sound League since its formation in 2016 while Central Kitsap competes in the South Sound Conference.
But in order to get back on the field, the Northwest region must be in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan when competitions may commence for most sports. Phase 1 does allow for competitions in low-risk outdoor sports, such as cross country, without spectators; moderate-risk outdoor sports can hold full team practices and intra-squad scrimmages and moderate-risk indoor sports and all high-risk sports are restricted to practices in small groups.
To move on to Phase 2, the Northwest region will have to show a 10 percent decreasing trend in both the two-week rate of COVID cases per 100,000 population and the two-week rate of new coronavirus hospital admissions per 100,000, an ICU occupancy total of less than 90 percent and a positive test rate of less than 10 percent.
The Northwest region met three of those four benchmarks when the state released its latest data on Jan. 15. As of press time, no region had moved from Phase 1 to Phase 2.
The WIAA executive board voted this week to swap seasons 2 and 3 on its calendar. Season 2 will consist of the traditional spring sports and begin March 15 and end on May 1. Season 3 will have the traditional winter sports; it will begin April 26 and end on June 12.
Season 1 will consist of the traditional fall sports and is scheduled to begin with practices on Feb. 1. Competitions could begin as soon as Feb. 8. In Phase 2, attendance will be limited to 200.