WIAA lays out process for commencing a sports season

The ever-evolving world of high school sports in Washington sprouted a new limb last week, as the WIAA once again provided additional guidance to the return to competition.

The high school sports governing body has laid out the process for the run up to the return of each sport’s season.

Of course, the entire exercise could be moot as COVID-19 cases spike in Western Washington. Kitsap County has a rate of 107.3 cases per 100,000 residents, putting all eight local high schools well outside the Department of Health guidelines for having any meaningful sports season.

In theory, the WIAA’s “Season 2” sports – basketball, bowling, swimming, gymnastics and wrestling – are set to begin practices Dec. 28.

The WIAA has split the state into three regions this year — Region “A” will be composed of Districts 1 and 2, and Region “B” will be home to Districts 3 and 4; all Kitsap County schools are part of District 3, except for Bainbridge, which is in District 2. If 50 percent of schools in a given region is not eligible to participate, the WIAA can plan to move the sport to another season.

The process for beginning a season is as follows:

A preliminary update four weeks prior to the upcoming season, in which there will be a list of schools that will be eligible to play that sport, based on DOH guidelines. Basketball and wrestling are classified high-risk, meaning competition may begin when there is a low risk of transmission (25 cases per 100,000 residents over the previous 14 days and less than a 5% positivity rate); gymnastics and bowling are moderate risk (25-75 cases and less than 5% positive); and swimming is a low risk sport, meaning it can begin at anytime.

A secondary update a little later reviews any newly eligible or ineligible schools to see if each region can move forward. Again, at least 50 percent of schools need to be eligible.

With two weeks remaining, each region will determine if it will participate in sports with enough eligible schools. Region directors can still choose not to participate and move the sport to another season. Once a season begins, the WIAA says it should continue without suspension of play.

It also looks likely, barring any vast improvement in the pandemic, that regional tournaments will take the place of state tournaments this year as the “culminating event.”

To participate, a region must have at least eight eligible schools in the sport and classification by the end of the fourth week of that season. Regions may choose to combine classifications to have that postseason event.

With the first preliminary update about two weeks away (Nov. 27), as it stands right now, only swimming and diving could proceed. Districts 3 and 4 cover a wide swath from the Olympic and Kitsap peninsulas through southern King County and then southwestern counties all the way to the Oregon border.

It remains to be seen if there will be enough teams in the less-affected portions of Washington to have competition and ultimately, if each region decides to go through with it, or wait until spring.