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WIAA rearranges Washington high school sports seasons to put fall sports first


The WIAA Executive Board voted Wednesday to restructure its pandemic-revised 2020-2021 seasons, moving tradition fall sports football and volleyball to the front of the line with a first day of practice as early as Feb. 1.

The announcement comes one day after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced a new two-phased “Healthy Washington” reopening plan that redefined COVID metrics to allow most high school sports to conduct games in Phase 2.

In order to move to Phase 2, any of the state's eight regions must show a 10 percent decrease trend in case rates, a 10 percent decrease in COVID-19 hospitalizations, a lower than 10 percent test positivity rate and an intensive care unit occupancy rate under 90 percent. Each region starts at Phase 1 and will be reassessed weekly starting Jan. 15.

“Logically, fall sports kind of fell into the sweet spot," WIAA Executive Board President Tim Thomsen said Wednesday night. "You can do them in Phase 2. They’re outdoor sports with the exception of volleyball.”

Volleyball is a moderate risk sport and is permitted to play game in Phase 2.

Previously, traditional winter sports like basketball, gymnastics and wrestling were scheduled to begin in February. But the new state-issued metrics do not make mention of high-risk indoor sports, which the DOH designated basketball and wrestling under, signaling a long road to a return.

After the new metrics were announce on Tuesday, there was mounting doubt among WIAA staff that the board had enough information to make a decision, despite moving the meeting from Monday in order to factor Gov. Inslee’s new metrics into the decision. 

The previous metrics required counties to maintain a COVID-19 case rate of fewer than 25 per 100,000 people and less than 5 percent positivity rate in order for high-risk sports to be played. 

“The change in guidelines allow all traditional fall sports to be played in Phase 2 while we still do not have a clear pathway to the high risk indoor activities of basketball competitive cheer and dance and wrestling,” WIAA Executive Director Mick Hoffman said in a release.

Hoffman is scheduled to meet with a liaison from the state Department of Health later in the week. 

“We’re at the mercy of the state Department of Health and the Governor,” Thomsen said. “We understand the commitment they made to safety and don’t fault them for that. But it is not our doing. Our doing is how to we take their guidelines and make it work for kids in the state of Washington. This decision tonight was reflective of that.”

It’s likely basketball and wrestling will now take place in the last season.

“We didn’t want to make that decision because we really don’t have all the information on how all the information on how these new metrics and new guidelines are going to work,” Thomsen said.

“Maybe we’ll keep them in the same order — fall, winter, spring — if it’s probable that basketball and wrestling across the state is going to be able to have a season without a lot of interruptions.”

High school sports have not been played in Washington since the outset of the pandemic. Most states across the country have resumed play in some form.

Here is the risk level for each sport, as determined by the state department of health

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