Some fall sports resume Feb. 1

Cross country, golf, tennis OK'd for competition; higher-risk sports must wait

Camas and Washougal high school runners, golfers and tennis players will return to competition in February, but the rest of the traditional fall sports athletes will have to wait a bit longer to find out when their seasons will begin.

Greater St. Helens League athletic directors announced last week that their schools’ cross country, boys golf and boys tennis teams can start practices Feb. 1, with competition beginning the following week even if the Southwest Region remains in Phase 1 of the state’s “Healthy Washington” reopening plan.

“It will be nice to be out on the courts,” said Camas boys tennis coach Jonathan Burton. “We will be working to minimize (virus transmission) risk to players and coaches. Tennis is a great social-distancing sport. We will be working to develop other safeguards to keep the team safe. The weather will be an issue for us, but we are all looking forward to playing tennis.”

Washington’s Department of Health guidelines stipulate that all athletes must wear masks during competitions.

“We know things will be different, but the chance to do what we love will stay the same,” said Washougal cross country coach Tracey Stinchfield. “We are extremely excited to have a chance to really progress as a team and begin something similar to a regular season. One of the great things about running is that you can do it even while remaining socially distant. These athletes have been working hard through the very long offseason, and they are very excited at the chance to see what they can do.”

The GSHL athletic directors also announced that football, volleyball, girls soccer and slowpitch softball teams can return to play when the Southwest Region has moved into Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan.

To reach Phase 2, a region must reach benchmarks in four COVID-19 metrics. In the first set of numbers released earlier this month, the Southwest Region, which includes Clark, Cowlitz, Skamania, Klickitat and Wahkiakum counties, met the standard for two of the four metrics. In the second update, released on Jan. 16, the county posted satisfactory numbers in only one of the categories.

If the Southwest Washington region reaches Phase 2 by Jan. 25, the moderate and high-risk fall sports can begin practices on Feb. 1. If Phase 2 is not reached by Jan. 25, players will have to wait until one week after the county enters Phase 2 to begin practicing.

If the moderate- and high-risk sports cannot begin practices by Feb. 22, the leagues will adopt a two-season format that will combine the seasons of some fall sports with that of spring sports and other fall sports with that of winter sports.

“The Greater St. Helens League continues its commitment to safely provide athletic opportunities for the student-athletes,” according to a news release issued by the 4A and 3A GSHL athletic directors.

2A GSHL football, slowpitch softball, volleyball and girls soccer teams can start practicing Feb. 1, but can’t participate in competition until the Southwest Region reaches Phase 2.

“We will continue to meet weekly and adjust as needed,” according to a statement issued by the 2A GSHL athletic directors.

The GSHL school’s plans closely align with the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s amended season schedule announced earlier this month.

“I have been extremely impressed with the positive attitude of (our) runners,” Stinchfield said. “We have had so many guidelines to follow, and the students have done an incredible job with all of them. They know that following the rules is the only way they can continue to practice, so they take it very seriously. We are confident that we can handle a season in a safe and responsible manner. The most dangerous part will be riding the bus to the meets, and we (will) handle that as well.”