At this point, perhaps no new news is good news when it comes to the fate of the Oregon high schools spring sports season.
In an online conference call on April 1, the OSAA executive board decided against taking any further action when it comes to the fate of spring sports. The Board elected to continue its current suspension of Spring activities but chose not to cancel any other remaining state championships at this time. So, there is hopefulness when it comes to salvaging some sort of a spring season, including a postseason for all eight sports the OSAA oversees.
In a memo sent out by the OSAA, there were both glimmers of expectancy and sobering cold hard facts. If the Governor orders that in-person student learning is shut down for the remainder of this school year, the OSAA will continue to align with the school closures and also cancel its Spring activities and state championships. Up to this point, the Board has aligned its decisions regarding OSAA's education-based activities with the Governor's school closure orders and plans to continue on that path. Board member discussion centered around the latest information sent out from the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) earlier this week stating that there is a very real potential that students may not return to school this academic year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Additionally, board members discussed the potential of shifting Spring activities and state championships into the summer and are not supportive of that concept at this time. Concerns included increased staffing and personnel costs for school districts already facing uncertain financial impacts, scheduling issues regarding facility availability, plus student/family commitments for jobs, travel, etc.
So, while an online petition started by Jordon Coffin collected nearly 17,000 signatures asking that the OSAA extend the spring season into the summer, that hope has been ruled out for the moment. That most likely means whatever sort of regular season is played will be shortened significantly, which was to be expected. How curtailed remains to be seen. What the playoffs look like and how the OSAA goes about putting on a postseason remains unresolved as well.
In more positive disclosures, the OSAA staff has been working with Dr. Mick Koester, our Chief Medical Advisor and chair of the OSAA's Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, to develop acclimatization guidelines that the Board approved to emphasize student safety if schools can reconvene this Spring. Included was an initial seven-day period with practices only, no contests, limiting practices to once per day and no more than three hours in length, maintaining the current requirement of no more than six consecutive days without a rest day. These are formalities that all athletes and coaches will agree to and fall in line with. They just want some sort of campaign to commence, no matter what it looks like.
"I hope that when we return to school and spring sports, we return with care, commitment, and the willingness to compete," Southridge track and field coach Katie Miller said. "In the short two weeks of the season that we began with our more than 150 athletes, I could sense there was a greater sense of community and commitment amongst them all compared to years' past. This group is pretty amazing. We look forward to jumping over this life hurdle (COVID-19) together and coming out stronger than when we started the season. We hope that the senior class of 2020 ends their high school experience with fond memories of competing for our Southridge Track and Field program and hopefully a meet or two, or three by the end of this season."
Further, the OSAA would continue heat warnings as appropriate to weather and baseball pitch count limitations, limiting the number of contests allowed in a week specific to each activity (more details to come later) emphasizing late afternoon starts and weekend contests when possible to limit the loss of class time. In other words, softball and baseball teams won't be able to cram in six games in seven days. Teams won't go from 0 to 100 miles per hour and risk injury or impairment. They'll gradually get back into the games and sports they love.
"With the situation around COVID-19, we are just trying to remain optimistic about getting back to practice and competition while prioritizing health and safety," Mountainside girls golf coach Merritt Richardson said. "When it's safe to return, I would love to see some kind of season happen, especially for our seniors - the first graduating class at Mountainside - even if it's only a few tournaments. All of our athletes came into the season so excited about playing together again and looking forward to seeing what we could do to build on our success from last year. We had a lot of fun together in the first two weeks of practice and I know they'd love to be back out there. The opportunities to play as a team is so limited in golf, I hope these athletes still get that chance this year."
The OSAA staff has been in communication with all Spring state championship venues and shared potential challenges they are running into with the Board. In particular, Western Oregon University has shut down all of its athletic facilities until June 30 and will not be able to host the 3A, 2A, 1A Track and Field State Championships. Staff members are contacting other potential track venues to determine interest and availability.
The OSAA Executive Board has an online meeting scheduled for April 15 to discuss developments regarding this situation and take any action they deem necessary regarding Spring activities and state championships. The OSAA will post updated information to the website as well as send an update to all schools following that meeting.
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