High school sports live on - in central Oregon and other states
The fields, courts and high school campuses around the Portland metropolitan area have been weirdly quiet during this COVID-19 fall season.
Normally, there would be soccer, volleyball, cross country and water polo throughout the week, and football under those famous Friday night lights.
Instead of games, however, most local high school athletes have been limited to skills training and conditioning — and usually only in groups no larger than 10. To date, athletes in most of the state aren't even allowed to participate in real practices.
Because of state restrictions implemented in response to the global pandemic, the Oregon School Activities Association chose to split the 2020-21 school year into four seasons, with Season 1 — which continues through Dec. 27 — designated for skills training and conditioning and, if certain COVID-19 benchmarks are reached, competition.
But competition has been scarce to nonexistent in the metro area.
"(Beaverton School District), at this time, is not allowing any Season 1 activities," said Aloha High School Athletic Director Tom Bendt. "(But) we are hopeful that we will get our kids back on campus in the next month or sooner."
"We have been (holding skills training and conditioning) since September 28," said West Linn Athletic Director Brigham Baker. "No practices or games at all, though. Everything is with masks on and socially distant from one another (with) max cohorts of 10 so they are really small."
At Sherwood High School, meanwhile, athletes have been allowed to practice and scrimmage against each other, but not versus athletes or teams from other schools. Athletic Director Randy Ramp said that Sherwood split Season 1 into three sections of equal length, with athletes recently completing spring sports, currently practicing and scrimmaging with its fall sports teams, while winter sports will follow before the end of the year.
Though high school sports have largely disappeared in the metro area, that's not the case elsewhere in Oregon or across the country.
In and around Eugene, schools have barred sports until in-person learning returns, but a private company called Kidsports stepped up to fill the void for football, organizing a 7-on-7 league that caters to local high school players and will continue into November.
In central Oregon, Crook County, Culver, Sisters, Redmond, Ridgeview and other high schools have regularly met in spring sports competition, while Madras, Bend and La Pine athletes have competed through their club teams.
Across Oregon's eastern border in Idaho, high school soccer teams just finished their first-round state playoff games, volleyball and cross country teams are competing in district meets and tournaments, and football teams are heading into Week 9.
Across the country, high school athletes are playing fall sports in a total of 35 states.
Here in Oregon, however, athletic directors, coaches, athletes, parents and fans are just holding their breath and hoping that high school sports return in 2021. For his part, West Linn's Baker is trying to remain hopeful about what lies ahead.
"I have not heard anything official yet, but I am still remaining optimistic we will get something going," he said.
Bendt, however, is somewhat more circumspect as he looks ahead to 2021.
"We are worried about Season 2. Currently basketball and wrestling are in the high-contact grouping which means that we could not play currently because of restrictions set by the governor and OSAA guidelines," Bendt said. "We are hopeful that most Season 3 and (Season) 4 sports could occur, (but) it depends on how individual school districts handle allowing students back on campus for in-person instruction."
According to the 2020-21 schedule released by the OSAA back in August, Season 2 (winter season sports) would begin with practices on Dec. 28 and the first contests on Jan. 11, 2020. The five traditional winter-season sports (boys and girls basketball, boys and girls swimming, and wrestling) would continue on to postseason competition in the week of March 1-7.
Season 3 — the traditional fall-season sports (boys and girls cross country, volleyball, boys and girls soccer, and football) — will open for practices on Feb. 22 with the first contests set the week of March 8-14 and the postseason scheduled for April 26-May 2.
The exception there is football, which is scheduled to open play the week of March 15-21 and continue with regular-season games before heading into playoffs in the week of May 3-9.
And Season 4 — the traditional spring season sports (boys and girls golf, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls track, baseball and softball) — opens with practices beginning on April 19 and the first contests set for May 3. Play is scheduled to continue until June 20, with postseason contests due from June 21-27.
The new calendar also sets competition and championship dates for activities, including cheerleading, dance/drill, speech, solo music, choir and band/orchestra.
Competition and postseason dates for each of those include: cheerleading (Feb. 22-March 7/April 12-18), dance/drill (March 29-May 4/May 5-11), speech (April 5-18/April 19-25), solo music (April 12-25/April 26-May 2), choir (April 19-May 2/May 3-9) and band/orchestra (April 26-May 9/May 10-16).
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