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Scappoose, St. Helens spring sports athletic programs in holding pattern due to COVID-19 outbreak

PMG FILE PHOTO - The OSAA has postponed all spring sports activities through April 28 but has not canceled the season as of yet.

On the heels of the OSAA canceling both the girls' and boys' basketball tournaments due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, hope is still being held out for spring sports in Columbia County.

Per Governor Kate Brown's announcement yesterday regarding statewide school closures, the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) has extended the suspension of interscholastic practices and contests for sports and activities for all member schools through April 28.

The OSAA Executive Board has committed to meeting on April 1, and again on April 15, to re-evaluate the suspension of Spring activities and sports, along with the remaining Spring State Championships. This will allow the Board to review any updated guidelines and directives in collaboration with the Governor's Office, the Oregon Health Authority, the Oregon Department of Education, the OSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and member school administrators from throughout the state as this situation continues to evolve.

The OSAA Track and Field State Championships, originally scheduled to be held at the University of Oregon, will be split out and moved to different venues due to construction timelines for the completion of Hayward Field. New arrangements have the 6A, 5A, 4A events being held at Mt. Hood Community College and the 3A, 2A, 1A events at Western Oregon University, both on May 29-30.

The governor's office announced Tuesday, March 17, that students wouldn't be back in school until at least April 28. So now, both Scappoose and St. Helens spring sports seasons are in a holding pattern of sorts. Scappoose athletic director Adam Strachan said he wasn't surprised with the OSAA's decision, considering what the world is going through and how other professional sports leagues have halted play. Strachan emphasized that Indians will do whatever is dictated by Brown, the Oregon Department of Education and the OSAA in hopes of stopping COVID-19 but empathized with the local athletes who have been impacted by the delay.

"We want to do everything we can to mitigate the spread of the virus and flatten the curve," Strachan said. "If that means we have to limit our sports teams from being able to meet, then we're going to do our part. Obviously, it's disappointing for all of the athletes who have worked so hard to prepare for these seasons, especially the high school athletes who are going to lose the year of eligibility if it comes to that."

Scappoose canceled its preseason and hoped its teams could come back in April to take on Northwest Oregon Conference slates only. Track and field would be allowed to participate in non-league invitationals in addition to their dual meets. Golf programs have non-league tournaments mixed into their league season. They too would be allowed to compete in those as well as their regularly scheduled NWOC meets. Strachan said that belief was "optimistic" and with Brown's latest announcement, it feels like if any season is going to be squeezed in, it'll have to transpire in May. Still, there's a chance some sort of spring season could occur. There have been no cancellations on the OSAA's behalf. While the organization was quick to pull the plug on the basketball state tournaments, it was patient when looking at all the options for the spring and ultimately decided to postpone the start of the season, not cancel it outright. It would take some maneuvering, a bit of patience and understanding from everyone involved. Yet, spring athletics are still a possibility, even if a truncated season is the only course of action. If and when schools are reopened, then athletics get can back on track and up to speed. Strachan explained that it would be a tall task, because the OSAA year ends on Memorial Day and the OSAA doesn't govern activities after May 25. That said, there have been baseball and softball championships played in early June, after the OSAA extended its year to accommodate all parties. There is optimism, from coaches, from athletes and parents that some semblance of a season can be salvaged, no matter how small or short.

"At this point, I would think all options are on the table," Strachan said. "It'll be interesting to see how the ODE handles school and extensions of the school year and how the OSAA handles the extension of the spring sports season, should they continue to go down that road. If sports resume, Scappoose High School athletics will be ready to go and compete at the highest level."

Athletes would probably need a week or so of practices to get back into the swing of things. During this time coaches can communicate with students in accordance with local school district policy, but not organize or participate in workouts. Groups that congregate are encouraged to be less than 10 people. Athletes are allowed to work out on their own, but not in an organized team setting.

"The OSAA is doing a really good job of handling this situation," Strachan said. "I felt terrible for all the winter sports kids that got to their state tournaments and weren't able to finish. It's hard to wrap your mind around that there won't be a state champion. But everybody is doing what they can to keep everybody safe. Sports are important, but there it's much more important to mitigate the spread of the virus."

The OSAA said, "During this suspension, we will evaluate this evolving public health situation with the Oregon Health Authority, the Oregon Department of Education, the OSAA Executive Board, the OSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and member school administrators from throughout the state to determine when, or if, to resume the spring season."

If, and when, the high school spring sports season resumes, there are still other considerations to look at before competition begins.

The OSAA sanctioned spring season sports include baseball, softball, boys track and field, girls track and field, girls' tennis, boys' tennis, boys golf and girls golf. Many believed the season would kick off with practices on April 1 with games beginning on April 8. Now, who knows? The Beaverton girls' basketball reached the Class 6A semifinals before the OSAA canceled the rest of the state tournament. The day before the semis the OSAA planned on allowing the postseason to continue, only with no fans, parents or patrons in the stands. The spring season, should it be allowed to commence, could look similar, with nobody but coaches, players and credentialed media allowed to watch. But that's simply a proposition at this point. Everyone involved is taking this process day-by-day.

"Everybody understands this is something outside of our control," Strachan said. "It's not anybody's fault that this happened. We all have to do what we can to help stem the spread of the virus."

Dan Brood and Geoff Pursinger contributed to this story.

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