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Coupeville’s Willie Smith and fellow Northwest League Athletic Directors have a plan to return their athletes to play. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

This is the way.

It’s not everyone’s way, but it will be our way.

Coupeville High School, and its rivals in the Northwest 2B/1B League are breaking free from Washington Interscholastic Activities Association guidelines, and have set their own path for returning to playing sports contests.

As everyone deals with the fallout of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the WIAA is allowing individual leagues far-greater flexibility to make their own schedules.

With that in mind, NWL Athletic Directors approved a plan in which their athletes will play traditional spring sports first, followed by fall sports, before closing the 2020-2021 school year with winter sports.

The plan has been submitted to the WIAA for approval.

Actually playing games will depend on whether counties reach new metrics set by Governor Jay Inslee and the state health department, however.

Their plan — Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery — divides the state into eight regions.

The North region includes Island, Whatcom, Skagit, and San Juan Counties.

NWL mates Coupeville, La Conner, Concrete, Mount Vernon Christian, Orcas Island, and Friday Harbor sit in that region.

Chimacum (Jefferson County) and Darrington (Snohomish County) are in the Northwest and Puget Sound regions, respectively.

All regions started in Phase 1 of the plan this week. Once a region moves to Phase 2, schools can begin playing games.

To reach Phase 2, a region must meet four metrics:

**10-percent decline in COVID-19 case rates over the past two weeks.
**10-percent decrease in COVID-19 hospital admission over the past two weeks.
**ICU occupancy under 90 percent.
**Test positivity less than 10 percent.

The NWL return to play plan calls for three six-week seasons, with some overlap.

Athletes will begin practice for the next season during the last week of the prior season.

“Think of it as if all of our teams that are playing would be in a state tournament and the next sport is getting ready for their season,” said Coupeville Athletic Director Willie Smith. “That is the goal, isn’t it?

“So our coaches will be working together to formulate a practice plan/requirements for those student-athletes that are playing multiple sports.”

 

Spring sports:

Baseball, softball, girls tennis, and track and field, running from February 22 to April 3.

“This fits better in current phases of all counties/regions, and is only one week earlier than normal spring sports start dates,” Smith said.

Starting with spring sports has multiple benefits.

All sports are played outside, which lowers risk of transmission, and spring athletes would be rewarded, as they were the ones who lost an entire season when state schools were initially closed in March, 2020.

 

Fall sports:

Volleyball, football, cross country, boys tennis, and girls and boys soccer run from March 29 to May 8.

Previously, when Coupeville was in the 1A division, soccer was played in separate seasons, but that changes with the Wolves now in 2B.

Pushing fall sports into the middle allows for a greater chance schools will be eligible to play football (a “high-risk” sport) and volleyball (an indoor one).

 

Winter sports:

While most of the NWL schools wrestle, Coupeville does not, opting for girls and boys basketball.

Hoops, being played indoors, currently sits at the very top of the “high-risk” chart for prep athletics in Washington state.

Having extra time for case numbers to recede as flu season fades and vaccinations rise is highly-important.

“(The wait) will give us an actual opportunity to play,” Smith said.

 

No decisions have been made public on whether athletes will be required to wear masks while playing, or if fans will be allowed at games.

While no one knows anything for sure during the Age of Coronavirus, the NWL plan offers hope for coaches and athletes.

“It just makes more sense to me,” Smith said. “With the current conditions of each county and region (as we are now lumped into), that this would give us the best chance of getting all three seasons in.”

Going forward, NWL AD’s plan to meet two weeks prior to the Feb. 22 start date to review where league schools stand in relation to being eligible to play.

While the league could start play without all eight schools being eligible, if the AD’s decide they don’t have enough schools ready, it’s possible the start date could be bumped a week at a time.

There are also two back-up plans being worked on in case things get really dire.

In one, the league would use a two-season (spring and fall sports) calendar, while in the other, a one-season calendar dedicated to just spring sports could be employed.

While seasons will be shortened, the games should be as competitive as normal.

“League championships are still on the line this year, so we are playing for something and games are meaningful,” Smith said.

He added that All-League teams will also be voted on for each sport.

Schools plan to release info on fees, paperwork turn-in, and requirements for physicals in the next week.

They ask parents and students to NOT flood their schools with questions, as the plan is being worked on and will be sent to the public as soon as it is completed.

While the primary focus has been on high school sports, middle school athletics have not been forgotten.

“Middle school sports are still a work in progress,” Smith said. “Though I do have some alternate plans I’m working on should our middle school league not offer athletics for middle school this year.”

While things are still topsy-turvy, having a solid plan to aim at gives the AD’s hope.

“As with all things COVID, this plan is a living, breathing, ever-changing document, though it does give us a date and plan that is actually tangible,” Smith said.

“As I’ve told our coaches and administration, I am cautiously optimistic and excited about this plan and feel it gives our kids the best chance of playing this year.”

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The pandemic is pausing Makana Stone’s latest basketball season. (Photo property Loughborough University)

The pause will be longer.

With Britain in a national lockdown after a substantial rise in COVID-19 cases, elite-level basketball has been sidelined.

At least for a bit.

Coupeville graduate Makana Stone, who plays for Loughborough University, was scheduled to return to action January 9.

But the Riders, who went to winter break boasting a 5-2 record, postponed their clash with Southwark.

Now, Basketball England has gone a step further, announcing Wednesday that all Women’s National Basketball League Division One games will be put on hold until Jan. 30 because of the lockdown.

That takes games against Cardiff (Jan. 16) and Worcester (Jan. 23) off the schedule for Stone and Co., with the hope Loughborough will return to play Jan. 30 against Bristol.

The pause for WNBL1 teams is better than what non-elite senior and junior teams received, as their seasons were outright cancelled.

Basketball England plans to employee COVID lateral flow testing for its players, which generally returns results in 30 minutes.

We have taken note of the increased risk currently posed by the rate of COVID-19 and the concerns of our clubs and players at elite level,” said Basketball England CEO Stewart Kellett. “(We) will expand the testing currently taking place to keep everyone involved as safe as possible.”

The Riders currently sit a game back of league-leader Ipswich (6-1), who they toppled thanks to a buzzer-beater by Stone.

Loughborough is 5-1 since the Coupeville grad pulled on a uniform, and the former Wolf has been among the best players in the league.

Stone has recorded a double-double in every game she’s played in England, tallying 103 points, 95 rebounds, 13 assists, and 13 steals.

She’s #2 in the WNBL in rebounding (15.8 a night), #3 in efficiency (159.0), #7 in scoring (17.2), and #8 in free throw percentage (79.3%).

When Stone is not pursuing her hoop dreams, the Whitman College grad is busy earning a Master’s in Exercise Physiology.

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Coupeville Schools Superintendent Steve King

They’re going back inside.

At least that’s the hope, as the Coupeville School Board approved a plan Monday for local students to return to in-person education.

The board voted 4-1 in favor of the plan presented by Coupeville Schools Superintendent Steve King.

Board members Kathleen Anderson, Christi Sears, Venessa Matros, and Glenda Merwine voted in favor, while Sherry Phay voted against the plan.

While the hope is to have all students back in classrooms by mid-March, much will be dictated by whether Coupeville and Island County can lower COVID-19 cases and hospitalization numbers.

Also huge is local schools being able to demonstrate an “ability to limit transmission in the school environment.”

Under the plan, in-person learning is targeted to start back up January 19 for students who were being served in-person before the last closure.

This includes special services students, kindergarteners, and others identified as “furthest from educational justice.”

The next level is targeted to begin Feb. 1, with a K-2 AM/PM hybrid being offered.

Families who choose to participate will send their students to school four days a week, Monday through Thursday.

 

The schedule:

8:45 to 9:00 — CES doors open to students for health screening and entry
9:00 to 11:30 — In-Person classes for Group A
11:30 to 12:45 — Teacher lunch and planning; room sanitization
12:45 to 1:00 — CES doors open to students for health screening and entry
1:00 to 3:30 — In-Person classes for Group B

 

If things are working as hoped, grades 3-5 would be added to the AM/PM hybrid Feb. 22.

Even if in-person education is restarted on those dates, elementary school students may choose to remain in remote learning.

At least one teacher at each grade level will be a remote learning teacher and will serve those students and families.

Targeted dates for a return to in-person learning at Coupeville Middle School (grades 6-8) and High School (9-12) are currently Mar. 8 and 15, respectively.

Other details are still being worked out on the district’s plans for its secondary schools.

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Britain’s COVID-related shutdown will keep Makana Stone from returning to the hardwood this weekend. (Photo property Loughborough University)

Boris Johnson has done what her opponents couldn’t do – shut down Makana Stone.

The Coupeville grad, who has been tearing up the Women’s National Basketball League in Britain, was set to return from winter break with a game this Saturday, January 9.

Now, though, she and her teammates are on hold. At least for a week.

Johnson, England’s wild-haired Prime Minister, announced a new national lockdown Monday, as Britain deals with a substantial rise in COVID-19 cases.

While most activities, including sports, are shut down, there is an exemption for “elite-level teams.”

Despite that, 38 of 40 games originally scheduled to be played Saturday by NBL teams have been postponed.

That includes Stone and the Loughborough University women facing off with Southwark.

For now, the Riders next game, which is Jan. 16 against Cardiff, remains on the schedule.

The situation remains fluid, with decision-makers weighing all options.

“We find ourselves in an unprecedented situation with a combination of national lockdown and elite exemption, alongside serious concerns for the welfare of those active in the game,” said Basketball England CEO Stewart Kellett.

“We will be taking a short period of time to assess whether if, in light of the current circumstances, and with the increased risk from the new variant of Covid-19 to our members’ health and safety, it is right for us to press on with competition for our elite game and what the ramifications are for the sport as a whole.”

The Loughborough women went to break riding a hot streak.

The Riders are 5-2, a game back of league-leader Ipswich (6-1), who they toppled thanks to a buzzer-beater by Stone.

Loughborough is 5-1 since the Coupeville grad pulled on a uniform, and the former Wolf has been among the best players in the league.

Stone has recorded a double-double in every game she’s played in England, tallying 103 points, 95 rebounds, 13 assists, and 13 steals.

She’s currently #2 in the WNBL in rebounding (15.8 a night), #3 in efficiency (159.0), #7 in scoring (17.2), and #8 in free throw percentage (79.3%).

When she’s not pursuing her hoop dreams, the Whitman College grad is busy chasing a Master’s in Exercise Physiology.

While there’s a great deal of uncertainty right now, the easy-going Stone continues to navigate things as best as possible.

“I’m just taking slow, deep breaths!,” she said with a laugh.

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Traditional fall high school sports such as football may be the first to return to play. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Everything changes. Again.

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Executive Board voted Wednesday to redo its planned 2020-2021 school athletic schedule, moving traditional fall sports back in front.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there have been no prep games in the state played in nearly 11 months, in any sport, and the plans to return to play have been constantly-changing.

Up until Wednesday night, winter sports such as basketball were set to possibly be the first ones back.

But, after new guidelines were set in place earlier this week by Governor Jay Inslee and the state Health Department, the WIAA opted to flip things.

Again.

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

“With that in mind, moving fall sports to Season 1 will hopefully provide the most opportunities to participate.”

The new plan is for fall sports to begin practices Feb. 1, with a shortened season ending March 20.

Season 2 (March 15-May 1) and Season 3 (April 26-June 12) remain on the schedule as before, though it’s unclear if traditional winter sports will follow, or whether spring sports will leapfrog them.

Some more clarification is expected after the WIAA Executive Board meets Jan. 19.

“We are hoping to receive more details that were not included in the Governor’s announcement on Tuesday, particularly surrounding indoor sports and activities,” Hoffman said.

“As we continue to gather more information and evaluate the new metrics, the board will be able to make better decisions about the remainder of the year.”

The move to flip fall sports back in front would seem to indicate the possible return of football, cross country, volleyball, boys tennis, and boys and girls soccer for Coupeville High School.

But, and this is a huge BUT, while the WIAA is providing a “uniform season schedule concluding in regional culminating events, it has granted each league or district around the state the ability to reschedule seasons to best fit their local communities.”

Any decision from the Athletic Directors of the Northwest 2B/1B League will likely have to come soon, but no time frame for a decision has been announced.

Part of that decision hinges on implementation of the new guidelines — Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery — which divides the state into eight regions.

Island County is now linked with Whatcom, Skagit, and San Juan Counties (but not Snohomish, which includes Darrington, one of Coupeville’s league foes) in the North Region.

There will be two phases in the plan, with all regions beginning in Phase 1 next Monday, Jan. 11.

To move from Phase 1 to Phase 2, a region needs to meet four metrics:

**10-percent decline in COVID-19 case rates over the past two weeks.
**10-percent decrease in COVID-19 hospital admission over the past two weeks.
**ICU occupancy under 90 percent.
**Test positivity less than 10 percent.

If a region is in Phase 2, all outdoor sports, including “high-risk” ones such as football, can play games.

Indoor sports classified as “medium-risk,” such as volleyball, can also play, but “high-risk” indoor sports like basketball can not.

It is currently unknown what a region will have to do to reach an as-yet unknown Phase 3 under the new plan, which would allow “high-risk” indoor sports to play.

It’s also unknown if any fans will be allowed to attend games if fall sports really do start Feb. 1.

Which shouldn’t be a surprise.

In this Age of Coronavirus, just remember, with each 1% of clarification comes another 99% of “I have no freakin’ clue.”

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