High school sports have way to return

High school sports have begun to return

It has taken patience, planning and plenty of hard work, but the fall high school sports season is about to get underway.

Football will kick off Friday, with Mount Vernon hosting Sedro-Woolley at 7 p.m., Anacortes playing at Shorewood at 7 p.m., and Burlington-Edison playing at Meridian at 8 p.m.

A fuller slate of sports including volleyball, cross country, tennis and soccer arrives next week.

“All kids are excited to play sports again,” Mount Vernon Athletic Director Jordan Sneva said. “So many of our students haven’t even been on our campus and to come back with sports and classes soon offers them that well-rounded high school experience that makes our education system special. People know that athletics for many is self-expression and an identity.”

Last school year’s sports seasons had unusual touches — such as no postseason contests, teams playing abbreviated schedules and sports played outside their typical seasons — due to COVID-19 restrictions.

This school year, the plan is for sports to be closer to what fans and athletes expect, including tournaments and postseason matchups.

“It’s a great situation,” Concrete Athletic Director Randy Sweeney said. “The schedules we put together are full-season schedules. We look forward to postseason, which wasn’t in cards last year.”

That’s not to say safety is no longer a concern.

Anacortes Athletic Director Erik Titus said, “We’re going to keep kids safe, coaches safe, officials safe and event workers safe.”

With that in mind, he said everyone will need to be patient about possible restrictions and schedule changes.

“People having grace and understanding is important,” he said. “We’re still in a pandemic.”

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association released updated guidance from the state Department of Health earlier this month that included the requirements of masks in weight rooms and screening for unvaccinated athletes participating in some high-contact sports.

Mount Vernon volleyball coach Mishel Keltner said athletes have been diligent about following guidelines.

“I feel like the athletes are used to it by now. Whatever the expectation is, they follow through with that,” Keltner said.

She said her program had robust numbers at turnout, with more than 65 athletes taking part. Mount Vernon is scheduled to take part in a preseason jamboree at Burlington-Edison later this week, then begin play Sept. 9 on the road against Lynden.

“Everyone is very happy to be back,” Keltner said. “They’re happy to be there, happy to be playing.”

Titus said, “It’s always good to have kids out. We’re seeing as good a numbers as we’ve ever seen in Anacortes. I wish I knew exactly what to attribute it to. Maybe a sense of normalcy for the kids, maybe wanting to be a greater part of the school than in the past.” (source)

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