Despite not having a schedule in place, high school athletics in Klickitat County are kicking off this week with major modifications in place to ensure safe participation.

Starting Feb. 1, young athletes will begin practicing in socially distanced pods of six teammates, with limited contact (e.g. no tackling, only conditioning). Teams located in regions that are in Phase 1 of Washington state’s reopening plan, including teams in Klickitat County, are limited to practice, save for cross country teams, which can participate due to their ‘Low-Risk’ status. The caveat to that is limiting participation, including athletes, coaches, referees, parents, and everybody else to 200 people.

Students must also fill out COVID-19 forms and wear a mask, and equipment will be sanitized accordingly.

At Columbia High School, football, volleyball, and cross country will begin practice starting this week, and girls soccer will soon start, once they find a coach for the team, said athletics director Howard Kreps.

“We have scheduled the first week would like to play as Feb. 16. If were not in Phase 2, we don’t play, then we go to the next week,” said Kreps. “We may never play a game, but kids just want something to do.”

Since White Salmon middle-schoolers go to Oregon to play most games, there is an added challenge of organizing a season while abiding by two different state’s reopening guidelines. The Lyle-Wishram-Klickitat Cougars are in a similar situation. This year marks the first year that the L-W-K Cougars would compete across state lines in the OSAA Big Sky League, which includes Dufur and South Wasco County. Due to CDC recommendations regarding interstate travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which recommends a seven-day quarantine and a COVID-19 test upon returning from travel, Lyle School District spokesperson Deb Stenberg said the team would not be able to compete in Oregon because they feel they need to adhere to the recommendation.

L-W-K football and volleyball practice starts this week. Non-league games may be scheduled later, said Stenberg.

Season 1 of WIAA play continues through March 20. Season 2 has yet to be scheduled but will include outdoor sports, like baseball, softball, and track and field.

“Everybody’s really pushing hard for spring sports,” said Kreps.

•••

Conditioning sessions are also being held at Hood River Valley High School and Westside Elementary School for HRVHS football, softball, volleyball, basketball and baseball programs, with social distancing and health protocols strictly enforced. Details in the Feb. 10 Columbia Gorge News.