High School sports are back, but games will have to wait.
The Kodiak Island Borough School District announced at Monday’s Board of Education work session that travel and competitions for all fall sports had been canceled through at least August as the state continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At this time, based on risk levels within the state of Alaska and the location of the teams we are scheduled to travel to or host here, we are canceling or postponing all travel and competitions for all activities during the month of August,” a district memo stated.
Practices, though, can continue for football, cross country, tennis, volleyball and cheerleading. The swimming and diving season begins Sept. 2.
Debbie Rohrer, the district’s activities director, said that school officials, in a few weeks, would discuss travel and competition for September.
“We can still do sports. We can still do activities. Traveling is a bonus and, I think right now, that is going to be something that is decided as we go,” she said.
“What we had decided, and thought was the safest decision for our kids, our community and our coaches, is that we would not have any of our students travel the month of August and not have any teams come here.”
According to the memo, the district will work with the Kodiak Emergency Operations Center, Public Health, and other agencies to determine and evaluate communities’ risk levels around Alaska. The state is labeling communities as low-, medium- or high-risk based on a 14-day average of COVID-19 cases. Kodiak is in the low category, while other schools in Region III are in a medium-risk area.
“Travel outside of Kodiak Island for school activities will not be considered or approved unless Kodiak and the host (as well as the airports that KIBSD students, coaches, staff will travel through for connecting flights and any points of embarking and disembarking while traveling) are deemed ‘Low Risk’ by health and local officials. The same restrictions will apply for hosting outside teams in Kodiak,” the memo stated.
Rohrer said activities directors around the state are in constant communication with each other during a time when plans are changing daily.
The Anchorage School District has delayed the start of fall sports until Aug. 20, while the Mat-Su Borough School District has opted for only in-district competition at least through August.
Rohrer said the Juneau School District is not allowing teams to travel to or through high-risk areas.
“We are all on the same page, and we are all working together to try to do what is best for each district and all the kids,” Rohrer said.
Kodiak cross country coach Ashley Mortenson supports the district’s decision to keep the student-athletes safe.
“Cross country is in a really great position, and our ability to practice with distance and outside makes it an exceptionally easy sport to continue with at this time,” she said.
Mortenson said she would continue to train her runners for the state championship meet on Oct. 10 in Anchorage by creating time trials. She said she has also contacted other coaches in Alaska about conducting virtual meets. That would involve adjusting 5-kilometer times based on the difficulties of the course.
“We are really going to lean into enjoying where we are at,” she said. “Kodiak is a gold mine of trails, mountains and places to train. We don’t always have time to explore and adventure as much as we could. This will be the season where we have time to go hit all the mountains and all the trails … you have to embrace what we have.”
Tuesday was the Kodiak cross country team’s fifth practice of the season, which matches the number of practices the track team logged before the season was shut down due to COVID in March.
“I’m feeling pretty good about the fact that there is no anticipated cancellation of practice at this point,” said Mortenson, also the track coach. “I’m thrilled that we are looking at potentially a full season of training, and hopefully, some championship meets at the end.”
The school district’s decision erased two nonconference games from the already shortened schedule for the Kodiak High football team.
The Bears will no longer host North Pole on Aug. 20 or play at Eielson in Fairbanks on Aug. 28. Kodiak is set to host Northern Lights Conference power Soldotna in its season opener on Sept. 4.
“Obviously, we knew the future was uncertain,” coach Bryan Ellsworth said. “We are just rolling with whatever comes next.”
Kodiak has already lost three games from its eight-game schedule. Two weeks ago, the Alaska School Activities Association pushed back the season’s start and shortened the regular season from eight to seven games. That took a home game against Bartlett off the schedule.
After Soldotna, Kodiak travels to West Valley (Sept. 11), hosts Palmer (Sept. 18) and plays at Kenai (Sept. 25) and Eagle River (Oct. 2).
Ellsworth said he would incorporate intrasquad scrimmages once a week to his practices with no games in August.
VOLLEYBALL and TENNIS
August home events for the Kodiak High volleyball and tennis teams were canceled last week when Mat-Su announced district-only competition.
The volleyball team lost nonconference matches against Houston and Redington, while the tennis team dropped a rare home weekend against Palmer and Wasilla.