Sorting out the confusion of high school sports

Medical Lake School Board has thorough explanation of things


Last updated 4/1/2021 at 11:04am

MEDICAL LAKE — Meteorological spring arrived March 1. The astrological version graced us March 20.

But Medical Lake High School’s athletics director Justin Blayne is still stuck in fall, and winter, and summer — along with whatever edition of spring with which you might subscribe in this COVID-19 world in which we all live.

That’s at least how he seemed to describe things at the March 23 school board meeting where he gave a report on the, perhaps, bewildering state of sports he oversees. With remote learning taking place for the better part of the last year, many extracurricular activities — specifically sports — have been challenging at best to present.

The Northeast A League, however, began sorting this out over that time with the effort in mind to be able to jam nine months of sports into just four. Not a magical trick, just a pretty good effort at juggling.

“So normally we would go fall, winter, spring, bada bing, bada boom and would be done,” Blayne explained.

In a normal year spring sports would be commencing now, but in the NEA fall sports is in its finishing stages with spring sports rolling off the line April 5.

Because Eastern Washington seemed stuck in Gov. Jay Inslee’s Phase 1 during the planning time for the NEA, athletics directors took a different tact. They knew winter sports, those competing indoors in front of their fans, would not be able to happen until the region moved into Phase 3.

So now winter sports will be the final ones to launch on May 10. The move made in the dead of winter looks good considering that the state rapidly advanced out of Phase 1, one Phase 2 for a couple of weeks in February and to Phase 3 on March 22.

It’s really league by league this year and all over the map with how people chose to orient their seasons, Blayne said.

“In doing so the league also had to go rogue in a sense and hence we can only compete within our own league this year,” Blayne said. “For instance when we go into spring sports here on April 5, a lot of the other leagues around in the state may be going into their winter sports seasons.”

And despite the upside down nature of things, athletes seem to be adapting?

As fall sports wind down the participation levels have been solid Blayne said. “We have approximately 130 students participating between football girls soccer, volleyball, boys and girls cross country and cheer.”

The graduation into Phase 3 has allowed another area to grow.

“We’ve been able to bring in more spectators we can now travel two spectators per athlete on the road, which is absolutely fantastic,” Blayne said. “Now our parents can go and watch their kids on the on the road as well.”

The changeover to spring sports means an overlap in competition which may present some temporary trouble with athletes finishing and starting sports.

As with many businesses COVID-19 forced their hands on bringing new idea into their operations. Medical Lake is no exception as new live streaming technology is being put in place for the future — COVID or not.

“Last thing I will share is our streaming network was being installed on Thursday (March 24),” Blayne said. “And with fingers crossed, we’ll be live by Monday (March 29) which means that our final two home football games will be able to be streamed.” That along with Senior Night” soccer and the full complement of winter and spring sports.

“Compliments to Justin, I mean, there’s just been a lot of work for ADs and principals,” Superintendent Tim Ames said. “Through this whole process our league has been really good about including superintendents, principals and ADs in making the decisions.”

Paul Delaney is a retired former Free Press Publishing reporter and can be reached at


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