Student athletes 'can't wait' to compete after WIAA announces revised sports calendar

Student-athletes longing to play their sports in Washington will finally have a shot to compete this year. The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association announced its calendar for school-based athletics, with Season 1 starting February 1.

It won’t be an empty field much longer for the Seahawks at Peninsula High School because game day in Gig Harbor is finally becoming a reality.

"Honestly, I look forward to the butterflies you get before the game, for the very first play. Even on kickoff, just running down the first for the first time and laying a hit on someone is just going to feel so nice," said Bryce Cleave, a senior who plays wide receiver and corner for Peninsula High School.

Student-athletes across Washington have been waiting for this moment ever since sports were paused almost a year ago during the COVID-19 pandemic. High school athletic director and coach Ross Filkins said students have missed more than just game time.

"That social, emotional connection they get with our program, they need that. And they need that now more than they ever have. And so, it’s time for us right now to step up and support those kids," said Filkins.

"I’ve definitely missed the chemistry all being together and all the excitement around it for sure. And it’s…I don’t even know how to explain it. It was a lot of sadness initially, but now that we actually have some security, I’m very excited," said Cleave.

WIAA is reorganizing its sports calendar in line with the state’s Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery plan. Season 1 will begin February 1 with pre-competition practices and end March 20. The traditional fall sports in Season 1 include:

  • Cross Country
  • Football
  • Golf
  • Slowpitch Softball
  • Girls & Boys Soccer 1B/2B
  • Girls Swim & Dive
  • Tennis
  • Volleyball

WIAA will be discussing plans for the remaining sports in Season Two and Season Three on January 19.

Members of the Seahawks high school football team said seven weeks is just enough time on the turf to make big plays.

"I just love the team chemistry with football—all 11 guys having to work together and pushing each other the be better. It’s just something that keeps me focused and striving to do greater and gives me a future," said Jake Bice, a junior who is quarterback for Peninsula High School.

A future in football will all come down to this final season for Cleave and Chris Akulschin. They said some offers are on the table, but hope this last shot will get them bigger recruiting opportunities.

"I know that all of us have been working really hard in the off season and it’s kind of been that struggle of not knowing if or when we’d have a season," said Akulschin, who plays wide receiver and corner Peninsula High School Senior

Though the season is officially around the corner, Filkins said he hopes students don’t forget how far they’ve come in these unusual times.

"Win or lose, state championships that’s not the goal, that’s not the dream. We really just are excited to see the kids get back together, celebrate where they’re at in their lives and make some relationships and lifelong memories from this experience," said Filkins.

"Our coaches—they do a great job of teaching us the lifestyle of a football player and they teach us to excel in everything we do, how to balance sports and school," said Akulschin.

"It’s a lot of excitement that the hard work won’t be for nothing," said Bice.

Sports programs across the state are still required to continue safety measure to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Measures include wearing masks, temperature checks and social distancing. WIAA continues working with the Washington State Department of Health on the state’s updated guidelines.

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