VOLUNTEER WORKOUTS CONTINUE — SHS Varsity Head Football Coach John Lobbestael brings out the duffel bag of practice gear to Clem Senn Field on Thursday, Jan 4.

There remains one last COVID-19 metric obstacle to push past and into the Healthy Washington Phase 2 plan for the South Central region prior to the start of Sunnyside High School’s fall sports season, beginning with the first day of football practice on Tuesday, Feb. 16, followed by the rest of the teams six days later.

“We can’t play any games or get in pads technically until we’re in Phase 2,” an optimistically cautious SHS Varsity Head Football Coach John Lobbestael explained. “I’m still like trying not to get too excited because what if it doesn’t come back on the 12 and the numbers don’t work for our region? It’s nerve racking.”

Washington State Department of Health (DOH) data will be evaluated on Friday, Feb. 12 and the hopeful buzz on campus is that the information authorizes Yakima County’s advancement to Phase 2, enacting the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s (WIAA) Return to Play plan, Dave Martinez, director of student life and athletics reported during an interview on Wednesday, Feb 3.

“We’ve figured out how to safely allow the practices to happen on our campus and so we can do the same thing when we get the opportunity to have sports,” Martinez said.

Each region must meet three out of the four metrics in order to advance: a 10% decreasing trend in case rates over a two-week period; a 10% decrease in coronavirus hospital admission rates in that same timeframe; an ICU occupancy rate that’s less than 90%; and a test positivity rate of less than 10%.

Grizzly sports teams have been conducting voluntary workouts while following evolving DOH and Yakima Health District (YHD) safety protocols since last October. Athletes and coaches confidently believe new COVID-19 data will allow them to finally have a competitive season and culminating event.

“I’m praying to God that we’re going to have a season. And hopefully that carries on to wrestling,” SHS sophomore Mateo Armandariz declared. The defensive tackle had his helmet in hand and is more than ready to receive his pads once football practice and the season officially begins.

A new SHS athletics’ website has been created for the posting of the fall sports schedules, along with current and comprehensive program information which can be found at www.sunnysidegrizzlies.com. The site is being updated as information becomes available.

WIAA season 1 will consist of low-risk cross country and girls swim, moderate-risk slow pitch softball, girls soccer, and volleyball. Football is the only high-risk sport in the fall season.

The return of the Class of 2021 has been an optimistic shot in the arm and with the upcoming sports season 1 of fall athletics, there’s a new energy on campus which is spreading in a positive direction.

“Oh, my gosh, it feels so good to have kids in our school! It reminded me of that first practice, you hear talking and laughing and we’re doing the small group work of eight to 10 in a classroom and the internet is really good and they get access to that. And they’re seeing friends and the mask part is where we are right now and our kids are doing it,” Martinez conveyed.

Patrick Shelby can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 110 or email PShelby@SunnysideSun.com

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