Of all the high school teams and athletes impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the spring season has been the toughest. Thus, the sun and warmer temperatures are now more welcome than ever.
Two years ago, with the initial shutdown of all track and field sports in early March 2020, the entire season was lost. Last year, spring sports lasted six weeks, which basically involved league round-robin play, and it was over before the start of the winter season – remember that flip?
There haven’t been a spring state championships since 2019, when today’s seniors were freshmen. In the centuries-old history of the state boys’ track meet, the only other hiatus occurred one year during World War II.
But now, with the winter state championships successfully resuming after a year off, spring sports are poised for a full comeback. It’s been a long time coming, and here are some stories of what to expect.
STATE THE CASE: The Yakima Valley, as you may recall, has been a hub for state high school championships, not only in the fall and winter, but also in the spring. The entire 2019 roster remains the same.
Yakima County Stadium, which is replacing its 30-year-old seats and undergoing other maintenance and repairs, will be ready for district baseball tournaments and Class 2A and 1A state championships on July 27. and May 28.
There will be numerous state softball tournaments on those same dates with 2A at Selah’s Carlon Park and 2B and 1B at the Gateway Sports Complex. The Yakima Tennis Club will also host the 1A and 2B-1B boys and girls tennis tournaments.
Business as usual never sounded so good.
NEW RAMS: West Valley baseball went through an abbreviated 13-0 season in 2021, leaving the Rams wondering how far they could have gone in the playoffs with 12 seniors.
Now the question is, what’s next? Well, longtime assistant Ryan Johnson takes over from Ryan Froula to start. And despite all those senior graduates, don’t expect a drop in rebuilding even with a young crew. Last year’s JV won 14 out of 15 games.
The only varsity returners are solid — shortstop Drew Johnson and pitcher Brody Mills — and the Rams welcome back versatile Tommy Meluskey. Mills and Meluskey combined for 11 strikeouts in last Saturday’s 6-2 win over Hazen.
LOOK RECORDING: You don’t see many distance runners setting career records and school records in their first run of the season. Not in the cool, windy days of early March. But Cooper Quigley did.
The senior and defending 2A state cross-country champion from Selah clocked 3,200 yards in 9:04.58 last Saturday at West Valley — the third fastest in Valley history. Quigley has plans to crack nine minutes and will have the perfect race to do so very soon when he competes in the Arcadia Invitational in California at the end of spring break on April 9.
The Valley record of 8:57.65 was set by Eisenhower’s Jonas Price as a junior in 2019 — the last time the State 4A meet was held in Tacoma.
LINKED IN: Yakima has two CBBN players of the year in men’s golf – Davis senior John Kim and West Valley junior Trey LeCheminant. Kim was the freshman district champion and last fall signed with Pomona-Pitzer.
LeCheminant, the conference’s top scoring player, led the Rams to a quick start. West Valley won Monday’s Grandview Invitational by 64 shots with four players in the ’70s at Black Rock and last week placed third out of 22 teams at Sun Willows in Pasco.
The Rams host the Joe Lenburg Invitational at Apple Tree on Monday.
LOADED VIKINGS: Yes, the graduation of a player of the caliber of Sydney Wells will be a significant change for Selah softball. But to soften that is to bring everyone back.
The Vikings weathered the pandemic in the spring a year ago, scoring 195 points in a 14-0 campaign that, like West Valley baseball, left them wondering if this could have been a big trophy season.
It should come as no surprise this year as Selah’s veteran crew includes senior pitcher Aerin Lee, who shared the CWAC MVP award with Wells last year, and junior outfielder Izzy Vick.
Selah parted ways with 4A Kamiakin last week, will play Juanita on Saturday and then open the league match by hosting rival Othello on March 26.
SOCCER SPLIT: SCAC and EWAC have joined forces for a men’s soccer league that will include Toppenish, Wapato, Zillah, Granger, Highland, Naches Valley and La Salle in the West. Mabton, Connell, Warden, Wahluke, Royal, Kiona-Benton and College Place will be in the East.