A year after entire seasons of high school sports were canceled due to the then-growing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic in Alaska, the spring sports season is preparing to forge ahead, with several caveats.
Last year, the Alaska School Activities Association stopped all spring sports including soccer, track and field, baseball and softball. This spring, those activities will move forward along with one addition — wrestling. The wrestling season, which normally takes place in late fall, was postponed and moved to roughly coincide with spring sports, starting one week before them.
Homer Athletic Director Chris Perk said this will make things a little more challenging for wrestling teams, as they will have to compete for membership with other spring sports, which normally isn’t an issue. This could result in teams simply not having a wrestler to fill out every weight class.
“With it being an indoor sport, again the participants are going to be masked up,” Perk said.
That’s for both practices and actual matches. In addition to the regular health screenings all student athletes have been doing through fall and winter sports, Perk said wrestlers will also be tested for COVID-19 twice a week, due to wrestling’s nature as a high-contact sport.
Large tournaments will not happen this wrestling season, and schools will participate in dual meets instead. However, Perk said that as of right now, Homer has some matches on its schedule against teams from the Mat-Su Valley and Anchorage, which marks a departure from peninsula teams only being allowed to compete against other peninsula teams during the regular fall and winter sports seasons.
The Homer High School boys wrestling team has won the past five Kachemak Conference championships in a row, while the girls team has won the last two. Returning this year are senior Sadie Blake, a defending state championship, and Austin Cline and Russell Nyvall, who both took fourth place at the last state championship.
The wrestling season is set to end one week before the other spring sports, with a state championship set for May 21-22. The location for the wrestling state championships has not been announced yet, Perk said.
Turning to the traditional spring sports, the soccer season is scheduled through May 15, track and field has a regular season also scheduled through May 15 with a state championship May 28-29, and baseball and softball are scheduled to run through May 22, with state championships scheduled for early June.
The spring sports have also been opened us so that peninsula teams can compete against schools from outside the region. A decision has not yet been finalized, however, on whether masks will be work by players for outdoor sports, Perk said.
There is also not yet an update on the rules for spectators at spring sporting events. For fall and winter sporting events, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District set a limit of two spectators per athlete per game.
State championships usually take place in Anchorage. No alternative location has been named so far, but the Anchorage location is not yet final, Perk said.
While last year’s seniors were unable to complete their spring sports seasons, there are a number of returning Homer athletes who are seniors or juniors who made strong showings at conference and state competitions in the past.
For boys soccer, senior Clayton Beachy was named to the second team all-conference in 2019. Returning senior Eyoab Knapp was named to the all-tournament team at the last state soccer championship. For the girls team, returning player Kappa Reutov made the all-tournament team during the last soccer state championship, and was also named to the first team all-conference.
In baseball, a top returning player is Harrison Metz, who has signed to play at Valley City State University in North Dakota. Senior Grace Godfrey, who made the first team all-conference during the last softball season, also returns this year.
The track and field team will see senior Laura Inama return, who was the 300-meter hurdle state champion two years ago. Brooke Miller, another returning team member, was the runner up for the 800-meter run.
Perk stressed that the biggest focus this year is just to have a spring sports season. The students are looking forward to getting back into their favorite sports after a year off due to the pandemic.