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By David Pan 

Embracing the return of prep sports

Teams back together for the first time in more than 14 months


Last updated 3/3/2021 at 12:23pm

David Pan

Mariner assistant football coach Sam Surowiec helps a player with his helmet on the first day of practices Monday, Feb. 22, at Goddard Stadium.

Monday marked the return of a little bit of normalcy at Kamiak and Mariner.

For the first time since last March, the practice fields and gyms were buzzing with activity, as athletes and coaches headed to school for the first day of prep sports practices.

"It feels good to be back on the field with the kids and to have the kids out there having fun," Kamiak football coach Bryant Thomas said.

Since the coronavirus pandemic has upset every aspect of daily life, it comes as no surprise that prep sports schedules also are impacted. The high school season will start with traditional fall sports – football, girls soccer, volleyball, cross country, girls swimming, and boys tennis.

Mariner football coach Mark Stewart admitted that the first day was a little stressful and chaotic with several players showing up after the scheduled 2:30 p.m. start time. But he was still happy to be at Goddard Stadium.

"It's a good stress," he said. "It is the stress that you kind of missed."

The last time Stewart and Thomas headed out to their respective practice fields was in November 2019, more than 14 months ago. Starting up again in the middle of winter is a little strange for Stewart. It also looked a little different with all of the coaches and players wearing face masks or coverings.

"It's just awesome, strangely weird, and different," he said. "It's kind of like almost a denial that – hey – we're back here after a year."

Stewart organized the optional conditioning sessions at Mariner, which saw a high turnout of athletes and other students just wanting to stay in shape.

"The football numbers are good," Stewart added. "We've got a few more kids out, and we've got some big kids too."

Kamiak also has more players coming out for football.

Stewart and Thomas agree that they have a relatively short time to get their teams ready for their first games on Saturday, March 6. Kamiak hosts Everett at 1 p.m. at Goddard Stadium, while Mariner is on the road at Snohomish at 7 p.m.

"We're dealing with such a short time period, and we're trying to teach kids what's going on," Thomas said.

"We're rushed, and everybody else is too," Stewart said. "Everybody's in the same boat. It's just nice to kind of look up and feel like we're going to get to a point where we're going to be doing the stuff that we're supposed to be doing."

Thomas liked the effort he saw from his players after Monday's practice. He and his staff had to make sure the players didn't overextend themselves on day one.

"They were excited and willing to learn, and each and every one of them worked hard," Thomas said. "We're not in the best of shape. You can tell they've been starving to get out there."

Students being able to get back on the field with their friends is important on many levels, Thomas said.

"From a mental standpoint, we know what kids have been going through – not being around their friends and not being around other people," he said. "From a physical standpoint, just moving around and being around other people their age, that's huge."

Thomas also is looking forward to seeing how being out and about at school is going to impact students' behavior in the classroom.

"We are blessed we have the opportunities to go out and do these things," Thomas said. "We're grateful for what we have. We're going to go out and enjoy this time we have together."

David Pan

Kamiak football coach Bryant Thomas demonstrates an agility drill for his players Monday, Feb. 22, the first day of practices.

Current Wesco policy states that no spectators will be allowed at any of the competitions. The state Department of Health has limited occupancy of athletic venues to 25%, or a maximum of 200. This number includes players, coaches, team personnel, other student groups, officials, and venue management.

The first of three sports seasons will run six weeks, with no postseasons. The league has attempted to limit travel, tried to keep the schedules geographically focused as possible, and made attempts to create competitive match-ups regardless of classification. Spring sports will start March 29 and be followed by winter sports May 3.

Thomas is approaching the abbreviated season as a way to prepare for next fall.

"It's really spring football," Thomas said. "It allows our kids to have fun. That's what they need.

"The wins and losses will take care of themselves. We want the kids to embrace being together again."


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