Student athletes are starting to work together again at Anacortes High School, with modifications stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Practices started last week for any sport, AHS Athletic Director Erik Titus said. It’s an open coaching period, so any coach who wants to work with athletes can, he said.

Everyone who is meeting has to do so in small pods of five or fewer athletes. Right now, all practices are taking place outside.

When football meets, they are able to set up six separate areas on the field, each with one pod of five or fewer athletes. Then head coach Chris Hunter can supervise all the pods while athletes stay at a safe distance from each other.

As the weather changes and practices start moving indoors, rules may change again, Titus said.

All the AHS sports are seeing a good turnout right now, Titus said. More than 30 students showed up for girls soccer, for example, and baseball is always “wildly popular,” he said.

So far, 56 students have expressed interest in playing football, which took the previous year off from varsity play because of a lack of turnout.

Before the pandemic shut down sports this fall, AHS was planning to field a varsity football team. That’s still the plan, though the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association moved football to a season starting in March, along with other fall sports.

As of now, winter sports are still planned, though things keep changing, Titus said. The district is working with the WIAA and Skagit County Public Health to make safety determinations and is following all COVID-19 protocols.

Basketball may only begin in counties that have fewer than 25 cases per 100,000 people during the previous 14 days, according to WIAA regulations. As of Monday, that number in Skagit County is 36 cases.

Students are seeking the kind of interaction with each other and adults that sports bring, Titus said. Everyone is participating in remote learning this year, and high school students will be at home until at least February. This is giving students a way to have social time in person with other students.

“This is something the kids are needing,” he said.

Athletics at the middle school level are coming soon, Titus said.

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