MOUNT VERNON — An unusual sports season has kept some Skagit Valley College athletes busier than normal.

Catch a forward on the women’s basketball team on a night her team isn’t playing, and you may see her in cleats as a hard-charging defender for the women’s soccer team. Watch the school’s golf team, and you might see one of the guards from the basketball team.

When the COVID-19 pandemic led to overlapping schedules for sports that are normally played in three different seasons, a handful of Skagit Valley College athletes have adjusted by playing several sports at once.

They say they’re thrilled to have the opportunity.

There are four such players on the women’s basketball team: Ashley Thomas, a freshman who also plays soccer; Grace Shaddle, a freshman who also plays golf; Isabel Buchert, a freshman who also plays volleyball; and Brooklyn Johnson, a sophomore who also plays volleyball.

Those four aren’t the only athletes who are playing two sports at once — Delaney Kaysner plays soccer and softball, for example — but they are one-third of the Cardinals’ basketball team.

It’s a situation coach Deb Castle likes, even if it requires more planning on everyone’s part. She said the situation has led to excellent conditioning and greater focus.

“They’re in better shape than they’d be otherwise, and mentally playing two sports at once is better for them because they’re busier,” she said.

Castle isn’t kidding about “busier.” While the way the schedules are set up keeps the athletes from having two competitions on the same day, they’ll often practice both of their sports on the same day.

Shaddle, a Mercer Island High School graduate, said a typical day may have her at golf practice for three hours and basketball practice for an hour-and-a-half.

Johnson said she can spend upward of six hours a day in practices.

“It’s a lot of running,” said Thomas, who plays two running-heavy sports.

She said coaches offer lighter practices if she had a grueling game the previous day.

Despite all the work it takes, the athletes said they’re excited for the opportunity.

“I’m thankful I get to compete,” Johnson said.

Castle said the coaching staff is mindful of which players may not be available for parts of practices, and will sometimes repeat new ideas and concepts such as defenses to make sure everyone’s been introduced to them.

The repetition of new concepts helps every athlete, even the ones who have heard them before, she said.

This year’s young women’s basketball team has gotten off to a 2-2 start. Johnson, Buchert and Shaddle have each started all four games, while Thomas has played in all four.

And each has contributed, with each averaging double-digit minutes.

Johnson had 10 points and four rebounds in a win over Olympic earlier this season, and Shaddle had a 10-point, four-assist performance against Whatcom.

Thomas said it’s a busy schedule, but said she’d rather juggle practices than have to pick between two sports.

“I couldn’t have picked one,” she said. “And it feels good to have routines and schedules. It feels good to be busy.”

Reporter Trevor Pyle: 360-416-2156,, Twitter: @goskagit,

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