When the state governing body for high school sports announced dramatic changes to the upcoming school year's schedule, it left open the possibility that a few sports may be played in the fall.

Now the Northwest Conference — home to Burlington-Edison, Sedro-Woolley, Anacortes and Mount Vernon — has decided that won't be the case in that conference.

For safety reasons, the conference voted to move cross country and boys' tennis to the recently created early-spring season, where it will join already pushed-back sports such as volleyball and football.

Sedro-Woolley Athletic Director Jerry Gardner confirmed the decision Tuesday.

He said it was a difficult decision to delay sports, but with many schools starting the year with online learning, it was hard to justify students gathering for practices and competitions. 

"Those sports are probably the easiest to social distance at, and from an outsider perspective it's easy to say we should do it," Gardner said. "But when teachers aren't seeing kids, when we can only have kids in a few at a time for workouts, it's hard to say we should be doing sports."

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association had announced earlier that state championships for cross country would be held in the spring, something that was already the case for boys' tennis.

That change was to accommodate schools that wished to push their cross country seasons from the fall to the early spring.

Mount Vernon Christian School Superintendent Jeff Droog, who also coaches several sports, said the school explored holding its cross country season in the fall — the school will have students on campus — but not enough schools were participating to make it viable.

Mount Vernon Christian does not offer boys' tennis, while La Conner and Concrete field neither boys' tennis nor cross country teams.

Gardner said schools recognize the importance of sports in connecting students and helping build the school community. He said they hope to have sports as soon as they're permitted under safety guidelines.

"The first job is to get kids connected, get them engaged with school. Sports does a big portion of that," he said.

— Reporter Trevor Pyle: 360-416-2156, tpyle@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Sports_SVH, Facebook.com/bytrevorpyle

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