ASAA Watching COVID Protocols as State Tourneys Approach

    High school wrestlers from Ketchikan and Juneau compete in masks at the Brandon Pilot Invitational at Thunder Mountain High School earlier this season. (Klas Stolpe)

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - After the Region V Executive Committee of the Alaska School Activities Association warned Ketchikan High School on Thursday of possible sanctions due to not following Region V policies concerning COVID-19 mitigations at the recent Kayhi wrestling tournament, ASAA Executive Director Billy Strickland said things will change.

     “Right now, it is a total Region V issue,” Strickland said. “They haven’t violated any ASAA policies. We are aware of what the issue is down there. It is Region V’s to decide what the next course of action is. We will speak with Ketchikan and make sure they understand what the requirements would be at the state tournaments and what our expectations would be and what would be the consequences for not following them.”

      Strickland said Ketchikan would be made aware that “for wrestling all participants have to meet, and that would include coaches, managers, wrestlers, anybody else that they are expecting to be able to enter the venue as a Ketchikan person, has to be in compliance with our testing mandates.”

      If Ketchikan, or any school, was out of compliance it would be a serious rules violation.

      “And there would be very serious consequences,” Strickland said.

      The warning letter sent by Region V Executive Committee President Jaime Cabral to Ketchikan High School and to Strickland stated that Ketchikan had not followed the Region V wrestling mitigation plans during a tournament in which they hosted eight teams last Friday followed by their Bill Weiss Tournament on Saturday. Teams from Craig, Haines, Metlakatla, Mt. Edgecumbe, Petersburg, Sitka, Thorne Bay and Wrangell participated. Ketchikan also hosted a track meet that included teams from Haines, Petersburg and Sitka.

      Cabral has not responded to requests for comment from KINY.

      Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District business manager Katie Parrot said she will be officially appointed acting superintendent Saturday and may have a response sometime next week.

      Regions can set their own mitigation plans within reason of ASAA state policies.

      “ASAA is the umbrella,” said Troy Thain, Craig High School athletic director and wrestling coach. Thain is also the Region V representative to the ASAA Board of Directors, the ASAA Board vice president and the Region V wrestling board representative. Each region has a representative for each sport. “And there are six different regions, and all those regions answer to ASAA but we also have our own kind of game plan that we follow and ASAA knows our game plan. We try to keep our house clean and orderly so we make sure things are safe, like a safety net. We established a mitigation plan and we wrote it.”

      That plan was adopted by the board, updated once and presented to the schools and school boards and community members that wanted to know more about it.

      “We used it as our guide to have safe wrestling tournaments, whether it be a region tournament or a regular meet,” Thain said. “ASAA gives us the latitude to make our bylaws and make our plans that coincide with their plans. A lot of our mitigation plans came from ASAA’s information that they gave us, as well as NFHS (National Federation of State High School Sports), which are the other bylaws we were using to help us navigate these waters with COVID.”

      Each region’s rules are enforced by that region but if a school repeatedly breaks a mitigation plan, the board of that region would ask ASAA to step in. 

      “It is a warning, a serious warning,” Thain said. “Because it affected people and it affected schools.”

      At issue in the case of Ketchikan were testing protocols and possible mask infractions.

      Testing requires a PCR test taken within 72 hours of arriving at the host site and proof of a negative test result. Twice-weekly Antigen testing done for a minimum of two weeks and last antigen test taken within 48 hours of arriving at the host site.

      Masks are now not required while actively competing but participants must be masked when moving about the sidelines or the tournament site, and coaches, administrators and other team personnel must be masked at all times. Other schools that host can require active participants to wear masks.

      “I am not sure where the oversight occurred,” Strickland said. “There is possibly a perfect storm of why this fell through the cracks and I have no reason to believe this was an intentional ‘we’re not following the policy.’ But I am going to make sure their AD, their wrestling coach, I believe they have an acting superintendent right now, are all on the understanding of what ASAA’s requirements will be, not just for wrestling but for all our activities.”

      The warning letter noted that Region V schools and communities had been subjected to unnecessary health and safety risks related to COVID-19 and the stress on communities and participating schools could have and should have been avoided.

      The letter stated Kayhi’s “failure to follow the plans as set forth by the Region 5 Board of Directors created a situation that put both the Region and participating schools in an unsafe and unnecessary situation. These actions may jeopardize other schools academic in-person schedules and future activities.” 

      Juneau-Douglas High School canceled their girls soccer trip to Ketchikan this weekend as did the Thunder Mountain boys.

      Sitka High School had to cancel their home track meet and baseball games that would have featured the Ketchikan Kings.

      The Native Youth Olympics Traditional Games were also affected, with the southern portion of the event that was to be held in Ketchikan rescheduled.

      Some athletes who attended the wrestling tournament had to be quarantined.

      Ketchikan High School misunderstood the protocols and believed it was following them, according to Kayhi athletic director Cole Maxwell.

      He said corrective action has been taken and Kayhi will be following the Region V wrestling mitigation plan moving forward. He said all Ketchikan spring activities are moving forward and games cancelled from this weekend are actively being rescheduled and acknowledged Kayhi was issued a warning by the Region V executive board.

      The ASAA state tournament policies follow the city the state event is held in, which would be Anchorage for all remaining state championship tournaments (DI baseball, softball, track, soccer) except Division II baseball, which will be in Wasilla.

      “And we may have different requirements than the city,” Strickland said. “For instance, right now in Anchorage they have kind of taken their rules and turned them into some kind of recommendations and some of those recommendations we may require and adjust accordingly. And the big one may be what they are doing with spectators and masks. Our expectations are we will still require spectators and non-participants and kids in the dugouts and what not… we will still require them to wear masks.”

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