At least one fall prep sport will give all its athletes a chance to move forward in the postseason. But that chance comes with some caveats.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice mentioned during his Friday news conference that prep golf teams from orange counties on Saturday’s West Virginia Department of Education color-coded map will be eligible to participate in their respective regional golf tournaments. Those golfers, he said, must provide a negative COVID-19 test.
“We don’t want those kids to be ineligible to play in their state high school tournament,” Justice said.
The regional tournaments scheduled for next week across West Virginia and the state tournament scheduled for Oct. 6-7 at Oglebay Park in Wheeling will be the first prep postseason contests in West Virginia since the state girls basketball tournament was canceled mid-tournament. Prep golf was the first sport to begin play this fall.
Golf matches in several southern counties, Kanawha and Putnam included, were put on ice when those counties went orange or red on the COVID map. Orange counties can practice but not compete. Red counties can neither practice nor compete.
“This recommendation came to me through the (Secondary School Activities Commission) and the Department of Ed,” Justice said. “It was discussed and everything and vetted as best as we possibly can. I agree that this is the way to go.”
Justice said the small size of the teams and the ease of social distancing on the golf course made the decision easier.
Tournament sites in green, yellow or gold counties can go on as scheduled. If a tournament site is in an orange county, it must be held at an alternate site in a county that is not orange. That’s the case for the Class AAA Region 3 tournament, said George Washington High athletic director Shawn Wheeler, the tournament’s director.
The tournament currently is scheduled to be held Tuesday at Berry Hills in Charleston. If Kanawha County is orange Saturday, the tournament will be held Tuesday at the Lewisburg Elks Club in Greenbrier County.
Wheeler also said that those negative COVID-19 tests must come from tests administered within seven days of the regional tournament. He said all of his GW golfers got tested Friday morning and those results should be back in time to participate.
Wheeler said he had not received any guidance for prep postseason play past golf. The fall sports schedule also includes football, soccer, cross country and volleyball. SSAC officials could not be reached for comment as of Friday evening.
It has been a frustrating process, Wheeler said. Coaches and ADs want to do right by all student-athletes in the state. They still have to follow the guidelines of the state map, but want to make sure as few students are excluded from the process as possible.
“How is it really a state tournament if you don’t have everybody in it or you all don’t have the same opportunities?” he said.
He’s also preparing for the inevitable questions from players in other sports who will ask if they’ll get a shot at playing this fall, too.
“They’re going to be happy that our golf team will be able to play in the postseason,” he said. “And hopefully, I can tell our kids when it gets to that point, I’m hopeful they’ll have the same opportunity.”