Winter sports delayed for a second time

By Mark Martin

And now they wait…again.

For a second time since November, the winter sports scene in West Virginia has been placed on a delay by Governor Jim Justice and state health officials.

Last week, the seasons of girls and boys basketball, wrestling and swimming (which Jackson County’s two high schools – Ravenswood and Ripley – do not have) were moved to a new starting date of March 1.

By now, all of those seasons would be well underway.

In November, the governor announced things wouldn’t begin for teams competing in the winter sports until January 11. And that was just practices. Competition wasn’t set to get started until late January.

It is unclear at this point if the March 1 date is for preseason workouts or actual competition.

The Ravenswood and Ripley girls varsity basketball teams, of respective head coaches Cara Williams and John Kennedy, had gotten in a week’s worth of preseason practices before being shut down.

Ravenswood boys head coach Mick Price, who has been at the helm of the Runnin’ Red Devil program since the 1979-80 season, said while difficult, most accepted the first delay back in November but noted this one was hard to take.

Price said it is frustrating to see games being played across the river in Ohio, while his team and all others have yet to stage a practice.

The veteran head coach is a member of the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission’s boys basketball committee. A meeting by the committee was set for this week to decide how to move forward.

Even if basketball teams are allowed to start playing games on March 1, it will have been almost a year since action was staged in West Virginia.

Last year, the State Girls Basketball Tournament was halted after three games (of six) had been played on the second day of the event due to COVID concerns. The four-day affair saw only nine of 21 games completed.

The stoppage of the Girls State Tournament was just part of the story that week. The eight Class AA boys regional games were shelved (Class AAA and Class A games had already been played).

The following week the Boys State Tournament was called off.

Things didn’t get any better for spring sports as tennis, track and field, girls softball and baseball were all cancelled.

Ripley High School’s girls track and field team, led by senior standouts Tori Starcher and Alison Fields, was hopeful of winning a third consecutive Class AAA team championship but never got the chance to give it a shot.

Things weren’t even close to being normal in the fall for the sports of golf, cross county, soccer, volleyball, football and cheerleading.

There were some soccer and volleyball teams denied the chance to compete due to the color-coded COVID-19 map, which dictates if West Virginia’s 55 counties can be in school and take part in extra-curricular activities.

Football was unable to play its Super Six state championship event at Wheeling Island Stadium.

Of 45 scheduled postseason football games, only 22 unfolded.

The Ripley Vikings of first-year head coach Steve Sayre were unable to play a Class AAA opening round playoff showdown with South Charleston, who ultimately was crowned the state champ.

Cheerleading has yet to hold its State Meet.

Besides Ohio, the West Virginia bordering states of Kentucky, Virginia and Maryland are getting their winter sports competitions underway.

Hopefully for those in the Mountain State, and in particular Jackson County, the wait will end sooner rather than later.