Clarkston High School cheerleaders

Clarkston's Eddie Berglund scores a touchdown during a 2019 WIAA state first-round playoff game against Washougal.

As one side of the border continues trucking along in high school athletics, the other side is sitting at a standstill ... wondering ... waiting to find out if interscholastic sports will even start this academic year.

For the second consecutive week, none of the eight regions under the new Washington state department of health plan's Roadmap to Recovery hit every benchmark to move out of Phase 1 into Phase 2.

What that means is the longer no area meets all the metrics, the more high school competitions are in doubt for the Evergreen State.

One positive: with Washington Interscholastic Acitivities Association Season 1 sports scheduled to start with pre-competition practices Feb. 1, the sports of cross country and girls' swimming and diving can begin because those are low-risk sports.

In our area, the Greater Spokane League tentatively is scheduled to start pre-competition practices in volleyball and girls' swimming and diving Feb. 8, with football beginning Feb. 15 and girls' soccer and cross country Feb. 22.

Now for the bad news, football is a high-risk sport. In order for it to be played, a region must meet all four of the protocols in order to move up a level. From there, a region has to hit three benchmarks. For a refresher course, in order to advance to the next phase, regions must show: a 10 percent decreasing trend in case rates during the previous two-week period; a 10 percent decrease in COVID-19 hospital admission rates in the same 14-day period; an intensive care unit occupancy rate that’s at less than 90 percent; and a positivity rate of testing of less than 10 percent.

Volleyball is a medium-risk sport as is girls' soccer. Those sports also can't begin to play until an area is in Phase 2.

In updated schedules I received this week, the first scheduled games for the GSL in volleyball are set for Feb. 16, and for girls' soccer it will be March 2. As always, these are subject to change.

The East Region, which all of the schools in our area reside along with the Spokane area schools, failed to hit two of the benchmarks in this reporting period, which went from Dec. 27-Jan. 9. The region met the rate of new hospitalizations (-20 percent) and ICU occupancy rate (82 percent). The nine-county area remained above the mark in positivity rate (21 percent) and actually went up in new cases (increase of 12 percent; the previous week it was down 26 percent).

Let's keep in mind these numbers are lagging behind a couple of weeks. But at the same time, the trend is disturbing.

Also, can we raise another question here: If we're going to use these rates as benchmarks, couldn't the department of health possibly have up-to-date figures? I mean, the response to the COVID cases early on was superb, and Washington led the country in how they were dealing with it.

However, if we're going to use numbers that are possibly up to nine days to two weeks old, what's the point?

And as Asotin football coach Jim Holman rightly pointed out, how can the DOH website have incomplete data? On the website (doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/DataDashboard#tables), which was last updated Saturday by the time this column comes out (could be updated by the time you read this), it says the total case counts could include up to 650 duplicates, and negative test results data from Nov. 21-30 and Jan. 5 through now are incomplete.

So is this the best we've got? Lagging numbers? This is the state where some of the best epidemiologists work and have been called on for advice. But we can't even get the numbers correct.

I know what some will say, and I've even said it: trust the science. The problem is, how can you trust it when it doesn't feel like its accurate.

At any rate, take all this for what its worth. I still remain hopeful that high school sports in Washington will happen, but my view is getting dimmer by the day.

And speaking of ...

Something that passed by the rearview mirror with the news about the fan attendance situation for Idaho high schools, the GSL got itself a new member this past week.

With schools in the Central Washington Athletic Conference split between three regions thanks to the protocols, Othello was kind of on an island. So instead of taking the chance of not playing, athletic director Jenny McCourtie took some initiative and made a phone call to her counterpart at Pullman, Chris Franklin.

That phone call turned into an AD meeting, which turned into an easy vote for inclusion. The GSL's principals also voted in favor.

Idaho hoops power poll

Clearly there's been some shakeups here, but the No. 1 teams remain the same.

BOYS — 1. Lapwai; 2. Prairie; 3. Lewiston; 4. Deary; 5. Kamiah.

The Wildcats again showed why they're the No. 1 team in the state with two impressive wins this past week, including a 34-point pasting of the Pirates in Cottonwood on Tuesday. I've moved the Mustangs up a spot because they continue to be impressive under a two-coach system in which the two readily admit they play off each other's strengths. I've moved the Kubs into the fifth spot based on their consistency this season. They could be ranked when this week's state media poll is released Thursday. I had thoughts about dropping the Bengals out, which I did with Moscow, because they had been sliding since the start of the calendar year. However, with a win Saturday at Sandpoint, they stopped the bleeding for now. It will be interesting to see if they can get back to some more consistency, starting with a game Tuesday at Coeur d'Alene.

GIRLS — 1. Lapwai; 2. Grangeville; 3. Prairie; 4. Kendrick; 5. Genesee.

Here, the Wildcats were a tight game against the Pirates on Thursday but eventually imposed their will. Prairie, answering for that 16-point loss against Lapwai, put a 30-point thumping on Genesee on Saturday. Grangeville has been steady, and gets another shot at the Wildcats this coming Friday. In fact, the Bulldogs have the chance to move into the No. 1 spot in the coming two weeks. They have Lapwai, followed by league foe St. Maries on Saturday, then finish with games against Prairie (Feb. 2) and Genesee (Feb. 6). For the power poll as well as the state media rankings, Grangeville can put itself in good position.

One final thought

It was just Friday that Gunner Cruz put his name in the NCAA's transfer portal. But to me, it seemed to be a no-brainer that it didn't take the former Washington State quarterback long to find a home.

Cruz, from Gilbert, Ariz., wasted no time Saturday in announcing his intention to transfer to Pac-12 foe Arizona.

He clearly was on the outside of the Nick Rolovich's quarterback room looking in. With starter Jayden de Laura only being a sophomore in 2021, plus junior-to-be backup Camm Cooper, high school signee Xavier Ward and former Tennesee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano transferring in, the Cougars have enough at the position for right now and the future.

It just seemed logical for Cruz to head home.

If there's something we've missed in the paper, or something you'd like me to make mention of in this space, please don't hesitate to reach out to me.

Walden may be reached at (208) 848-2258, dwalden@lmtribune.com, or on Twitter at @waldo9939.