BHS to stay in Olympic League next year

Bainbridge High School sports will temporarily remain in the Olympic League in 2021-22.

The school board approved the proposal Tuesday night.

This past school year, BHS sports teams competed in a modified Olympic League during the modified WIAA seasons from January to June. Gov. Jay Inslee’s Roadmap to Recovery COVID-19 plan outlined regions that placed Kitsap County schools in the Northwest Region while schools in the Metro League (the league BHS normally plays in) were placed in the Puget Sound Region.

“Without doing that, I don’t think we would have been able to compete,” BISD athletic director Jim Corsetti said. “We were the first to be out there doing workouts in October. It’s been a very successful season. We’ve also had all of our sports competitions seasons – all three seasons since February 2.

“It’s been at breakneck speed; it’s been crazy… It was a great sacrifice for parents as well because in most venues at most schools they were not able to be allowed in as spectators. Huge shout out for their perseverance in getting their students to and from competitions.”

Two public commenters spoke in opposition to the recommendation.

Joe Solseng mentioned a poll that was taken a few years back where student-athletes, coaches and parents overwhelmingly wanted to stay in the Metro League.

“I would urge you to work towards getting us back to the Metro League as soon as possible,” he said. “I think it’s very important for our student-athletes to have that kind of competition.”

Elise Walters, BHS sophomore and co-captain of the girls’ golf team, said their team sent a letter to the board Monday asking them to keep them in the Metro League next year. She mentioned that the Metro League golf season occurs in the fall while in the Olympic League it occurs in the spring.

“Most athletes on the golf team, as well as incoming freshmen, like other spring sports such as lacrosse, softball, and track and field,” she said. “These athletes would be forced to choose one sport over the other, which will negatively impact our team.”

“The Metro League is much more competitive with larger teams,” Walters went on to say. “The larger Metro League size allows opportunities for JV matches, which is critical for younger players. In the Olympic League, teams are often forced to forfeit due to not meeting the minimum number of players. This past season, the JV team had no opportunities for match play. If we’re allowed to compete in the Metro League, the player’s families are willing to coordinate transportation solutions.”

School board documents say phasing restrictions and limited capacity for transportation to and from Seattle schools would have made it difficult for BHS teams to compete in the Metro League during these last six months .

Based on multiple factors such as continued COVID concerns and transportation issues within BISD and Seattle Public Schools, Corsetti asked the board to keep BHS in the Olympic League. He said it was a decision that needed to be made now since the Olympic League is about to begin scheduling its fall sports season, and that they already included BHS in its efforts. BHS will also have some non-conference games or matches against non-league teams.

“I can’t emphasize enough that this is a temporary recommendation,” Corsetti said. “We are trying to do the best we can for the greatest amount of students. It does feel rushed, and it’s unfortunate… Olympic League has done us a huge kind by including us in their schedules.”

In regard to COVID, Corsetti said that although rates are improving across Kitsap County the pandemic isn’t over. He said remaining in the Olympic League keeps BHS in the same health district with many OL teams and may increase the chances of maintaining three full seasons of athletics next year.

“Being regionalized will help us in case those numbers change,” Corsetti said. “There are benefits to being on this side of the water.”

Corsetti also addressed transportation concerns, citing that competing in the Metro League requires longer trips, and BISD bus drivers must remain in Seattle during competitions. With limited transportation staff, he said competing in the OL provides them with more flexibility (without relying on the ferry) and allows drivers to complete additional routes. Additionally, if COVID rates spike and BISD is forced to pivot back to a hybrid-learning model, Corsetti said it would be nearly impossible for its bus drivers to travel to the Seattle area for weekday competitions due to the hybrid schedule ending later than the regular schedule.

On the flip side, Metro League schools are not able to commit to traveling to Bainbridge as schools in that league are also facing transportation issues, Corsetti said. Metro League officials shared with BISD that the lack of bus drivers in Seattle Public Schools and the high cost of contracting with charter bus companies will severely impact their ability to send Seattle student-athletes to BHS for competitions. If BHS was to play in the Metro League that would mean they would have to play all competitions across Puget Sound.

“This is the main point here and this is the sticking point; the one that really has led us toward this recommendation,” Corsetti said. “That really is not acceptable to have no games at Bainbridge High School or in our Bainbridge Island community.”

Corsetti did say that next fall, a discussion about what league BHS should be in after next year would take place with the board.