Tuesday brought good news for Crook County High School and bad news for Madras and Culver.
The three schools’ volleyball programs started the week unsure of what their volleyball seasons would entail.
All three needed the Oregon Health Authority to move their counties down from an extreme risk to a high risk to be able to start competing next week.
Crook County dropped down a tier, while Jefferson County did not.
“We had our schedule and we had our opponents,” said Crook County athletic director Rob Bonner. “We were just waiting to get moved to high risk.”
Crook County was confident about its chances of moving down a level after narrowly missing out on entering the high risk category two weeks ago.
Even with the likelihood of moving, there were still backup plans in place for Crook County, including waiting for another drop down in two weeks, and salvaging whatever would be left of the already shortened season, or moving into a later part of the year to get a full season.
“Fortunately, we don’t have to look at those options,” Bonner said.
Meanwhile, Jefferson County does not meet the state’s metrics for volleyball. Located in one of five counties to remain in the extreme risk tier, Madras and Culver will have to wait until March 12 for a chance to play volleyball — which cuts significantly into the six-week schedule.
“I’m just really sad for volleyball,” said new Madras athletic director Mark Stewart.
“They are the ones who are taking it on the chin.”
Stewart said that volleyball likely will not happen this year at Madras, as the option to move the season later in the year is not possible due to the White Buffaloes being one of the few teams locally and within their conference to not be able to play. They would not have anyone to play in a later season.
Culver is in the same position as Madras, facing the prospect of not having a volleyball season.
“We can’t do anything right now, our hands are tied,” said Culver athletic director Shea Little. “It is devastating news for our volleyball players. We are still hoping for a little bit of a season.”
For Madras volleyball players, the options are either try a different sport like soccer or cross-county, or hope for the county to move down to high risk and maybe play a season that will be less than a month long.
“We will figure it out and give kids options on what we can do and hope for the best,” Stewart said. “If they want to try something different we will open that door for them.”
At Culver, moving the season to later in the year is also not an option, as the athletic department has decided not to let other sports interfere with traditional spring sports, after those sports had their seasons canceled in 2020.
“We don’t want to sacrifice our spring sports,” Little said, adding that even if volleyball gets only one week to compete, the team will try to do it.
Madras and Culver are currently conducting in-person learning and can have up to 25 students in a classroom. Yet after school, that number is reduced to six athletes allowed in the gym at a time. Stewart thinks there is a disconnect between the education and athletic guidelines.
“We are one of the few schools that are fully back,” he said, “and yet we are extreme and we can’t play volleyball.”