There is no down time for Ketchikan High School athletics.
Following a pair of basketball seasons that saw both the Kings and Lady Kings compete in the state tournament last month, all five of Kayhi’s spring sports have hit the ground running this week — plus one.
Wrestling is joining baseball, softball, boys’ soccer, girls’ soccer and track and field this season — and wrestling will be the first one to jump into action.
Kayhi’s grapplers traveled to Juneau on Thursday, and will compete in the capital city on Saturday in the Pilot Invitational. In addition to the First City and the capital city, teams from Mt. Edgecumbe, Petersburg, Sitka and Wrangell high schools also are scheduled to participate.
“Wrestling is up and going,” Kayhi Activities Director Cole Maxwell said. “... Part of the reason, I think, they pushed it back was to see how it worked down south. And it worked — I mean, they did it.”
Wrestling, which typically is a fall and winter sport that lasts for eight weeks, was bumped to the spring due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. It will be squeezed into a six-week season.
But because the sport changed athletic seasons, the number of wrestlers participating this year is down from a typical season.
The Kayhi team has 24 on roster. In previous years, the Kayhi wrestling team has had more than 30 members.
“Our numbers are down, for a couple reasons,” Maxwell said. “One, wrestling isn’t supposed to be going on right now, so we have some kids who have had to make some hard choices, as far as wrestling goes.
“And we still have some folks who are a little leery about what’s going on in the world,” he continued. “Basketball numbers were down a little bit, too. So it’s just the indoor aspect of things.”
On the flipside, outdoor sports are seeing a positive number of participants.
“Softball and baseball numbers are good,” Maxwell said. “Soccer numbers are good, (too). So hopefully that means it’s more about being outside, and doing that sort of thing.”
Wrestlers traveling to Juneau this weekend will have to wear face masks while competing, similar to Kayhi’s basketball teams during the regional and state tournaments.
“The headgear, seems to have the benefit of holding the two straps around your ears, so it helps hold the mask in place,” Maxwell said. “... You still worry about volume of air kids are trying to get in their lungs, and then, just a finger getting caught in it.
“I mean, there’s so much motion around there that you still worry about how’s it going to happen, or what’s going to happen there,” he continued. “But the coaches and the kids are more than willing to do what they need to do to do the thing that they love to do.”
And for those wrestlers who also play other spring sports, working through multiple practice schedules has been a juggling routine — but a doable one, at that.
“The coaches have really worked together, as far as scheduling practices, so that they don’t overlap too much,” Maxwell said. “... They’ve been really good, in the conversations I’ve heard between softball and wrestling, and soccer and wrestling.”
After its trip to Juneau, the Kayhi wrestling team is scheduled to compete in Wrangell on April 10, and host its home meet on April 24. There will be bye weeks in between, and the region meet is scheduled for May 7-8 in Sitka.
As of now, state championships for wrestling are scheduled for May 21-22.
In the weeks following, softball will start its season on April 9-10 in Sitka. Both boys’ and girls’ soccer will kick off their seasons against Thunder Mountain High School on April 16-17, and baseball will play Sitka that same weekend.
Track and field is scheduled to start its season on April 23-24.
Schedules for all sports will continue to be against Southeast opponents only, just like the basketball seasons.
“Everything starts within the next couple weeks, and then we hit it hard for couple weeks,” Maxwell said.
Running track virtually?
The Kayhi cross country and swimming seasons were ran virtually during the Fall 2020 seasons. And just like those individualized team sports, track and field also could be ran that same way. But at the same time, that also might be considered “a step backward.”
“You probably can, worst case scenario,” Maxwell said. “I struggle with that. Sure, it’s against the clock. You’re running the 100-meter and so am I, and (the clock) will say who is faster.
“But if I’m faster than you, and we keep running, I’m always faster than you. But if we’re running in the same place, you’d be right behind me, and you might be able to catch me, rather than catching a clock.
“I can see the person I’ve got to beat,” he continued. “I need to try to get those few extra steps. It’s a totally different thing.”
While this will be Kayhi’s first spring sports season since 2019, some regular faces and new faces will be in charge of Kayhi teams.
Rick Collins will be in charge of wrestling. Andy Berntson will coach baseball, and Alex Penino will run track and field. Juan Robles and Jacob Potts also will be in charge of boys’ soccer this year.
Kalea Allen, who has been an assist with previous Kayhi softball coaching staffs, will make her debut as the head coach this season. Allen was hired as the head coach for Kayhi softball before the Spring 2020 season was canceled.
Andrew Wessling, who is the workshop teacher at Schoenber Middle School, will make his debut as the girls’ soccer head coach this season, as well.