"Something else can always happen, but I'm trying to stay pretty optimistic about just the volleyball season and everybody else's season," said Tyanna Norton, senior volleyball player at Vale High School. (Kezia Setyawan/The Enterprise)

For high school athletes across Malheur County, it’s going to be a months’ long time out.

The Oregon School Activities Association, holding off long as it could, last week announced a changeup in sports competition, meaning the soonest fans can cheer at a game will be after the first of the year. The OSAA is planning on an abbreviated seven-week season for fall, winter and spring sports – with fall sports being pushed into spring.

The move comes as more and more schools across the state decide to forgo plans to return students to the classroom. They are doing so because the spread of the coronavirus remains too challenging and most areas can’t meet the standards state officials want to see.

Tyanna Norton, a volleyball player at Vale High School, said she was just glad to have a chance to play.

“My reaction at first was at least we still have a season because it is my senior year, and having a season is really important,” said Norton. “Just having one more season to just improve and build up our younger teammates and stuff like that, to leave a good foundation.”

Regarding how the pandemic may affect scholarships being given out, she said, “I am a little bit concerned because that’s what I want to do is play at the next level. But I know I’m in the same boat as a lot of other athletes, and I don’t think it’ll be that big of a problem because I think everywhere people are understanding.”

Eastern Oregon University plans “to continue offering athletic scholarships at current levels,” said a university spokesperson. “We believe that scholarships provide an important access point to a university education. In fact, we are expanding our intercollegiate team offerings to include baseball and lacrosse.”

After making first team all-league and second team all-tournament in her last season, Norton said she’s itching to get back into competition.

“That’s all I’ve been thinking about,” the incoming senior said.

She said the delayed start to the volleyball season motivates her to work harder and will allow the team more time to “reflect and decide how we want to take advantage of this not normal season.”

Nyssa High School Senior Caleb Benson said that he was happy to hear the news from OSAA for its new plan.

“It’s a lot better than just saying there’s not going to be football this year,” said Benson. “I’m glad they’re at least trying to do all that.”

He plans on playing both football and track but said he thinks seasons’ scheduling allows “for less time to prove to the colleges that you’re worth that scholarship.”

Benson said he got to practice a couple of times with the football team this summer, even under the limitations for social distancing.

“It was definitely fun to actually go out and do something with friends and people from school you haven’t seen in so long,” said Benson, who plays running back and defensive lineman in football.

The return of football will depend on whether Gov. Kate Brown lifts her ban on full contact sports.

Tanner Steele, a senior at Vale High School, said “I honestly didn’t think we were going to have a chance to play at all, so I’m just happy if we get a chance to play.”

Steele normally plays football, basketball and tennis, he said, and he plans on competing in all three in their modified seasons.

Vale’s tennis team was “supposed to make it back to state,” but didn’t get to play a match after the season was cut short.

Steele said emotions have been “all over the place” among the football team, with some who were unsure whether the season would happen not attending the few practices the team held. “I’ve just been trying to be hopeful.”

PRIOR REPORTING:

Malheur County's high school sports year scrambled - football in the spring

News tip? Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian by email at [email protected] or call 503-929-3053.

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