The ballfields are empty, the soccer nets stand alone on the field, and no one is allowed to get in their steps on the track at Hermiston High School.
When Gov. Kate Brown closed schools last week for two weeks to help quell the spread of the coronavirus, that meant the athletic programs came to a halt, as well.
Hermiston track coach Emilee Strot said it happened so fast that there wasn’t time to prepare her team of more than 150 athletes.
“We had a coaches meeting with Larry (Usher, athletic director) on Thursday, and he gave us an update,” Strot said. “We were still prepping for upcoming events. We wake up Friday, and it’s a completely different story.”
Since there was no official word from the school until Friday evening, the Hermiston track team held its Purple and Gold meet.
“Our seniors had a day to remember,” Strot said. “There are still a lot of unknowns. It they are going to cancel the season, we would like to know now and deal with the emotions.”
Coaches and athletes are not allowed on school property during the shutdown, nor are the coaches allowed to work with their athletes, but they have found a way to get things done.
The track team has an app, which Strot said she would be adding elements to, including voluntary workouts on your own.
Junior thrower Paige Palzinski, who went to state last year in the shot put, made a makeshift throwing pad at her family’s farm, and was getting in throws Monday.
Senior sprinter Garrett Walchli worked out at Club 24 on Monday morning, and has other things planned, as well.
“When there’s a will, there’s a way,” said Walchli, who qualified for state in the 200 meters last spring. “If you want to exceed expectations, you find a way.”
The Hermiston long distance crew met Monday afternoon for a run. Most went on a 10-mile trek, while senior Greg Anderson stretched it to 12.
Junior Amanda Nygard said the good thing about being a distance runner is that you don’t need the track or throwing rings to get a workout in. That being said, she still is having a hard time with the shutdown.
“I’m OK. Not good, but not terrible,” she said. “I’m just glad it’s not my senior year.”
Anderson is willing to put in the miles in hopes that track season resumes.
“It’s pretty disappointing,” he said. “It would be great to have a good track season. I just have to keep going in case in case we start up again.”
While the school fields are off limits to everyone, the city of Hermiston does own four soccer fields at Butte Park, and has two softball fields, and youth football and soccer fields at Theater Sports Park behind Home Depot on Harper Road. They are open to the public. You can reserve times through the recreation department.
Restrooms for both facilities are scheduled to open April 1.
There are no public tennis courts for the high school athletes to use, but golf, courses are open.
Hermiston Parks and Recreation
High school athletes are not alone when it comes to suspended programs.
The youth indoor soccer program, for kids ages 3 to third grade, has been suspended. The program, which utilizes the high school gyms, has nowhere to play.
“We are kind of in limbo as to when the schools open,” said Brandon Artz, recreation manager for Hermiston Parks and Recreation. “We have to go with what the governor mandates.”
The Spring Fashion Show, which is a fundraiser for the the Funland Playground, was moved from March 14 to May 3 at the Community Center.
The Kid’s Fishing Derby at McNary Ponds is still scheduled for April 18. The event, which sees about 500 participants each year, is a go, for now. The event is for children ages 2-11.
Club 24, which has locations in Hermiston, Pendleton and the Tri-Cities, announced Tuesday it would be closing all of its locations until March 31 for the health and safety of its members. According to a notice on the athletic club’s website, they will be posting workout videos and livestreams that people can follow along with at home, and will be using the closure to paint and do other upgrades to their facilities.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee closed gyms and fitness studios throughout the state on Monday, but Brown has not reached that point, yet.
“I assume she will recommend it,” Dena Gutterud, the general manager for the Round-Up Athletic Club in Pendleton, said. “We have signs up that say, ‘If you are sick, stay home.’ We ask that members wipe down equipment before and after use, and the staff is cleaning as we go.”
Gutterud said she has noticed a big drop in attendance the past couple of weeks.
“I understand it, but it should not paralyze us,” she said. “We just all need to be responsible.”
One place in the facility that could be dangerous with the coronavirus is the sauna, but the RAC is in the process of rebuilding its saunas and they are not operational at this time.
Big River Golf Course
It’s business as usual at the Big River Golf Course in Umatilla, which is open daily from 9 a.m. to dark.
For those needing a little fresh air and some exercise, Big River has two upcoming tournaments.
The Brown Grass Tournament is Saturday. It’s an 18-hole, four-person scramble. Teams will be paired by handicap in a true blind draw. Cost is $35 per person, and you can register the day of the event.
The 10th annual Tom Denchel Auto Group Shootout will be April 4-5 with an 8:30 start each day.
Cost is $130 per player, which includes dinner for two, and limited complimentary hot dogs and select beverages on the course. Must be 21 or older to play. Registration is due March 31.
Proceeds will benefit the Umatilla Country Fair court and local kids.