KEYSER - “The situation is fluid.” No better phrase or combination of words could better describe both the timeline and perhaps even the ultimate fate of scholastic sports in the state of West Virginia, and more specifically for us, in that part of the Mountain State we call “Mineral County.”

By Chapin Jewell
Tribune Correspondent
KEYSER - “The situation is fluid.”  No better phrase or combination of words could better describe both the timeline and perhaps even the ultimate fate of scholastic sports in the state of West Virginia, and more specifically for us, in that part of the Mountain State we call “Mineral County.”
Look no further than Tuesday, July 21, and the public announcement made by Mineral County superintendent of schools Troy Ravenscroft as to how quickly things can change.
“Exercising an abundance of caution, we are pausing all athletic and extracurricular activities countywide. All organized activities, conditioning programs, gyms, and weight rooms will be closed effective immediately through Aug. 7,” Ravenscroft wrote on social media.
The closing, as Ravenscroft explained, is the direct result of the positive COVID-19 tests of two Mineral County students.
“We were recently notified two students have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. We’ve also been informed additional students have been recently tested with results pending,” Ravenscroft wrote.  “The Mineral County Health Department is/has been working to notify those who were known to be in close contact with these students.”
Mineral County’s announcement of the pausing of athletic and extracurricular activities came just one day after neighboring Hampshire County superintendent of schools Jeffrey Pancione announced the pausing of athletic practices there. As with Mineral County, Hampshire’s decision was also linked to the positive COVID-19 test results of a student.
While the edict from Ravenscroft is effective immediately and the pause in activities runs through Aug. 7, the situation beyond that is fluid.
According to Ravenscroft, “During the week of Aug. 3, we will reevaluate current conditions and make determinations about future activities.”
Officially, the statewide timeline, as established by the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission, previously pushed the traditional start of official fall practice back two weeks, from Aug. 3 to Aug. 17.  This of course has delayed the start of games, contests and meets as well.
Under the WVSSAC’s current guidelines, golf can hold matches beginning Aug. 24, while cheer, cross country, soccer and volleyball can hold competitions Sep. 2.  Football games can begin Sep. 3.
As far as how this move specifically affects Mineral County’s student-athletes and coaches, it’s important to look at where the announcement fell in the timeline of fall sports preparedness.  
Beginning in June and running into July, Mineral County athletes at Frankfort and Keyser participated in both phase one and phase two of the WVSSAC-approved conditioning, strength training and agility programs.
During what was in total a four-week period with phases one and two, Falcon and Tornado athletes participated in non-sport specific activities designed to prepare them physically for the rigors of the practice and the pending season. No sport-specific drills, simply exercise was permitted.  
During phase one, which lasted the first two weeks, one hour of activity per day was allowed. During phase two, which lasted the next two weeks, two hours of activity per day was permitted.
Mineral County had completed the first four weeks of conditioning and had moved on to phase three of the WVSSAC’s plan. In phase three, Frankfort and Keyser athletes were allowed to practice in the more traditional sense, meaning that sport-specific drills and equipment could be used and for up to three hours per day.
When the directive was issued to pause all athletic and extracurricular activities late on the evening of Tuesday, July 21, Columbia Blue and Silver and Black and Gold clad athletes had already completed the first two weeks of phase three practicing, and two days of the third week.
As a result, Falcon and Tornado athletes lost out on only a few days of phase three practicing. The cessation of activities, however, does put a pause to what would have been a return to phase two activities after this week, which would have again allowed for up to two hours per day of conditioning through Aug. 7.
As things currently stand, the issue as to what to do moving beyond Aug. 7 will be addressed Aug. 3. If a green light is given, phase two conditioning activities might resume until the scheduled start of fall practice on Aug. 17.  They also might not, the same with fall practice.
Again, “the situation is fluid.” The reality is that EVERYTHING is day by day. What we know for sure, however, is that the Mineral County Board of Education is putting the safety and well-being of student-athletes and extracurricular participants at the forefront of all decision making.