Local athletic leagues are undergoing dramatic change, as schools have completed the classification dance. And, while the many moving parts spent days swirling through the region, nothing was to be absolutely, positively final until today, Wednesday.
Some schools have grown, some are appealing their destination, others are sitting still and a healthy handful are forming a new league. One thing is crystal clear: the impacts of reclassification are felt nearly everywhere.
For the uninitiated, some background is in order.
Throughout Washington, schools are grouped according to enrollment numbers, participating in one of six divisions. The largest schools are in Class 4A, with others divided into 3A, 2A, 1A, 2B and 1B classifications. Under the auspices of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, schools recently have submitted enrollment numbers every two years. That policy has been altered to provide a semblance of consistency, with updated numbers now required every four years.
WIAA schools tallied their enrollment figures in November. When everything shakes out, the top 17 percent will find a home at the 4A level, with the same being true for 3A, 2A and 1A. The remaining 32 percent of the state’s schools will be split evenly between the 2B and 1B classifications.
The WIAA has refused to release enrollment numbers for the state’s schools until Jan. 14. But that doesn’t mean athletic directors and principals have been idle; rather, they have been busy shuffling the athletic deck and changing the sporting landscape.
Within each classification are numerous leagues and this is where things take a significant turn for local schools.
“Reclassification is a separate but connected process from league reorganization,” said Tim Thomsen, athletic director for the Sumner School District. “Reclassification sometimes breaks up leagues or moves leagues around…which it has in this case.”
Presently, three area teams – the Sumner High Spartans, Bonney Lake Panthers and Enumclaw Hornets – participate in the South Puget Sound League 3A. The neighboring White River Hornets are a bit smaller and compete in the SPSL 2A. That will remain true until the conclusion of the present school year.
The South Puget Sound League also includes a large 4A division. There are 10 teams from King County, split between the Northeast and Northwest divisions, and seven teams from Pierce County comprising the South Division.
The SPSL’s 3A and 2A principals and athletic directors gathered Jan. 6 at the Sumner School District administration building to hear appeals from those looking to switch their allegiance; late last week also was given over to shaping league makeup.
Here’s an early look at what was being considered as of Sunday. The league’s ADs voted on potential changes, then forward a recommendation to SPSL principals, who had the final word. Appeals were to be heard Monday.
As Thomsen noted, reclassification can dramatically shape league membership – and nowhere was this more apparent that with the formation of a 14-team NPSL 4A.
The new league will consist of the three Auburn district schools, the four Kent Schools and all four of the Federal Way schools, plus Tahoma, Mount Rainier and Kennedy. The 14 members will divide into two divisions.
One doesn’t have to be too old to recall a previous incarnation of the NPSL, which disbanded in 1990.
South Puget Sound League 3A
Fans of area prep sports will see plenty of movement here.
Today, the league has a healthy balance of eight teams: Auburn, Auburn Mountainview, Auburn Riverside, Bonney Lake, Enumclaw, Lakes, Peninsula and Sumner.
Due to growth, the Sumner Spartans and the Auburn schools will move to the 4A level next year.
That leaves just four teams in the SPSL 3A. They will be joined by Yelm, Timberline, Gig Harbor and North Thurston. There’s also a wild card development that could turn things upside down: Spanaway Lake and Bethel could wind up in the SPSL 3A, which would bump membership to double figures and result in two divisions.
Some of Tacoma’s public schools petitioned for SPSL membership here, but were denied.
South Puget Sound League 2A
Presently, the eight-team division includes Clover Park, Fife, Franklin Pierce, Orting, River Ridge, Steilacoom and Washington, along with White River.
A pair of schools sought membership and were voted in. With the addition of Eatonville and Foss, the SPSL 2A jumps to 10 schools and, in the coming days, a two-division format will be devised.
Eatonville was previously a league member, but dropped down and has played the past four years at the Class 1A level in the Evergreen League. Foss now competes in the Narrows League, with a combined 3A and 4A enrollment.
South Puget Sound League 4A
This is where the biggest hit occurred. What is currently a 17-team league with three divisions is being reduced to eight teams.
As the curtain closed on the weekend, SPSL 4A members were Sumner, Curtis, Bethel, Spanaway Lake, Rogers, Graham-Kapowsin, Puyallup and Emerald Ridge. However, Monday’s appeal by Spanaway Lake and Bethel could create more change.