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Schools counting, change coming to SPSL 2A and possibly 3A
Area high schools, like their counterparts throughout the Evergreen State, are preparing for the every-other-year exercise that determines who plays where.
It’s time again for the classification shuffle, where schools sort themselves by size, look at league opportunities and wonder who their future rivals might be.
The drill is mandated by the Washington Interscholastic Athletics and Activities Association, the governing body for all high school sports. The WIAA takes its counts of member schools every two years, tallying the number of students in each high school’s top three grades.
Change in the SPSL 2A
In this area, there is sure to be a change in the eight-team South Puget Sound League 2A ranks. Orting High has outgrown Class 1A and is applying for membership in the 2A league now home to White River, Sumner and others. At the same time, Eatonville has lost enrollment and will be leaving the SPSL 2A, most likely taking Orting’s spot in the Nisqually League.
The head-count range for Class 2A status tops out at 1,085 and settles at 513 on the low end. Orting is looking at a count of about 530, according to Athletic Director Marty Parkhurst.
Orting experienced rapid growth years ago and, despite the overall economic downturn and slowdown in the housing market, attendance has ticked upward.
“Each of our classes has gotten a little larger,” Parkhurst said, noting that Orting was the second-largest 2A school in the state when the counts were done two years ago.
The move into the SPSL 2A will present some obvious advantages, Parkhurst said. Chief among those is travel, as Orting will be making short trips to Sumner and White River instead of long treks to Chimacum and Vashon Island. Another advantage is students will be missing less class time, he said.
Competition is another matter. The Cardinals will be paired against schools nearly twice their size, creating an inherent disadvantage.
That perception goes out the window when it comes to wrestling. The Cardinals have won three Class 1A state titles in a row and routinely hold their own against larger foes in tournaments.
One school absolutely locked into place is White River. Athletic Director Chris Gibson said the Hornets will land with a count of about 980, keeping them well under the 1,085 lid.
Sumner also is firmly entrenched in the Class 2A ranks with its WIAA count of 957.
Panthers still deciding
Less certain is the local Class 3A situation.
Bonney Lake High has been competing in the SPSL 3A the past two seasons, despite attendance numbers that fit the 2A model. Bonney Lake asked to opt up two years ago, a request that was granted by the WIAA.
Now, Bonney Lake appears to be having second thoughts. A question on the school’s website acknowledges the opportunity to step down a classification and allows website visitors to vote on the issue.
Bonney Lake is the newer of the Sumner School District’s two high schools.
District Athletic Director Tim Thomsen said the decision rests at the school level.
“The district has decided to allow each high school to indecently make its own choice,” he said. “They know the situation better than anyone else.”
He said there are “a variety of factors” to be considered. Among those are scheduling, including nonleague travel costs, and the views of coaches, players and the community at large.
He said the complex formula used by the WIAA presents an interesting scenario in his district. Following the WIAA math, Bonney Lake High has a three-grade headcount of 997, or 40 more than Sumner High. But for internal purposes, Thomsen said, the counts show Sumner with the greater population, by about 35 students.
A decision regarding Bonney Lake’s future should be made by the end of the week, Thomsen said.
Enumclaw, like White River, is comfortable right where it is.
No movement in Enumclaw
Kevin Smith, the district AD, said EHS will remain near the bottom of all Class 3A schools, but is in no danger of falling into the 2A ranks. Needing at least 1,086 students – sophomores through seniors – Enumclaw now tallies about 1,092. Once the district adds those students attending alternative programs, the count will safely fall in the 3A range, Smith said.
Enumclaw and three others – Peninsula, Lakes and Auburn Mountainview – are assured of remaining at the 3A level, Smith said. There were rumors that Decatur, a Class 4A school until 2010, could be returning to the large-school ranks. But Decatur has committed to remaining in the SPSL 3A, Thomsen said.
The entire classification puzzle will be pieced together during the coming eight weeks, Smith said. Schools wishing to appeal their enrollment counts, or opt up to a larger league, must do so by mid-December, he said, and the WIAA will give its final blessing by the end of January.