PERHAPS THERE IS one silver lining to declining enrollments.
A pair of schools that have been competing above their heads for a long time — Port Angeles and Quilcene — just might get a chance to be the big bully on the block.
Initial reclassification numbers released by the WIAA last week point to the Rangers going down from Class 2B to 1B (more on this later) next fall.
And the Roughriders? It all depends on how things shake out.
That being said, it looks awfully good for Port Angeles (now 3A) to be competing at the 2A level come next school year.
There’s even an outside chance the entire Olympic League (minus 1A Port Townsend) could fall into the 2A classification for the 2010-12 cycle.
That’s about two years earlier than everyone expected, and a welcome surprise for Port Angeles.
“It kind of is [a surprise],” Port Angeles district athletic director Jeff Clark said.
“Somebody said to me you’re going to be more competitive, [but] we’re going to be the same in most sports. We’ll still be in the Olympic League. Football is where I think it would make a difference.”
Boon for Riders
Every Port Angeles program would benefit from a drop in classification.
The West Central District is stacked at 3A, making the prospect of getting to state all the more challenging for the Riders. The 2A, on the other hand, is not nearly as deep.
Still, there’s no denying that the football program — winless in the 3A Olympic/Western Cascade League this fall — would have the most to gain.
No longer would the Riders have to face the Capitals and Timberlines of the world in the regular season.
As an added bonus, Port Angeles would get to play in the same league as rival Sequim (2A).
That means fans would be treated to a PA-Sequim football game at the end of the season rather than Week 2.
There would also be more on the line than just bragging rights.
Sequim athletic director Dave Ditlefsen said talk of a multi-classification football arrangement had already been discussed by Olympic League athletic directors.
The fact that eight of nine schools could all fall into the 2A level just “makes the Olympic League a lot cleaner.”
“When the first numbers came out I kind of drew the lines myself, and it didn’t look to me like anything was changing,” Ditlefsen said.
“When I found out that those lines would be moved that much [due to other schools opting up], I was surprised.”
On the bubble
A number of schools — including 11 in the Metro League — that have enrollment figures below the 3A line are likely to opt up.
Since the WIAA changed the way it separated classifications this time around, the decisions of those schools will directly affect others above them.
In past years, the WIAA divided classifications by a set enrollment number (i.e. all schools above 1,300 would be 4A).
But for this two-year cycle, administrators will separate classes into specific percentages so that there is a more even distribution between each classification.
By the end of the process, Class 1B and 2B will each have 62 schools, 1A will have 65, and 2A, 3A and 4A 66 apiece.
All available information, including reports from the Seattle Times and Tacoma News-Tribune, points to Port Angeles ending up near the very bottom of 3A.
(North Kitsap, which actually has a smaller enrollment than Port Angeles, would drop to 2A.)
Yet that does not include pending decisions from traditional 3A/4A schools Decatur, Foss, Franklin Pierce, Mercer Island, Liberty, Renton, Lindbergh, West Valley (Yakima) and Wilson.
Each has 2A numbers but would appear to be strong candidates to opt up.
If those schools choose to do so, Olympic and Bremerton could very well become 2A schools as well.
Of course, all of this is complete speculation.
Administrators will get a clearer picture of the 2010-12 classification cycle after Dec. 15.
That is the deadline for schools choosing whether or not to compete in the classification its enrollment places it or opt up to a bigger classification.
The WIAA will release the list of the new classifications on Jan. 4, although schools will have one last opportunity to opt up after that.
Quilcene has already decided to decline that option and compete in Class 1B, according to athletic director Mark Thompson.
But that does not mean the Rangers will be rejoining the North Olympic League, which it was invited to do.
Instead, Quilcene will stay with the Sea-Tac.
The Rangers will also compete in eight-man football, perhaps in the Pacific Coast League with Crescent, Clallam Bay and Neah Bay, Thompson said.
It should be a welcome change for a program that has struggled to get enough athletes out for 11-man teams in years past.
“It’s going to be tough, but it does help us numbers wise,” Thompson said of the move to eight-man football. “We don’t need to see 20 kids out there to have a team.
“If we see 16 or 18, we’ll be fine.”
Thompson said the main factor in the school’s decision to remain with Sea-Tac was the Rangers’ spring sports (baseball and softball).
The NOL schools (Crescent, Clallam Bay and Neah Bay) do not have baseball or softball teams. The Sea-Tac does.
Since the Rangers have been quite successful in both sports — a combined five state appearances this decade — keeping them strong was of utmost importance.
“The Sea-Tac offers us an avenue for our spring sports, and that’s what drives us,” said Thompson. “We feel pretty good about our spring sports programs.
“We’ve been pretty competitive, and the Sea-Tac provides us an avenue for those teams.”
________Matt Schubert is the outdoors and sports columnist for the Peninsula Daily News. His column regularly appears on Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at [email protected]