CHIMACUM — A small group of parents expressed nothing but positive opinions about continuing an athletics-only combine between Port Townsend and Chimacum high schools in an online forum hosted by athletic directors from the two districts Tuesday evening.
The two longtime rivals have cooperated together in a host of sports through the years, including cross country, wrestling, girls tennis, boys tennis and girls swimming.
In order to provide more sports offerings for high school students in the face of declining enrollment trends in each district, which were further decreased by the pandemic, the two schools have competed together in 2021 as East Jefferson in all sports through traditional fall, spring and now winter seasons.
Chimacum teacher and coach Tony Haddenham was an assistant coach and a parent of a player on the East Jefferson football team this season and found his preseason doubts about the combine were unfounded.
“Speaking from a purely Chimacum perspective, I’ve been wearing Chimacum blue the last 20 years as a coach,” Haddenham said. “Going into the combine, I was very apprehensive about everything. How our kids would be treated, how I would be received as a coach.
“I can’t say anything bad about the experience I had as a coach with the combine. And as a parent of a player to see how well the Chimacum boys were received in Port Townsend was awesome. These kids have played with and against each other since they were pee-wees. To see them on the same team was one of those cool experiences as a coach that you want to see happen.”
Kelly Liske of Chimacum’s Big Blue Booster Club is a 1994 Port Townsend graduate and parent of two kids in Chimacum schools. She said her daughter was initially apprehensive about playing sports this year.
“My daughter, Abby, has had a wonderful experience with the combine playing girls soccer and basketball,” Liske said. “She wasn’t going to go out for the teams because she didn’t know how Chimacum kids would be received, but it’s been a great experience. There are details that need to be worked out, but you [Port Townsend athletic director Patrick Gaffney and Chimacum athletic director Carrie Beebe] came together and made an opportunity to play.”
Haddenham said that players from Port Townsend and Chimacum have told him they have a plan if the schools play against each other this fall.
“Players have said if we have to play each other this fall, we are going to get dressed up, go to midfield, shake hands and go home. They want to be on the same teams with the same people. And it’s really cool to have the JV programs back in each school; it benefits the programs as well,” Haddenham said.
Lack of JV teams
Turnout for sports has been an issue in each school, with the lack of JV teams for many programs causing Port Townsend and Chimacum to field inexperienced varsity squads against larger schools.
Enrollment is low enough between the two schools for a combined East Jefferson program to remain at the Class 1A level with a likely home for all sports in the Class 1A Nisqually League beginning this fall.
School enrollment is considered every four years by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association in establishing classifications, the next coming in 2024, so the move to combine doesn’t necessarily have to be permanent.
Parents did say that COVID-impacted school schedules have made transportation to practices and events a challenge, but interim Chimacum Superintendent David Engle said the districts are planning on a full-time schedule in the fall.
“We have every intention of planning a full-day school year next year and getting the transportation piece right,” Engle said. “Hopefully, the COVID impact will be much less than it is now, so we can operate in a more normal fashion.”
Some conflict between Port Townsend and Chimacum cheer squads has occurred, but there’s been little quarrel between the Quimper Peninsula athletic squads.
“As a former PT cheer coach for seven years, when we played Chimacum, it was fun to beat our rivals, but they are just girls who want to cheer, and [athletes] are just kids who want to play. So let’s pick a name and find a mascot,” parent Kiersten Hammer said.
The Chimacum School Board will discuss continuing the combine at its May 26 meeting, while Port Townsend School Board members will tackle the subject June 3.
A final decision is expected by June 11.
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected] news.com.