The Alaska School Activities Association’s board of directors voted Dec. 14 to adopt a reclassification plan for high school sports that will create a new 3A Southeast basketball and volleyball conference that is likely to include Sitka High, Mt. Edgecumbe and Petersburg.
The new system puts schools with 151 to 500 students in 3A. Schools with 61 to 150 students will be 2A under the recently adopted system, which splits the current 3A Southeast conference in two. Four Region V schools that currently compete in 3A – Haines, Wrangell, Craig and Metlakatla – will be 2A in the new system.
The ASAA board voted for the changes at a meeting in Anchorage. Mt. Edgecumbe high school officials supported keeping the classification system unchanged. But when it became clear that the ASAA board intended to act on reclassification, they testified in favor of lowering the proposed 3A cap from 181 to 151 students. Their main concern was that Mt. Edgecumbe would be left alone in a two-team basketball conference with Sitka High, which could have occurred under an ASAA plan that was under consideration.
Andrew Friske, a Mt. Edgecumbe administrator who grew up in Haines and played basketball for the Glacier Bears, said he would have preferred to keep the current seven-team 3A Southeast conference. He likes the traditional rivalries in Southeast, and said the last two Region V tournaments, with seven teams battling in a double-elimination format, have been some of the most exciting on record. But Friske said he knew change was coming and that the plan approved this week was the “best we could have hoped for.”
The reclassification plan is scheduled to go into effect at the start of the 2012-13 school year. ASAA will establish new conferences at a board meeting in February.
ASAA left the classification systems for baseball, swimming, soccer and softball alone, but tweaked the divisions for wrestling, and made significant changes for basketball, football and volleyball.
The ASAA plan allows schools to opt-up in a single sport. ASAA’s web site said schools have until Feb. 18 to announce their intent to opt-up. Friske said ASAA needs that information prior to setting the new conferences at its February meeting.
The current classification system for basketball and volleyball puts schools with 101 to 400 students in 3A. The 4A conference is for schools over 400 students, while 1A is for schools with 5 to 50 students, and 2A includes schools with 51 to 100 students.
The new system for basketball puts schools with 5 to 60 students in 1A; schools with 61 to 150 students will be 2A; schools with 151 to 500 students will be 3A and schools with more than 500 students will be 4A.
Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain are solidly 4A in the new system, but some think Ketchikan could potentially drop down a division. Lynn Wadley, the Kayhi activities director, said last month 527 students are enrolled there this year, and numbers have been falling in recent years. As it stands, Kayhi will remain in the 4A Southeast conference with JDHS and Thunder Mountain.
Schools such as Angoon, Gustavus, Hoonah, Kake, Skagway and Yakutat will face a decision when the new classification system goes into effect in two years. Those schools and five others in Southeast have enrollments under 50 students, and have been opting up to compete in the 2A conference, largely because Southeast gets two berths to state in that division.
Friske said ASAA, under the new plan, will expand the 1A state tournament from eight to 16 teams, with Southeast getting one, if not two, state berths. The small schools in Southeast have had a good deal of success at the 2A state tournament, but now seem more likely to remain in the 1A conference. The 1A division is by far the biggest in the state, with an estimated 129 schools. By co mparison, 20 schools will be in the new 3A and 4A divisions, and 18 in the new 2A.
Friske said the big push to reclassify came from Homer, Skyview and Houston, three Southcentral schools with just over 400 students that have had a hard time competing in the 4A division. There was also pressure from Su-Valley and Nenana, schools with about 115 students that did not have much success in the 3A division.
According to ASAA, there are 82 students at Craig High and 79 at Metlakatla. Haines is listed with an enrollment of 100 students, and Wrangell has 120. Sitka had about 370 students, while there are approximately 395 students at MEHS.
ASAA now lists the 1A-2A-3A wrestling conference as including schools with under 500 students, up from 400. That change appears to affect only Houston, Skyview and Homer at this point, dropping them down into the new 3A classification. The ASAA board also voted to start the 4A wrestling season in late October, with the state tournament pushed back to January.
In volleyball, it appears as though Mt. Edgecumbe will join a new conference with Sitka and Petersburg. Schools with 151 to 500 students will be 3A in volleyball. The MEHS Lady Braves have won the last four 3A Region V titles in volleyball under coach Rich Calkins.