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Spring 2001 will be Oly League's swan song
"Say your goodbyes to the Olympic League. You've got six months.The nine-member league, a curious amalgam of schools from three different size classifications, will cease to exist at the end of the spring 2001 season. It's a move officials at the league's larger schools have anticipated - and worked feverishly towards - for years, and one the smaller schools have looked forward to with tangled emotions.I think it's good for us all, said Central Kitsap athletic director Mike Acres, whose school is one of the five Class 4A outfits, who were the biggest proponents of the Oly League's breakup. We've been together in the Olympic League forever, so there's some mixed feelings.But we (the five 4A defectors) are going to be in a good league. We're excited about it, Acres said.The Olympic League's Class 4A schools, which already defected to the Narrows League for football two seasons ago, will jump to the Narrows for all sports beginning with the fall 2001 season, effectively disintegrating the unique 4A-3A-2A alliance.That leaves Class 2A Klahowya and Port Townsend and 3A Sequim free to move to the Nisqually League. Bainbridge, also a 3A school, apparently is headed for membership in the Seattle Metro League.All those pieces have fallen into place in recent weeks, and got the stamps of approval from respective leagues' athletic directors, principals and superintendents. Most recently, Narrows superintendents OKed the change last Saturday, Nov. 25.Olympic Leaguers - at least the quintet of 4A members - have been pushing for the move for years. Coaches have complained that annual home-and-home league games against smaller schools do little to prepare their teams for postseason tournaments.The situation was mostly reversed for the 2A schools, which were reversed to have-not roles in most sports, absorbing one-sided losses against the league's big kids and fighting it out among themselves for postseason berths in their own classifications.Obviously, the competition will be more equal to our size, said Klahowya AD Pam Calnan, whose 4-year-old programs will join the Eagle football team as members of a revamped, enlarged Nisqually League, comprising 10 teams in two divisions. Our kids will be able to set their hopes for a league title, or a better won-lost record - if that's your measure of success.Acres said there's a strong feeling in the Central Kitsap School District camp that interdistrict rivalries - pitting CK, Olympic and Klahowya teams - should continue, if the Narrows schedule allows.We'd like to schedule them in most everything except football, Acres said. I think there's going to be room (in the schedule) for all of us to have some games that are traditional rivalries.Acres said a likely format for the 16-team, two-division Narrows would be to have teams in each division play home-and-home series, plus at least one crossover with a team from the other division. With 14 division games, teams would have plenty of leeway to schedule crossovers and nonleague contests that satisfy those geographic and traditional rivalries.Peninsula could throw a minor monkey wrench into the Narrows League plan by dropping to Class 3A for the coming two years and joining the Pierce County League.I hope Peninsula stays, Acres said, adding that the Purdy school is expected to decide in early December whether to go or stay. That gives us a nice, even eight teams in each division. A lot of the teams in the Bay Division are Class 3A size, but they've stayed for the competition.Calnan said most of Klahowya programs will welcome the more level playing field in the Nisqually, but there are exceptions. The Eagles girls soccer team steeled itself by playing the larger schools during the regular season, then produced magnificent results in the postseason against schools their own size. In the last three years, Klahowya has been a quarterfinalist, state champion and semifinalist in the 2A playoffs.It definitely challenges a team to play to the top of its ability, Calnan said of the multiclassification setup. But overall, I think this is great for our kids.We still will be able to schedule nonleague games - hopefully some within the CK School District - that will provide that level of competition, Calnan said.For the 4A schools, Acres said, the challenge will be clear.We're going to be playing a 4A school every night, he said. We're going to have to be ready every night. "