Sports

Narrows League could face makeover in 2010

South Kitsap athletic director Ed Santos has been through too many Narrows League realignment meetings to make predictions.

But after meeting with athletic directors and principals in the league last week, Santos sensed a strong sentiment to move to a multi-classification league with 3A and 4A schools beginning in 2010.

There will be separate meetings for the league’s athletic directors (Tuesday) and principals (May 19) to discuss the possibility. The Greater Spokane League, Wesco and Columbia Basin/Big Nine are all 3A/4A leagues.

Santos said administrators in the Narrows were forced to look at this possibility because the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, the state’s governing body for high-school sports, calculates classifications by percentages to avoid imbalances. For example, the schools with the top 16-17 percent enrollment, such as South, are recognized as 4A.

He said that arrangement has become problematic for Bellarmine Prep, the league’s lone private school, Gig Harbor and the Tacoma Public Schools that have 3A enrollments, but have opted up to 4A.

Santos, who co-chairs the league’s realignment committee with South Kitsap principal Jerry Holsten, said those schools “graciously” opted up during the last cycle with the expectation that the league would look into a multi-classification possibility in the future. That arrangement would allow those schools to remain in the Narrows, while competing against 3A schools at the state level.

It also allows schools close to enrollment cutoffs to avoid constant shifts. Skyline moved from 4A KingCo to 3A KingCo in 2006 and then went back in the fall. Shelton transitioned from the Narrows to the 3A Western Cascade Conference before returning to the former during that same time span.

The 11-team Narrows experienced only minor changes during the fall. North Kitsap, which fell to a 3A school when the district opened Kingston, transitioned to the Olympic League.

It’s unlikely that the next realignment will be as small. Santos said several South Sound schools — Capital, North Thurston, River Ridge, Timberline and Yelm — all have expressed interest in joining the Narrows if it becomes a multi-classification league.

There was speculation that schools such as Clover Park, Curtis, Lakes and Peninsula might seek to join the league, but Santos said no other teams besides those in the South Sound have followed through. He said there remains time for teams to ask about becoming league members, but added that needs to happen soon. He declined to set a specific date.

The Narrows traditionally has divided its divisions into the Bay and Bridge. The divisions once were determined by which side of the Narrows Bridge the campuses rested, but that has changed in recent years.

Santos said the leagues might be split into North and South divisions. Capital, North Thurston, Olympia, River Ridge, Shelton, Timberline and Yelm likely would be in the South Division. Bellarmine Prep, Central Kitsap, Foss, Gig Harbor, Lincoln, Mount Tahoma, South Kitsap, Stadium and Wilson would comprise the North Division.

He would prefer a balance between the two divisions, but Santos said the Tacoma Public Schools aren’t interested in one member playing in the South. That leaves Bellarmine Prep, but Santos said the Lions also aren’t enamored with leaving traditional rivals — and short commutes to other Tacoma schools — to often play teams in the South Sound.

Another possibility is splitting the divisions by classifications, but Santos said that could create a huge imbalance. Central Kitsap, Foss, Mount Tahoma, Olympia, Shelton, South Kitsap and Stadium all met the 1,281 4A-enrollment threshold last year, but Santos is concerned several Narrows schools could drop to 3A when the next numbers are set.

The Wolves could avoid these scenarios altogether by leaving the Narrows for the Olympic League, but Santos said that isn’t a consideration. South Kitsap has been a Narrows member since 1981, and Santos said the tradition is important.

He also doesn’t expect longtime Narrows member North Kitsap to rejoin the league.

“We saw the Western Cascade Conference disintegrate when Shelton left,” Santos said. “We don’t want to take one member and possibly destroy a league.”

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