The South Puget Sound League is more trim and divided as part of the state’s biennial reclassification. And for those who love rivalries, the reformatted SPSL may add a little extra punch.
Rather than the previous split between North and South, the SPSL is now sectioned into three divisions. The Northeast division includes Tahoma, Kentwood, Kentlake, Kent-Meridian and Kentridge. The Northwest division holds Federal Way, Mount Rainier, Thomas Jefferson, Todd Beamer and newcomer Decatur.
The South division, which used to have nine members, has been cut to seven: Bethel, Curtis, Emerald Ridge, Graham Kapowsin, Puyallup, Rogers (Puyallup) and Spanaway Lake.
The change occurred when the Auburn School District announced that two of its schools — Auburn and Auburn Riverside — would drop from 4A to 3A. The two schools join Auburn Mountainview in the lower class.
The Washington State Interscholastic Activities Association reclassifies each of the state’s schools every two years, allotted into either 4A, 3A, 2A, 2B, 1A or 1B.
Once classified, schools can choose to opt up to a higher class. Five of the 17 SPSL schools (Bethel, Mount Rainier, Federal Way, Kentlake and Decatur) had numbers that would allow them to compete in 3, but opted up.
“Every time we go through (the reclassification) it causes chaos,” Dave Lutes, athletic director for the Kent School District, told The Reporter. “Some schools go up and some schools go down.”
Lutes said Decatur’s decision to bump up from 3A “caught everyone off guard,” but allows all four Federal Way schools to compete in the same district. While it makes sense, it also presented organizers with the problem of an uneven number of schools that didn’t logically split geographically into two pieces.
“You would think a nine-eight split would be logical, but our major criteria was geography,” Lutes said. “…We went back and forth for two or three months and finally settled in on the 10-seven split… with the two five-team divisions.”
The scheduling will vary slightly from sport to sport, but will focus on matching up the geographic rivals in each division, with crossovers into the others mixed in.
“We’re fortunate to have a concentration of 4A schools in our area with strong athletic programs,” said Tony Davis, Tahoma Athletic Director, in an email. “We will miss the opportunity to compete against the Auburn schools, but beyond that we don’t have a lot of change. The opportunity to continue the positive competitive relationships with the Kent schools is good for our kids, parents and community.”
In football, which kicks off Sept. 4, the standings will be based solely on division play. Each of the five teams in the split North divisions will stay within their respective divisions for weeks four through eight, which are, ostensibly, the only games that matter towards the postseason. The North schools will be seeded for week nine based on their standings, with a crossover between the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds. The No. 3 seeds from the Northeast and Northwest will matchup head-to-head in a loser-out game. The top five teams advance to the playoffs.
Basketball and soccer will be slightly different, with home and away matchups with everyone in the division, plus one crossover game within the North, plus extra non-league games. Baseball teams will play division opponents three times, plus single crossover matchups and a few non-league games.
The long-term viability of this set up is unknown.
“The only thing I can guarantee is that it is for two years,” Lutes said.
Lutes said, overall, he looks forward to the changes.
“I think it is going to be positive because it is different,” he said. “We are trying to make the best decisions that we can that are good for the schools and the kids so they have that good athletic experience and scheduling that isn’t screwing them up. I think we’re working hard on that.”