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Archive for the ‘Everything changes’ Category

   Coupeville Sports is changing, but the mission remains the same — to tell stories about prairie athletes. (David Stern photo)

Less USA Today and more Sports Illustrated.

After six years of writing my blog, running it in 24-7-365 mode, I’m changing things up.

I want to step back from cranking out 3-5 articles a day, every day, and approach things in a new way.

I’m shutting down Coupeville Sports after this article.

After three days of allowing readers to vent, my Twitter and Facebook accounts vanish June 1.

I’m not deleting the blog, just not adding any more stories.

All 6,200 articles will still be here and can be accessed at any time.

This is not the end, though.

Instead of a daily crush of game stories, stats, photo essays, half-assed instant analysis, injury updates and driving people batty as I harass them for scoops on hirings and the like, I want to step back and take the long view.

After taking the summer off, to spend time with my nephews and help my sister start her farm, I’ll return to cover Coupeville High School sports during the 2018-2019 school year.

But, instead of blogging, I’ll be working on a book, tentatively titled “A Year on the Prairie.”

Unlike my previous two books, “Memoirs of an Idiot” and “Bow Down to Cow Town,” which were collections of essays and columns (and can be found on Amazon and in Sno-Isle libraries, nudge, nudge), this will be a traditional book.

Freed from focusing on wins, losses and who scored, freed from spending hours mind-numblingly transcribing stats, freed from all the side stuff, I can go deeper.

To tell stories about what happens behind the scenes and in the smaller moments of a season, to focus more on the experience of small town sports instead of just the result.

Doing this will change how and when I write, something I have wanted to address since my nephews moved to Whidbey this spring.

This coming school year could, and should, be a pivotal moment in CHS sports history.

A new league beckons, and, with the change, a return of old rivals and the debate between public and private schools playing on the same field.

The football program is about to hire its fifth coach in nine years, cross country returns after a two-decade absence and volleyball continues to grow at an amazing rate under a young, charismatic coach.

Several athletes at CHS are chasing career records and hoping to land college gigs as their prep careers wind down.

Beyond that, there are questions I have always had, and would now have time to pursue in greater depth.

What is life really like for an athletic director?

What do soccer fans find so enticing about a sport which drives me batty?

What drives track moms, the most die-hard of fans, to travel hundreds of miles to watch their child compete for 10 seconds?

That just the tip of the iceberg, and every sports year offers its own surprises and unexpected story-lines.

Freed from having to pound out stories on a daily basis, I will be able to travel to more road games, to track down stars of the past, to reflect on the history of sports in Coupeville.

To tell a more complete story, to craft an epic tale instead of just pounding out small chapters and then immediately moving on to the next “breaking news” nugget.

After six years and 6,200 articles, it’s time to take my reporting and writing in a different direction.

Hopefully you, my readers, will be waiting for me at the end of my detour. And not with pitchforks…

 

A message for my supporters:

I have lived, survived, and generally thrived, thanks to my readers.

Whether you bought an ad, purchased a book, or donated to the cause, you made it possible for me to keep blogging.

For those who want to continue to help keep my fingers typing as we move from blog to book, it is greatly appreciated.

The PayPal link at the top of the blog remains fully functional, my mailing address is 165 N. Sherman, Coupeville, WA 98239, my email is davidsvien@hotmail.com and you can find me at pretty much every home game.

The style may change, but the mission remains the same.

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   Hannah Davidson and other CHS sophomores will spend the next two years in the 1A North Sound Conference. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

No and, once again, no.

That was the response from the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, as it denied Coupeville High School’s request to reclassify from 1A down to 2B.

After denying the original request Sunday afternoon, the WIAA also shot down an appeal Monday morning.

Despite CHS having lost 10% of its student body in the two years since the last official count in 2016 placed it as one of the smallest 1A schools in the state, the Wolves will be required to maintain the status quo until at least 2020.

That’s when the WIAA conducts its next round of state-wide student body counts and reclassification.

In the past, those counts happened every two years, but that changed when the state switched to a four-year plan in 2016.

Coupeville had 227 students in grades 9-11 then, and 1A was set at 214.5-461.24.

The parameters for 2B in 2016 were 83-214.49, and CHS, with 208 students currently in grades 9-11, falls within those guidelines.

The WIAA did not see it that way, however.

“The first decision was based on two areas: a leveling out of enrollment drop and that we would become the largest 2B school,” CHS Athletic Director Willie Smith said.

“My appeal was based on the language of the WIAA, that it was a significant drop and their placement of schools in classifications are strictly determined by enrollment numbers,” he added.

“Our numbers are below the current 2B numbers, but they didn’t feel it was significant enough of a drop and because our projected numbers showed a steady enrollment of 208 (six below the current cutoff of 214) it wasn’t enough to make the change.”

While Coupeville has been competitive in many sports in the last couple of years, it is in no shape or form a powerhouse, something Smith asked the WIAA to consider.

“In regards to being the largest 2B I argued that if we were perennial state tournament attendees or had racked up league title after league title then I would agree it wouldn’t make sense,” he said. “However, we are not that.”

If Coupeville had won approval to drop to 2B, it would have rejoined the Northwest 2B/1B League, which it played in through most of the ’70s and ’80s and part of the ’90s, competing with schools like Concrete, La Conner and Darrington.

“Traditionally, we have been in a league with the members of the NW 2B League and have never dominated,” Smith said. “In fact, they voted us in as soon as they heard we were appealing, which would strongly indicate their desire to have us back.”

While Coupeville could very likely be reclassified as a 2B school in the next state-wide counts in 2020, the WIAA decision ensures it will play at least two full school years as one of the smallest, if not the smallest, 1A school in the state.

The Wolves are leaving the 1A Olympic League at the end of the 2017-2018 school year, ending a four-year run in which they have won multiple titles in girls basketball, volleyball, baseball and girls and boys tennis.

Despite having a much-smaller student body count than Klahowya, which at 445 students in grades 9-11 was the second-biggest 1A school in the 2016 count, Coupeville has played the Eagles virtually even in varsity wins across the 11 sports in which CHS fields teams.

Both schools have been substantially ahead of league mates Port Townsend and Chimacum in titles and varsity wins.

Coupeville’s decision to leave was based on several factors, such as the unpredictability of the Port Townsend ferry, staggering travel costs and Klahowya’s desire to shave games off the league schedule starting next year.

Since they are staying in 1A for at least two years, the Wolves will join a new league, the 1A North Sound Conference, which launches this fall.

Formed out of the steaming carcass of the 1A/2A Cascade Conference, it will feature King’s, South Whidbey, Cedar Park Christian (Bothell), Sultan and Granite Falls, with Coupeville making it a six-pack.

The move reunites Coupeville with teams it played from 2006-2007 to 2013-2014.

CPC-Bothell is the only new foe for the Wolves, as the private school joined the Cascade Conference as Coupeville’s replacement when it departed in 2014.

A large selling point of the North Sound Conference is the chance for next-door neighbors Coupeville and South Whidbey to once again be aligned in the same league.

That will increase the number of times the Wolves and Falcons play in every sport, and, with the close proximity of the schools and the increased significance of the games, likely drive box office receipts upward.

With 208 students in grades 9-11, CHS will obviously be the smallest school in the league, with CPC-Bothell (249.38 in 2016) the only other school which came in under 347 students in the 2016 count.

While it might not be as ideal as returning to 2B, the new league will at least be a 1A-only league, with former 2A Cascade Conference rivals Cedarcrest, Archbishop Thomas Murphy and Lakewood not involved.

Smith, an extremely positive man who is the epitome of “whistle while you work,” sees the next two years as a chance for Coupeville to build, fight and not back down.

“It simply means that we just have to work harder, play smarter, and be more committed at every level: administrative, coaches, athletes, and community,” he said. “I’m ready for this, our coaches are ready for this and we will see if the other two can step it up.”

The decision to leave the Olympic League came before the decision to apply to drop to 2B, and it was one everyone involved in Wolf athletics openly embraced.

“Our coaches voted to move to the new league prior to finding out we could be 2B without hesitation,” Smith said. “They believe that they can take our programs to the next level and I truly believe that as well.

“No sour grapes, no feeling sorry for ourselves, just strapping up our boots and getting to work because no matter what classification we were going to end up that’s the only option we have to get better.”

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   Senior Hunter Smith is #24 on the CHS boys basketball career scoring list. With 11 regular season games left, and possibly a playoff run, he has a shot at cracking the Top 10. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

   Coupeville’s new covered grandstands debut this spring, in time for soccer and track.

   Class of 2022 athletes, who include (l to r) Kylie Van Velkinburgh, Samantha Streitler and Bella Velasco, make their high school debuts next fall.

   After falling a single strike short of state last year, Coupeville softball is ready to rumble this spring.

A new sports year begins.

Will it be filled with championships, celebrations and euphoria or much weeping and wailing (metaphorically, at least) on the prairie?

And, perhaps even more importantly, will you, the readers, continue to chip in and keep Coupeville Sports chugging along with your support, via financial donations, tasty treats and kind words?

Only time, and the passage of the seasons, will tell.

One thing is for sure. By the time we get to the end of 2018 at least a dozen things NOT talked about in this article will have surfaced to capture our attention.

Happens every year. Surprises, good and bad, fill our days, and the future is crammed with the great unknown.

But, looking into my (cracked) crystal ball, here are the story lines which, for now, seem likely to dominate conversation in 2018.

WINTER:

A new league — Coupeville calls it quits after a four-year run in the Olympic League at the end of the 2017-2018 school year. That we know for sure.

Where we land is up in the air until late Jan., when the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association will rule on our request to drop from 1A to 2B.

CHS was 2B for many years, and the current student body count plants us firmly in that category.

But, we were (barely) a 1A school in 2016, the next WIAA count is not until 2020, and we need special permission to move at this point in time.

If Coupeville gets the OK, we return to the Northwest Conference and reignite old school rivalries with La Conner, Concrete, Darrington, Orcas Island, Friday Harbor and Mount Vernon Christian.

If we’re denied for now, we join South Whidbey and state title-winning juggernaut King’s, along with Cedar Park Christian (Bothell), Sultan and Granite Falls in the brand-new 1A North Sound Conference.

Either way, the times, they are a’changing.

A sweet swan song? — With 2/3 of winter sports and all of spring left, the fight for dominance in the about-to-implode Olympic League gets serious.

Coupeville, the smallest of the four schools by far, is hot on the heels of Klahowya, the state’s biggest 1A school, for the varsity wins crown covering the 10 sports the Wolves compete in.

If nothing else, girls basketball and tennis are both shooting for a fourth-straight league crown as they exit stage left. Time to go out with a bang.

A lot of candles on the cake — CHS boys basketball marks the 101-year anniversary of the first hoops game in school history (a 29-7 win over Langley) Jan. 19. Chimacum visits Cow Town, and, if the school is on top of things, the night could be festive.

SPRING:

A new stadium — After a two-year wait, the Wolves have a gorgeous new covered grandstand at Micky Clark Field. Work finished right after football season ended, so the new stadium debuts this spring with soccer and track.

Swing for the stars — Coupeville’s softball squad won 19 games last year, second-most in the 40-year history of the program, and returns almost every starter.

The Wolves fell a single strike short of the state tourney last year, and a senior-heavy team led by Katrina McGranahan, Lauren Rose and Hope Lodell would love to put a final exclamation point on their careers days before graduation.

Heating up the ovalJacob Smith finished 3rd in the 200 as a junior, and both the guys who nipped him graduated, making him a strong contender for a state title.

Maya Toomey-Stout was the first Wolf girl to compete at state in four events in the same season, and she was only a freshman last year.

But the leader is Lindsey Roberts, who, through two seasons of track, has three school records and four state meet medals.

Only three CHS girls have more, with Makana Stone (7), Natasha Bamberger (6) and Yashmeen Knox (5) forming the holy trinity.

Tyler King is the all-time school leader with 11 medals, nipping brother Kyle (10) and forever winning Thanksgiving family dinner arguments.

FALL:

Goodbye and hello — The Class of 2018, which has enjoyed a truly stellar run, especially on the girls side, graduates in the spring. Come fall, the Class of 2022, which boasts a number of promising young stars, arrives on campus.

Run in your own town? — CHS hasn’t had an active cross country program in years, which meant Danny Conlisk, who went to state in 2017, trained and traveled with South Whidbey, then ran in a Wolf uniform.

As interest in running has risen in recent years – Henry and Sam Wynn also competed last year — buzz about Coupeville relaunching its own program has intensified. Sweet possibility or hot air? We shall find out.

Sister, my sisterKalia Littlejohn (33 goals) will enter her senior soccer season needing just three scores to unseat big sis Mia (35) as the program’s top career scorer. After that comes the school record of 45 goals, held by Abraham Leyva.

ALL SEASONS:

Gossip makes the world go round, so we’ll be buzzing about coaches (who’s leaving? who’s arriving?) and daydreaming about breakout stars like Port Townsend’s Noa Apker-Montoya, Klahowya’s Maile Lueck or South Whidbey’s Kody Newman shocking the world and transferring to Coupeville.

Hey, I didn’t say it was GOING to happen. I said, it COULD happen. New year, anything’s possible.

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   Jake Pease and the rest of Coupeville’s underclassmen will jump to a new league next school year. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Change is in the air.

After a very-successful four-year run in the 1A Olympic League, in terms of wins, titles and confidence restored, Coupeville High School is swapping leagues.

Now the question is which direction CHS goes in — down to 2B, where it thrived for many years, or to a new 1A league formed out of the smoldering ruins of its former home in the Cascade Conference.

Coupeville Athletic Director Willie Smith confirmed Wednesday the school would leave the Olympic League at the end of the 2017-2018 school year and outlined the wide-open future.

In his words:

Coupeville has decided to leave the Olympic League (high school) and North Olympic League (middle school) for the following reasons:

**Out of class time for students: we are very often leaving the school at 11:00-12:00 and not returning until 9:30 at night.

During district tournaments the return times are often much later, as the majority of the tournaments are in the Tacoma area (and this year fast-pitch will be traveling to Lacey to play their tourney) requiring us to take the Mukilteo/Clinton ferry at a much later time.

**Cost: we were over our transportation budget by over $15,000 last year due to the use of the ferry for every away league game in HS, every away game in MS, many non-league away games with the 2A’s of the Olympic League, travel to/from district events in Tacoma, and staying overnight for district tournaments that were two-day tourneys that played on back-to-back days.

**Scheduling: we have to schedule games around the PT/Keystone ferry schedule. Neither the ferry or reservation system works as consistently as we need and we had multiple re-schedules as well as cancellations due to ferry-related issues.

In addition, the 1A’s were planning on reducing the number of league games we played each from three to two, which would result in trying to find an inordinate amount of non-league games for each season.

As an example: in a 20-game season (basketball, baseball, fast-pitch) we would only have 6/20 league games and trying to find 14 non-league games to fill the schedule.

The resulting schedule would not be consistent in days we play, number of games per week, and more importantly, in meaningful league games.

So what’s our path?

We are at the end of the first two years of the WIAA four-year cycle, which means we can apply for two things: re-classification or joining another league; we are doing both.

Our current grades 9-11 enrollment is below the 2B cutoff and we are in process of appealing to the WIAA to move into the 2B classification.

We will not find out their decision until January 28th.

If approved, we would then apply to join the Northwest 2B League (Concrete, Darrington, La Conner, Friday Harbor, Orcas Island).

We don’t know what the WIAA will consider as significant change in enrollment, as this is the first time the WIAA has ever had to render these decisions.

Neither myself or WIAA representatives can really speak to whether we have a legitimate chance of winning the appeal but we are appealing.

We have had a long history of playing all of these teams and play them in non-league games on a regular basis, so it’s not really a stretch for us to move in this direction.

We have also inquired and have begun the process of looking into joining the newly formed 1A North Sound Conference, which currently consists of Sultan, South Whidbey, Granite Falls (appealing to drop from 2A to 1A), King’s, and Cedar Park Christian.

We have had a long history of playing the majority of these teams and play them in non-league games on a regular basis, so it’s not really a stretch for us to move in this direction.

It’s a 1A only league, which we have not been in for over 10 years.

Nothing, other than exiting the Olympic League at the conclusion of this year, is set, and even that needs approval from District 3, District 1, and the WIAA, which should happen, but is not always 100%.

There are a lot of documentation, hearings, and legwork that is currently being done, and will continue to be done before anything firm happens.

I would like to add that I have nothing but positive things to say about the Olympic League and its Athletic Directors.

They brought us in and re-worked an entire league in order to make it happen for Coupeville at a time when we desperately needed a change.

It helped our programs get healthy again, kids turning out, and we have had a lot of successes in the Olympic League.

But, and very importantly, it comes down to what is best for our schools and our kids.

The amount of time and school our kids miss coupled with the reality of the costs has really made us (coaches, administration) look at where we were at and a change was something that needed to occur.

Prior to bringing in four 1A schools in 2014 — Coupeville, Klahowya, Port Townsend and Chimacum — the Olympic League was a 2A conference.

In the three-plus seasons of the 1A division, Coupeville has won 11 league titles and claimed 153 varsity wins against its three 1A foes.

Girls basketball and tennis, which have yet to lose a league contest, each own three titles. Volleyball (2), boys tennis (2) and baseball (1) also have added to the school’s Wall of Honor.

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   After this season, South Whidbey’s athletes will no longer call the 1A/2A Cascade Conference home. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

And it’s gone.

Coupeville’s old stomping grounds, the 1A/2A Cascade Conference, is no more.

The league, fractured by defections and forfeits, will cease to be at the end of the 2017-2018 school year.

In its place, the league’s (soon to be) five 1A schools are striking out on their own and forming the North Sound Conference, which begins play in fall 2018.

South Whidbey, King’s, Cedar Park Christian, Sultan and Granite Falls, which is dropping from 2A back to 1A next year, will form the new league.

Cedarcrest and Archbishop Thomas Murphy, which were the only remaining 2A schools in the Cascade Conference after Lakewood bailed, are now free agents seeking new homes.

Four years ago, the Cascade Conference was an eight-team league.

After Coupeville left to join the newly-formed 1A Olympic League, Cedar Park Christian took its slot.

Things began to fracture shortly after, though, with every league team except King’s refusing to face ATM on the football field, which generated national media attention.

When a “super” league, which would have combined the Cascade Conference, Wesco South and the Northwest Conference for football only, fell through, Lakewood took all of its programs and bounced to the 1A/2A/3A NWC.

This past season, league schools returned to playing ATM in football, with the exception of South Whidbey.

Trying to rebuild their gridiron program, the Falcons asked for permission to play a non-conference schedule against smaller schools.

After losing to fellow 1A schools Coupeville and Chimacum to open the 2017 football season, South Whidbey won seven straight games against B schools and a Canadian program new to football.

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