Posts Tagged ‘classification’

“We’re going to 2B. It’s right over there!” (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

It’s official-official.

Coupeville High School will leave the 1A classification behind and drop to 2B beginning with the 2020-2021 school year.

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association finalized classification numbers Sunday, locking in state schools for the 2020-2024 cycle.

After years of being one of the smallest 1A schools, Coupeville will now be the fifth-biggest out of 61 schools in the 2B classification.

With an adjusted enrollment of 206 students in grades 9-11, CHS trails just Okanogan (212.03), Kittitas-Thorp (212.12), Kalama (217), and Goldendale (224.73).

In years past, the WIAA attempted to keep the number of schools in each classification, which run from 4A down to 1B, fairly even in size.

That meant Coupeville, despite having 2B numbers, was bumped up to pad out the bottom of 1A.

Things changed this time around, however, as the WIAA has gone to hard numbers. This time around, if you fall between 105 and 224 students, you’re 2B and no one can move you.

After numbers were finalized Sunday, the classifications for 2020-2024 will be:

4A — 1300+ students — 51 schools
3A — 900-1299 students — 79 schools
2A — 450-899 students — 62 schools
1A — 225-449 students — 60 schools
2B — 105-224 students — 61 schools
1B — 1-104 students — 85 schools

One other change is the number of state tournament entries per classification.

For 4A, 2A, 1A, and 2B, it will remain 16 teams.

Under new guidelines, 3A will have 20 state entries, while 1B will have 24, in an effort to give the same percentage of schools a chance to qualify in each classification.

With the drop to 2B, Coupeville leaves the 1A North Sound Conference after this school year and returns to its former stomping grounds, the Northwest 2B/1B League.

Their new/old rivals will be La Conner, Darrington, Concrete, Orcas Island, Friday Harbor, and Mount Vernon Christian.

Coupeville, La Conner, and Friday Harbor will be 2B, while the other four league schools will be 1B schools.

Whidbey Island’s other two schools, South Whidbey and Oak Harbor, remain in the same classifications as before – 1A and 3A, respectively.


To see the 2020-2024 classifications, pop over to:


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It’s official. Coupeville athletes like Chelsea Prescott and Heidi Meyers (in grey) are headed to the Northwest 2B/1B League next school year. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Times have changed and times are strange.

Here I come, but I ain’t the same.

Mama, I’m coming home.

Echoing the words of Ozzy Osbourne, Coupeville High School athletics are going back to their old stomping grounds.


After years of being forced to play against bigger schools, CHS returns to its true classification, and its old league, starting with next school year.

When the 2020-2021 school year kicks into gear next August, the Wolves will be a member of the Northwest 2B/1B League, with the 1A North Sound Conference disintegrating in their rear-view mirror.

The change comes after the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association changed directions, and decided to no longer attempt to keep the classifications (4A, 3A, 2A, 1A, 2B, 1B) balanced.

In previous classification counts, that meant Coupeville, despite having a 2B-sized student body, was routinely shoved up to 1A, where it existed as one of the smallest schools.

Beginning with the 2020 classification count (the next one is in 2024), the state has opted to go with hard count numbers. You land between two numbers, you’re in that class.

If one division is noticeably bigger or smaller than others, the number of teams advancing to state tournaments will be adjusted accordingly.

Once it became obvious Coupeville’s current numbers would land it firmly in 2B for at least the next four years, CHS Athletic Director Willie Smith reached out to the Northwest League, where the Wolves played for many decades.

He was welcomed with open arms, then things got weird for a bit (more on that in a second), then everything went back to being full-on hunky-dory.

With some current schools in the league also dropping down a rung in the new counts, the new-look league will feature three 2B schools (Coupeville, Friday Harbor, La Conner) and four 1B schools (Orcas Island, Concrete, Darrington, Mount Vernon Christian).

The move to 2B should be hugely beneficial to Coupeville, as it levels the playing field.

Gone are posh private schools, with the Wolves returning to competing against similarly-sized (or smaller) schools, with the majority being rural public schools like CHS.

There will be some wrinkles to adjust to going forward, such as boys soccer moving from the spring to the fall, as 2B plays both girls and boys soccer in the same season.

But, it could have been a lot wilder.

With Coupeville leaving the North Sound Conference, private schools King’s and Cedar Park Christian announced their intentions to jump ship, as well.

That left South Whidbey, Granite Falls, and Sultan in limbo, and the public schools reached out to the Northwest Conference to talk about forming a 1A/2B/1B league next year.

Meanwhile, the ultra-posh Emerald City League, which is comprised mostly of Seattle-based private schools, contacted the North Sound Conference and raised the idea of forming a “super league.”

That would have brought together 12-14 schools, with some sports broken into divisions based on level of play, which nicely addresses “competitive equity.”

As talks progressed on both fronts, the classification numbers were fine-tuned.

While five of the six Northwest Conference schools are currently 2B, with just Mount Vernon Christian at 1B, that was going to change, with Concrete, Darrington, and Orcas dropping down.

La Conner and Friday Harbor, which will both remain at 2B, then proposed a third option, in which the two schools would unite with Coupeville, South Whidbey, Sultan, and Granite Falls in a 1A/2B league.

Confused yet?

Imagine the never-ending chain of conversations Willie Smith was involved in.

In the end, a compromise was found.

South Whidbey, Granite Falls, King’s, CPC, and Sultan are opting to stay together, and have begun the process to move from District 1 to District 2.

Once there, they will unite with the Emerald City League schools and form a new conference – the Emerald Sound League.

Meanwhile, Coupeville remains in District 1, and comes home to the Northwest Conference.

“We are very excited to be in this league,” Willie Smith said. “It’s a strong group of AD’s which we have maintained relationships with over the years in non-league contests.

“The level of competition will be strong, requiring us to continue to work to develop our programs, and it also allows all of our programs the opportunity to have success on a nightly basis and compete for league championships throughout.

“Obviously, there are challenges, but we always have challenges, which is what makes our programs stronger.”

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Kiara Contreras, a freshman at 1A Coupeville High School, could play her final two seasons in 2B. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Five Wolves seen in this photo could be playing for CHS during the 2020-2021 school year, when sweeping changes to the state classification system take affect.

The earthquake hit, and now the aftershocks will play out over the next 20 months.

As expected, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s Representative Assembly passed two amendments Monday at its Winter Coalition meeting in Renton.

Now, the biggest question for locals becomes, will Coupeville continue to be one of the smallest 1A schools in the land or will it finally return to 2B for sports competition.

From 2007 to today, the WIAA has attempted to keep the number of schools in each classification (4A, 3A, 2A, 1A, 2B, 1B) balanced, which has often meant forcing schools such as CHS to remain a slot above where their student body count would dictate.

That changes now, as the first amendment passed Monday returns the state to using hard-number caps, beginning with the 2020-2021 school year.

At that point, the new, set-in-concrete numbers will be:

4A — 1,300+ students
3A — 1,299-900
2A — 899-450
1A — 449-225
2B — 224-105
1B — 104-1

The counts, which cover students in grades 9-11, happen during the 2019-2020 school year.

After a school makes its count, the second amendment could reduce the number of students it has to claim.

Any schools who serve more free and reduced lunches than the state average (currently 43%), will shave their enrollment numbers equal to the percentage they are over.

So, if, say, 51% of a school’s lunches are free and/or reduced, that school will take 8% off its enrollment number before being classified.

Schools can only drop down one classification.

Current 2B and 1B schools are not covered by the second amendment after they argued it “would negatively impact competitive balance in the state’s smallest schools,” according to a Seattle Times article.

Both amendments, which had considerable support, are aimed at improving competitive balance between the “haves” and “have not’s” in the state.

Similar arrangements have been used in states such as Oregon, Minnesota, and Ohio.

The lone argument in recent years for forcing each classification level to have virtually the same number of schools was it gave schools equal access to qualifying for state championship tournaments.

Under the hard caps, if one division ends up with, say, 20 more schools than another, that could be an issue.

To deal with that, the WIAA is drawing up plans to expand or contract the standard 16-team state tourney based on how many schools are in a given division.

More schools, you could have a 24-team field.

Less schools, a 12 or eight-team draw, or divisions could be combined, as is already done for sports such as tennis, where 1A, 2B, and 1B compete in the same tourney.

While it’s not guaranteed Coupeville drops to 2B, it has been well under the 224-student barrier in both recent counts and future projections.

For now, the rest of this school year and the 2019-2020 school year are set, with CHS remaining in the 1A North Sound Conference with South Whidbey, King’s, Granite Falls, Sultan, and Cedar Park Christian.

In the last official student count, which set classifications for 2016-2020, Coupeville trailed four of those five schools by 120 or more students.

Cedar Park had just a 22-student advantage over CHS in that count, but, as a private school, it, like King’s, plays by a separate set of rules from public schools and can bring in student/athletes from outside its boundaries.

Once the new classifications are set, they will be in place for four years, running from 2020-2021 to 2023-2024, with schools being able to appeal their placements after two years.

Things could get wild across the state, if numerous schools move up or down, which could cause multiple leagues to crumble, expand, contract or be born.

If Coupeville moves back to 2B, where it lived for decades, it would likely return to its old home, the all-public school Northwest League.

That conference currently houses 2B schools La Conner, Darrington, Concrete, Friday Harbor, and Orcas Island, as well as 1B Mount Vernon Christian.

Top the 224-student limit and life as the smallest, scrappiest 1A school will continue, though the landscape could be altered.

Of Coupeville’s current league mates, Granite Falls was a 2A school just a second ago, and could have to return.

A preliminary version of the free and reduced lunch amendment would have forced swanky private schools such as King’s and Cedar Park to automatically add a certain percentage to their student counts.

That would have likely carried them up to 2A, but the wording was changed before the amendment was passed, and private schools will operate the same as public schools.

On this one thing, at least.

The Olympic League, where CHS just ended a four-year run, could crumble with the new numbers.

The 2A division has several schools expected to now be 3A, while the 1A division could completely disappear.

Of the three 1A schools the Wolves left behind, Klahowya is expected to move back to 2A after just slipping under the limit in recent years, and then there’s Chimacum and Port Townsend.

The former is close to being 2B like Coupeville, but there has also been talk the two schools, who already have agreements for sports such as tennis, wrestling and, starting this spring, softball, will unite for all athletic competition.

If they did, they would have to add both student bodies together and likely compete at the 2A level.

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If Coupeville moves down from 1A to 2B, only one of these athletes, freshman Xavier Murdy (right), could still be playing when it happens. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Change may be coming, but we’ll have to wait a bit for its full impact to hit.

When the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association meets Jan. 28 for its winter coalition, the group’s 53-member Representative Assembly will vote on two amendments which could radically alter how schools are classified for sports competition.

Rule 4.2.0 will “establish hard line numbers for high school classifications” while rule 4.3.0 “adjusts enrollment figures based upon percentage of free and reduced lunches.”

A 60% “yes” vote is needed to pass, and all indications are both amendments will easily clear that threshold.

If that happens, it could be huge for Coupeville High School. As one of the smallest 1A schools in the state, CHS could likely move down to 2B, where it resided for many decades.

But, and this is important, the WIAA confirmed this week that any changes to the classification system will not take effect until the 2020-2021 school year.

What does that mean for CHS athletes?

If you’re a current senior or junior, you will finish your prep athletic career in the 1A North Sound Conference. No one and done, it’s our home for at least two school years, this current one and the next.

After that, everything is in play.

The next classification count happens this year, either way, with each school tallying up students currently in grades 9-11.

If the second amendment passes, administrators will look at the state average for free and reduced lunches, and see how their school stacks up.

In an effort to better balance the field between rich (often private) schools and ones who struggle financially, schools above the state average would get to reduce their student body count by the same percentage.

That could allow some schools to drop down a classification, though they can’t jump more than one level.

After that, if the first amendment passes, the WIAA will no longer try to balance the number of schools in each classification, as it has for the past decade-plus.

That’s huge for Coupeville, which had 2B numbers during the last count in 2016, but was pushed back up to 1A in the effort to keep balance between the divisions.

CHS, after losing 10% of its student body in two years, appealed in 2018 to drop down, but was denied.

If hard line numbers are used, this is how the classification system will look in 2020:

4A — 1300+ students
3A — 900-1299
2A — 450-899
1A — 225-449
2B — 105-224
1B — 1-104

Once a school does its count, and uses the adjustment for free/reduced lunches (if above the state average), they will know where they sit, and no longer have to wait to see if they are bumped for “parity.”

Those classifications remain in effect for four years, and schools can appeal their status during the second year.

Schools can still opt to play up a classification, such as Archbishop Murphy currently does, competing as a 2A school while having a 1A-level student body count, but can’t opt down.

If CHS lands between 105-224 students, which appears possible, it would likely return to the Northwest B League in 2020, rejoining Concrete, La Conner and other foes it faced on a regular basis up through the ’80s.

If not, the 1A North Sound Conference, which Coupeville joined in 2018 after four seasons in the 1A Olympic League, will still be there waiting, though its current six-team look could change.

Granite Falls only recently slipped down from 2A to 1A after an appeal, while King’s and Cedar Park Christian, as private schools, won’t be helped by the free/reduced lunch amendment, and could actually be hurt.

There has been discussion about going the opposite way with private schools, automatically adding a certain percentage to the student body count. Whether that will become a reality is one of many things to keep an eye on if the amendments pass.

While going with hard line numbers seems like an ideal choice, the WIAA resisted for some time because of the likelihood some classifications would become substantially bigger than others.

If one classification has, say, 20 more schools than another, than it’s harder for each school at the more-crowded level to earn a berth at a state tournament.

The compromise is, if the amendments pass, state tourney fields will no longer have to be the same size at all levels.

If we’re operating under hard line numbers in 2020, here’s how it breaks down:

84+ schools in a classification = 24-team state tourney
69-83 schools = 20-team state tourney
53-68 schools = (traditional) 16-team state tourney
37-52 schools = 12-team state tourney
20-36 schools = 8-team state tourney
19 or less schools = combine with the division above for state tourney

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Current 8th graders like Maya Toomey-Stout (3) and Scout Smith (2)

   Current 8th graders like Maya Toomey-Stout (3) and Scout Smith (2) now know Coupeville will be a 1A school for their entire high school run. (John Fisken photo)

It’s a done deal. Well, 99% done.

Coupeville High School will remain a 1A school for the next four years, and so will the three other schools who joined the Wolves to form the 1A Olympic League in 2014.

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association released its 2016-2020 enrollment figures Thursday, with final approval set to come when their executive board meets Jan. 24-25.

After years of doing classification counts every two years, the WIAA is changing that to every four years beginning this year.

Two years ago, Coupeville was the smallest true 1A school in the state, but it no longer holds that distinction.

With 227 students in grades 9-11, it is now the 6th smallest, with Columbia (Burbank) inheriting smallest status with 214.50 students.

Schools can choose to opt up (but not down), and eight schools with 2B numbers decided to do just that, so, technically, CHS has the 52nd biggest student body of the 65 schools which will compete in 1A.

Coupeville’s three league mates all remained in 1A, as well, though Klahowya came close to not making the cut.

The Eagles slid in just under the line, and they will be the 2nd biggest 1A school with 445.07 students.

Port Townsend has 278.25, which is way down from two years ago, and Chimacum sits at 250.38.

As the WIAA dots the I’s and crosses the T’s, there is still one thing to keep an eye on.

Across the state, schools are jumping leagues, either because of moving up or sliding down a level, or for other reasons.

The Everett Herald is reporting the four 2A schools from Coupeville’s former league, the 2A/1A Cascade Conference, are joining up with schools from the Northwest Conference, such as Anacortes, to form a 12-team “super conference” for football only.

That would leave the conference’s four 1A schools — King’s, South Whidbey, Sultan and Cedar Park Christian-Bothell — on their own, at least for the biggest revenue sport.

Whether that could help prod South Whidbey to seek out a chance to rejoin Coupeville is unknown at this time.

If the 1A Olympic League were to expand (Forks has been frequently mentioned in the past, as well), the league could set itself up for more playoff berths in all sports.

Only time will tell, though.

Until then, it’s all just gossip. Juicy, juicy gossip to fill up the day.

To see the final, almost-official WIAA figures, pop over to:


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