Beginning this fall, Wesco will look quite different.
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association announced the state’s high school athletic classifications for the 2020-24 cycle Sunday night, and several local schools are on the move.
Longtime Class 4A members Cascade and Monroe are heading down to the 3A classification.
Mountlake Terrace, after spending the past four years in 2A, is returning to the 3A level.
Current Wesco 4A member Mount Vernon is dropping to 3A and has been accepted to join the Whatcom and Skagit county-based Northwest Conference this fall, according to Northwest District athletic director Robert Polk. Oak Harbor, a 3A school and longtime Wesco member, also is heading to the Northwest Conference.
All the shuffling will leave Wesco with just five schools at the 4A level, 14 schools in 3A and two schools in 2A.
Given the decrease in 4A members and the large number of 3A/2A members, Wesco officials and athletic directors are exploring various changes in division alignments for the league’s 21 schools.
“For decades, Wesco has been a leader in the formation of mixed classification leagues,” Wesco said Monday in a press release. “In recent years, Wesco has had enough schools in each classification to form separate divisions by classification. However, the newest configuration of schools and classifications leads the league back to mixing divisions in many sports.”
Wesco’s five remaining 4A schools are Glacier Peak, Jackson, Kamiak, Lake Stevens and Mariner.
The 14 3A members of Wesco will be Arlington, Cascade, Edmonds-Woodway, Everett, Lynnwood, Marysville Getchell, Marysville Pilchuck, Meadowdale, Monroe, Mountlake Terrace, Shorecrest, Shorewood, Snohomish and Stanwood. Ferndale, Mount Vernon and Oak Harbor will join the league for football only.
Archbishop Murphy and Cedarcrest will remain in Wesco as 2A members, Polk said. The two former Cascade Conference schools are in their second year as Wesco members for all sports except football, where they compete in the Northwest 2A league. As has long been the case, Archbishop Murphy is a 1A school that’s opting up to 2A.
The one sport Wesco has finalized division alignments for is football, which will include a three-division setup with a Wesco 4A, Wesco 3A North and Wesco 3A South.
Wesco 4A football will consist of the league’s five remaining 4A schools.
Wesco 3A North football will include Arlington, Ferndale, Marysville Getchell, Marysville Pilchuck, Mount Vernon, Oak Harbor and Stanwood. Squalicum, a Wesco 3A North football-only member for the past four years, successfully appealed to drop to 2A and will compete in the Northwest 2A football league.
Wesco 3A South football will consist of Edmonds-Woodway, Lynnwood, Meadowdale, Monroe, Mountlake Terrace, Shorecrest and Snohomish.
Cascade, Everett and Shorewood will play competitively balanced football schedules for the next two seasons in an effort to build their progams. Despite not being part of the three Wesco divisions, these three teams will still have an avenue to the postseason that’s yet to be determined.
“While not independent, as they are still playing many Wesco schools, the coaches and athletic directors of these schools feel they need the flexibility to schedule more similar opponents to grow their program(s),” Wesco said in the release.
A school’s classification is determined by its average enrollment for grades 9-11 as reported to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
The WIAA passed two major amendments last January that impacted classifications and went into effect for the 2020-24 cycle.
One amendment, in an effort to provide competitive balance for low-income schools, allowed schools to receive an enrollment drop based on how many percentage points their free-and-reduced-lunch rates are above the state average of 47%.
The other amendment instituted hard-line cutoff numbers for classifications, instead of the previous system that split the state’s member schools evenly among the six classifications.
Schools with adjusted average enrollments of 1,300 or more are considered 4A schools. The 3A range is 900-1,299, 2A is 450-899, 1A is 225-449 and 2B is 105-224. The 1B level is 104 or fewer.
Under the new system, the number of schools in each classification is unbalanced. There will be 51 schools in 4A, 79 in 3A, 62 in 2A, 60 in 1A, 61 in 2B and 85 in 1B. Because of the imbalances, some sports will have different-sized state tournaments for different classifications.
Schools can opt up to a higher classification, but Cascade and Monroe both chose to forgo that option.
Cascade has an adjusted average enrollment of 1,254.9, factoring in a 6% decrease because of its free-and-reduced-lunch rate. Of the 79 schools in 3A, that’s the eighth-highest adjusted average enrollment.
Cascade’s enrollment dropped to the 3A level for the 2016-20 classification cycle, but the Bruins opted up to remain in 4A for the past four years. This time, however, Cascade decided to compete at the level consistent with its enrollment.
Monroe, another longtime 4A school, dropped to 3A with an adjusted average enrollment of 1,177. That ranks 21st out of the 79 3A schools.
Mountlake Terrace is returning to 3A with an adjusted average enrollment of 1,011, which ranks 54th out of 79 schools in the classification. The Hawks competed in 3A from 2010 to 2016 before dropping to 2A for the past four years.
Marysville Pilchuck’s adjusted average enrollment dropped to the 2A range, but the Tomahawks opted up to remain a 3A school. Marysville Pilchuck’s adjusted average enrollment is 782.13, factoring in a 7% decrease from its free-and-reduced-lunch rate.
Marysville Pilchuck is one of 16 schools opting up to 3A, where the Tomahawks have competed since 2012-13. Marysville Pilchuck’s adjusted average enrollment ranks 67th out of the 79 3A schools.
Other local schools changing classifications are Coupeville and Darrington.
Coupeville, with an adjusted average enrollment of 206, is dropping from 1A to 2B. The current North Sound Conference member plans to join the Northwest 2B/1B League.
The other five members of the North Sound Conference — Cedar Park Christian, Granite Falls, King’s, Sultan and South Whidbey — are merging with the Emerald City League to form a new 1A league called the Emerald Sound Conference. The five current North Sound Conference schools plan to apply for a move from the Northwest District to the Sea-King District.
Darrington, a Northwest 2B/1B League member, is dropping from 2B to 1B. Darrington’s adjusted average enrollment of 102 is the highest in 1B. The Loggers successfully petitioned to compete at the 1B level in football for the past two seasons.