Gig Harbor High School’s transition to the Class 3A South Puget Sound League is nearly complete, although not yet official.
Gig Harbor has been accepted into the league and has agreed to join the league under the current proposed format, which would include Peninsula, Lakes, Bonney Lake, Enumclaw, Gig Harbor, North Thurston, Timberline and Yelm. Bethel and Spanaway Lake could potentially also be added to make it a 10-team league, which would likely include two subdivisions.
But other schools, such as Central Kitsap, Mount Tahoma, Stadium and Foss, had their applications rejected by the SPSL and are currently appealing those decisions. If a shakeup occurs, Gig Harbor could reevaluate its options once again, potentially opting up to the Class 4A South Puget Sound League.
“We’re 85 percent of the way there,” Gig Harbor High School athletic director Bob Werner said. “There are certain structures in the SPSL 3A that would not be attractive and are still in play. We still have the opportunity to opt up. But right now, the way the league structure is, yes. That’s the way we’re going.”
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Werner said the most important thing to Gig Harbor High School is to compete against schools that field full programs, from the C-team through varsity.
“It becomes a very poor situation if half the schools can’t field a C-team,” Werner said. “We want to avoid that. Right now, the way they accepted us, it’s a great match for us. We want to have a consistent schedule and have enough teams to be viable.”
While opting up to Class 4A is still an option, Werner is basing the likely move to 3A off enrollment projection numbers for the next 12 to 16 years. Gig Harbor’s numbers are dropping, and school officials aren’t expecting to see an increase within that time frame.
“It’s a big drop starting next year,” Werner said. “The question is, ‘What’s the viability?’ Looking at schools with eight-year cycles that opt up, the success level has been mediocre. Over time, those numbers just catch up. The only schools that works for are private schools.”
Another big factor is joining crosstown rival Peninsula High School, the Peninsula School District’s only other high school, in the same league.
“I know it scares some people, dealing with crowd control,” Werner said. “The kids are great; I think it’s the parents that can get out of hand. But I look at it: We would be the only two-high-school-district in Washington that would have two schools in same classification playing in different leagues. There’s not one other example. I think it’ll be a special thing.”
The last big factor is cost. With Peninsula automatically scheduled across all sports, it eliminates a bit of travel.
“We’ll be playing each other instead of traveling,” Werner said. “It’s two trips you won’t be taking to other schools.”
An official decision is expected to come soon, although the timetable is a bit unclear due to the sheer number of appeals, and multiple levels of the appeal process.