There’s going to be a bit of change coming Sumner School District athletics as both Sumner and Bonney Lake high schools will be joining new leagues next year.
After recent enrollment numbers were revealed, many schools have chosen to opt-up to the 4A classification. One of those schools was Sumner, which will move up as the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association projected its student body’s annual size to be 1,356.86.
“There were two kind of separate but connected processes going on for the last month or so,” district athletic director Tim Thompson said. “One was the reclassification at the WIAA level. The WIAA now requires that each of the top four classification (4A to 1A) should have an equal amount of schools in each classification. Bonney Lake came in, after it was all said and done, at the bottom in the 3A, and Sumner, when it was all said and done, was the fourth from the bottom in the 4A.”
There will be a new look to the South Puget Sound League as Puyallup, Rogers, Emerald Ridge, Graham-Kapowsin and Curtis will be joined by Sumner from 3A and 4A Narrows Bellarmine Prep, Olympia and South Kitsap.
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Due to the three Narrows League teams winning their appeal to join the league, both Bethel and Spanaway Lake rescinded their 4A opt-up and will be joining the 3A SPSL instead.
“(The fact) we’ve been pretty popular will have a lot to do with it. (There’s) an academic side of it,” Sumner High athletic director Jeff Baines said on the Spartans’ growth. “Some of the other things with athletics, with FFA and with band is that they draw for us. But now we kind of landed in the preliminary (numbers) that we might be looking 4A. Here’s where we are.”
After recent decline in enrollment numbers, Bonney Lake (971.72) just made the cutoff for the 3A classification. The Panthers will be a part of a new 3A SPSL as Bonney Lake, Lakes, Peninsula will be joined by Narrows teams Gig Harbor, Timberline, Yelm and SPSL’s Bethel and Spanaway Lake from the 4A. North Thurston will join from 3A Narrows.
“The mechanism that allowed a number of schools to opt-up … anytime a smaller school opt-ups to a bigger one, it drops the school at the bottom of that classification down,” Thompson said.
With no 2A schools choosing to opt-up, it left Bonney Lake safe as a 3A school, Thompson added.
Bonney Lake’s numbers might only be temporary as Thompson said with the recent present and future developments slated in the city, the school enrollment numbers should increase enough to maintain Bonney Lake’s 3A classification going forward.
With all the movement, the one of the main questions becomes whether or not both Sumner School District high schools can remain competitive in the sports landscape.
As of now, only speculations can be made on whether Sumner or Bonney Lake with go either way in competitiveness, but there is confidence that many of the teams will be alright.
“I think our kids are going to step up to that challenge and compete at a high level — and take it on with the same kind of attitude with that move up to 3A,” Baines said. “I don’t want to sound arrogant, but the character of our kids and the character of our coaches, I see them stepping up to the plate and giving all (the teams) in the division a run from their money.”
This question falls on Sumner more than it does for Bonney Lake. The Spartans are making their second opt-up since being in the 2A classification three years ago. Even though some of the programs will do just fine, others may take a hit for a few years as they adjust.
“I don’t know how it’s all going to play out, but there might be a few individual sports where we might not do as well as we have in the past. But in terms of are they going to compete and are they going to work hard, I really believe our kids are going to step up to the plate and give them all they got,” Baines said.
Bonney Lake staying as a 3A school means more of the same except now there will be big challenges with the teams joining their league.
“With teams like Gig Harbor or Yelm, travel will be an unique challenge for them (Bonney Lake). As far as staying competitive, other than football with Gig Harbor, I think the challenge will be even,” Thompson said. “But the football team showed they can handle themselves … it should be exciting.”
Projected enrollment numbers
South Puget Sound League, 2016-2020
4A: South Kitsap, 2,024.38; Puyallup, 1,903.33; Rogers, 1,743.09; Emerald Ridge, 1,543.55; Graham-Kapowsin, 1,486.09; Curtis, 1,450.75; Sumner, 1,395.16; Olympia, 1,356.86; Bellarmine Prep, 758.38.
3A: Timberline, 1,326.21; Yelm, 1,290; Spanaway Lake, 1,271.67; Bethel, 1,265.74; Gig Harbor, 1,227.44; North Thurston, 1,070.55; Lakes, 1,055.54; Peninsula, 1,030.44; Bonney Lake, 971.72.