Things are going to look a lot different next year.
Bethel and Spanaway Lake high schools waited until almost the last minute to decide to head to the 3A classification starting in the 2016-17 school year.
Bethel’s and Spanaway Lake’s athletic directors on Wednesday informed their school’s coaches of the decision just hours ahead of the statewide opt-up deadline set by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association. The deadline was close of business Wednesday.
“With the changes that had occurred with the South Puget Sound League, we felt it would be a better competitive situation for us to explore 3A,” Bethel athletic director Alan Barnes said.
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Both schools were set to opt up to the 4A classification, where they compete in the 4A South Puget Sound League. But even without them, there are still 22 schools across the state that declared they would opt up to 4A, according to an enrollment spreadsheet (grades 9-11) that was distributed to athletic directors and obtained by The News Tribune.
Bethel School District athletic director Bryan Streleski said the schools intend to compete in the 3A SPSL, and the decision came days after the West Central District granted the appeals of Bellarmine Prep, Olympia and South Kitsap to join the 4A SPSL.
Streleski said those additions were strong factors in keeping Bethel and Spanaway Lake in 3A instead of opting up to 4A.
“We really wanted to play in the SPSL 4A and have all three of our Bethel schools (Graham-Kapowsin being the other) together,” Streleski said. “But after Monday’s decision to have Bellarmine, South Kitsap and Olympia play in that league and you add the travel … it did come down to (Wednesday).
“We’ll still have to go to Peninsula and Gig Harbor and North Thurston but at least now we’re going to be playing same-size schools.”
That leaves the projected new-look 4A SPSL with nine schools: Bellarmine Prep, Curtis, Emerald Ridge, Graham-Kapowsin, Olympia, Rogers, Puyallup, South Kitsap and Sumner.
And that bumps the very new-look 3A SPSL to nine schools: Bethel, Bonney Lake, Lakes, Gig Harbor, North Thurston, Peninsula, Spanaway Lake, Timberline and Yelm.
Of the 22 4A opt-ups, 12 are projected to be playing in the proposed return of the 4A North Puget Sound League in the fall. Hazen and Enumclaw (which would have been the second-smallest 3A school in front of Bonney Lake) declared their opt-ups to 4A in the past two days and will join the NPSL.
They will compete alongside Thomas Jefferson, Todd Beamer, Mount Rainier, Auburn, Auburn Riverside, Auburn Mountainview, Federal Way, Kentlake, Decatur and Kennedy Catholic as 3A schools playing as 4A in the NPSL. The only 4A schools would be Kent-Meridian, Kentridge, Kentwood and Tahoma.
Four of the five Tacoma public schools are slotted in 3A — Lincoln, Mount Tahoma, Stadium and Wilson. Stadium is moving down from 4A and Foss is headed to 2A.
Tacoma Baptist currently competes in the 2B Pacific, but is slotted to drop down to 1B next year.
Eatonville will move up from 1A to 2A. It currently competes in the 1A Evergreen, but has been accepted to the 2A SPSL — as has Foss.