Potential changes to SPSL 4A North division may be coming

With Auburn School District’s recent declaration that two of its high schools will drop from 4A to 3A in the South Puget Sound League, officials who run the SPSL 4A are considering options.


With Auburn School District’s recent declaration that two of its high schools will drop from 4A to 3A in the South Puget Sound League, officials who run the SPSL 4A are considering options.

Tahoma, Kentwood and Kentlake — as well as Kent-Meridian and Kentridge — are all members of the SPSL 4A North, which currently has nine members as does the South division which includes Federal Way and Puyallup.

Dave Lutes, the athletic director for the Kent School District, wrote in an email interview that the implications of a potential move of two SPSL 4A North members to the SPSL 3A, which is much smaller by comparison, are the subject of preliminary discussions among the league’s athletic directors.

“First, the final classification numbers won’t be determined until after the second opportunity for schools to declare any opt up intentions with WIAA before Jan. 7,” Lutes wrote. “Any school opting up, drops the lowest 4A into the 3A classification. After Jan. 7 schools will be locked into their enrollment number and corresponding classification.”

Lutes explained that what they do know is that Auburn and Auburn Riverside enrollment numbers are in the 3A classification realm and district officials do not plan to request an opt-up to 4A. Meanwhile, Decatur, Federal Way, Bethel and Kentlake — all members of the SPSL 4A — plan to request to opt up despite numbers that would allow those schools to drop down to 3A which would leave the SPSL 4A with 17 schools, down one from the current total of 18.

“Our main discussion is formatting 17 schools into two divisions that maintain multi-high school relationships and maintains a reasonable geographic grouping,” Lutes wrote. “Ten teams to the North — Kent’s, Federal Ways’, Tahoma, Mount Rainier — and seven teams to the South division is being studied respectively for every sport offered to determine the pros and cons of scheduling both division and non-division opportunities and playoff entry determinations.”

Still, Lutes noted, the considerations now are preliminary because it is possible that school officials could change their minds about opting up or dropping down as well as the possibility of other schools currently outside the SPSL 4A requesting membership due to changing circumstances which would affect their specific situations.

After the Washington State Interscholastic Activities Association’s reclassification numbers for 2014-2016 two weeks ago, Auburn School District officials told the Auburn Reporter it is likely that Auburn and Auburn Riverside high schools will likely move from the largest school classification for sports to the classification a step below starting in the fall of 2014.

The two schools would join Auburn Mountainview which competes in Class 3A.

“We’re preparing to be a 3A district,” Auburn School District Athletic Director Rob Swaim told the Auburn Reporter. “Our goal is to be together, that’s the big piece. We want to have all the schools together and grow those district rivalries.”

Preliminary numbers show Auburn and Auburn Riverside’s enrollment at 1,080 and 1,200, respectively. The cutoff enrollment number for each of the state’s six classifications won’t be officially determined until the Jan. 27-28 WIAA executive board meeting. Every two years the WIAA reclassifies the state’s schools, with 66 schools allotted each for the 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A classes, with 63 schools apiece slated the 2B and 1B, this go around.

Once classified, schools can choose to opt up to a higher class, which Auburn did in 2010, moving up from the 3A. Each school that opts up bumps the lowest enrollment school in that classification down to the next classification. Schools have until Jan. 7 to opt up. Once the classifications are finalized, schools have the option to join existing leagues or form new leagues.

According to Swaim, that leaves the possibility open for a SPSL 3A league featuring all three Auburn schools, as well as Sumner, Bonney Lake and Enumclaw, among others.

“We want to compete with our neighbors Sumner, Enumclaw and Bonney Lake,” Swaim told the Auburn Reporter. “Hopefully, we’ll also be able to play nonleague games still and keep those old rivalries alive also, like the Taylor Trophy (contested annually by Kent-Meridian and Auburn).”