The high school sports divisional rollercoaster will throw Blaine for another loop next year, as the Borderites move back to class 2A after two years in the smaller 1A division.
With the threshold inching under Blaine’s current student enrollment of 474, athletics teams will be thrust into a world of stiffer competition against larger schools beginning next fall.
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association is expected to approve the enrollment numbers at an executive board meeting January 27. Since the reclassification occurs every two years, the changes will affect sports seasons from 2014 through spring of 2016.
The move doesn’t bode well for Blaine’s future playoff hopes, said athletic coordinator Steve Miller.
“We were 10 students away from making 1A, and we’ll be the second smallest school in 2A,” he said. “It’s going to make the post-season especially difficult for most sports.”
The only 2A school smaller than Blaine will be Woodland, with an enrollment of 472. Blaine will face schools such as Squalicum, which has 953 students. The largest 2A school, Hudson’s Bay, has 982.
“That’s a huge disparity in the size of schools,” Miller said. “If you look at some of the bigger divisions, the difference between 2,000 and 3,000 students isn’t as major a factor because you still have a large talent pool to draw on, but we’ll be facing schools more than twice our size.”
Blaine was the only Whatcom County school to be shifted in the reclassification. Mount Baker, with 417 students, will remain one of the largest schools in 1A, while Ferndale will still be one of the smallest schools in 3A with 1,045 students. Nooksack Valley, Meridian and Lynden will stack up somewhere in the middle of 1A.
So far, Blaine has fared well in 1A competition against schools like Mount Baker, Nooksack Valley, Lynden Christian and Meridian. The girls basketball team advanced to the regional round of the state tournament last year and the football team made the first round of the state playoffs last fall.
The boys wrestling team placed eighth out of 53 1A teams last winter, and the boys cross country team placed eighth at the 2012 state meet.
“A lot of our teams made playoffs, although in our conference almost everyone goes, so it’s a little watered down,” Miller said.
Continuing that success, especially in the post-season, will not be easy for many of Blaine’s athletic teams once the school is moved to 2A.
“You look at girls soccer as an example: they’ll be facing Bellingham, Sehome and Squalicum. They have big programs and most of their girls play for the [Whatcom FC] Rangers [a highly competitive travel team], so just making it to district will be a major challenge,” he said.
Don’t count the Borderites out just yet, however. Despite the challenges, Miller said Blaine will continue to field the best teams it can in all sports, and many programs still have a good chance of success.
“It is what it is,” Miller said. “We’ve done well in track in the past when we were in 2A. Our football program is good enough to make a post-season bid, and the same goes for wrestling, girls basketball and a few other sports.
It’s possible for any of our teams, but it takes a good rollover from the previous year and hard work.”