By the end of January, the 2A Evergreen Conference could look drastically different for the next two years.
First off, Lacey’s River Ridge High School is exploring its options, and submitted an application to join the 2A South Puget Sound League (SPSL) last month around the time the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association released its initial enrollment numbers for the upcoming 2014-’16 reclassification cycle.
River Ridge has been a member of the 2A Evergreen Conference since the league was formed in 2006.
Rich Yelenich, athletic director for North Thurston Public Schools, and River Ridge AD Gary Larson are quick to point out nothing is finalized until January, and did not rule out staying in the EvCo. The WIAA’s final deadline for schools to opt-up is Jan. 7, which is all lines drawn will be set, and further conversations with schools and leagues will take place.
“It’s an application, not a commitment,” Yelenich said about River Ridge's application into the SPSL 2A. “We’ll make a decision at that point to proceed or just stay where we’re at.”
The 2A SPSL is a Pierce County-based league featuring Fife, Steilacoom, Orting, White River, Clover Park, Washington, Franklin Pierce and Sumner. Sumner, however, was been reclassified as a Class 3A school.
Larson, also president of the EvCo, cited some factors for why River Ridge is looking up north, including the current uncertainty of the EvCo, and putting Lacey's only 2A school into the West Central District III, to join its district rivals North Thurston and Timberline.
The SPSL 2A is in WCD III; the EvCo is a member of Southwest District IV.
Earlier this fall, Lewis County schools Centralia and W.F. West expressed their concerns of a possible 3A/2A multi-classification league. While Capital’s numbers show it departing the EvCo for Class 3A, likely re-joining the 3A Narrows or the SPSL 3A, Tumwater’s enrollment numbers were close on 3A levels, too, but at 934 students in grades 9-11, the school is projected to be the sixth-largest 2A school.
“Lots of things happened we did not expect,” Larson said.
It’s also unclear what Aberdeen’s participation level in the EvCo will be. In 2011, the Grays Harbor school left the EvCo in football only while remaining on board in other sports.
New to the 2A ranks will be Rochester, climbing up from 1A with 480 students in grades 9-11, but Larson said the school has not applied to join the EvCo, leaving the option open to joining another league.
With the departure of Rochester to 2A and Rainier down to 2B (198 students), the 1A Southwest Washington Evergreen Division currently has five 1A schools: Tenino, Montesano, Hoquiam, Elma, and Forks.
Talk also has floated around of a 2A/1A multi-classification league with Aberdeen, Rochester and the five remaining 1A SWW Evergreen schools, as well as a 10-team 2A league with the EvCo and GSHL, should recently-dropped-down Columbia River stay 2A.
The EvCo athletic directors are scheduled to meet Jan. 7 -- the same day as the WIAA's deadline for schools to opt-up -- in which after that, a clearer picture of the next two years will be established.
"We'll all go sit down and meet and slice this pie of who is going to land where," Larson said.