The Class 3A Narrows League will not exist beginning with the 2016-17 school year.
Neither will the 3A South Puget Sound League.
West Central District 3 athletic directors and administrators from the 16 Class 3A schools — including Capital, which was accepted to Southwest District 4 in January — settled on creating two new 3A leagues within the district at a meeting Tuesday in Tacoma.
“They figured it out, that’s all we wanted,” WCD director Shelly Thiel said. “That’s all our appeals board and our board wanted. It’s done.”
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One league, which has yet to be named, will include five area schools — Capital, North Thurston, Peninsula, Shelton and Yelm — and Central Kitsap, Gig Harbor and Peninsula.
Peninsula will be the only team joining this league that was previously a member of the 3A SPSL. Capital, Central Kitsap, North Thurston and Shelton all currently compete in the 3A Narrows. Gig Harbor, Timberline and Yelm are members of the 4A Narrows, and will reclassify to 3A for the 2016-20 Washington Interscholastic Activities Association classification cycle.
“This scenario is one of the best ones we could hope for,” Olympia School District athletic director Jeff Carpenter said. “It worked out really well for Capital, and, I think, for all of the other schools involved. … It’s regionalized as much as you could do it.”
Capital intended to join the 3A Greater St. Helens League before Tuesday’s meeting. The GSHL is made up mostly of schools in the Vancouver area. Carpenter said Capital backed out of that decision after the WCD leagues were finalized, and Capital will remain in the WCD.
At a meeting with Capital parents last week, Carpenter said he was concerned Tacoma schools could drop to Class 2A in two years. Tacoma School District athletic director Sam Reed denied that charge last week saying Tacoma schools enrollments were actually up.
“We called them after the situation was resolved up in Tacoma,” Carpenter said. “(I said) that we had decided to stay up in West Central District 3, and thanked them for everything they’d done with us, and inviting us.”
The second league, which will be named the Pierce County League, will include four Tacoma schools — Lincoln, Mt. Tahoma, Stadium and Wilson — and Bethel, Bonney Lake, Spanaway Lake and Lakes.
All four Tacoma schools are current members of the Narrows League — Stadium will drop from 4A beginning in the fall — while Bethel, Bonney Lake, Spanaway Lake and Lakes are current members of the SPSL. Bethel and Spanaway Lake will reclassify from 4A for the new classification cycle.
“The main filter was what’s in the best interest of the kids,” North Thurston School District athletic director Rich Yelenich said. “I was really pleased, and I commend the group of ADs that were there, and the leadership that was there. We achieved the goal, and it was a pretty clean process.”
Travel and lack of sub-varsity competition were primary concerns for area schools.
“Depth of program was a concern of ours,” Shelton athletic director Jim Judson said. “It’s nice to know that the schools that will make up our league all have similar depth of program and we see that as a real asset for development of student athletes and the development of our programs from the lowest level through varsity.”
Extra trips across the Narrows Bridge were a minor factor, as Timberline and Yelm already travel to Gig Harbor and South Kitsap, while Capital, North Thurston and Shelton travel to Central Kitsap.
Carpenter, Judson and Yelenich said additional trips to Gig Harbor and Peninsula would not be an issue.
“When we’re heading across the bridge, when we’re going west, it’s not a rush hour time,” Yelenich said. “And when we’re coming home, it’s not a rush hour time, so that kind of works out.”
So what’s left? Deciding on a name.
That’ll likely be done at the first meeting of the new league on Tuesday. With four counties involved (Kitsap, Mason, Pierce and Thurston), Judson joked the Four-County League could be an option. He said he’s asked coaches for ideas.
“It’s nice that we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel here, and it’s shining quite bright,” Judson said.
Class 3A West Central District leagues for 2016-2020
Pierce County League