EAGLE COUNTY — The wheels of change grind at a glacial pace for CHSAA, but grind they do.
Before high school sports kick off on Monday, the state’s athletic directors are meeting down on the Front Range for the CHSAA All-School Summit this week, and there might be some changes coming to classification numbers.
These numbers have not changed in nearly 20 years and wouldn’t go into effect until the fall of 2016 — as we said, CHSAA is never in a hurry. (Seriously, the state has changed tremendously in 20 years, and the Colorado’s high-school sports governing organization really needed to address it, say, 10 years ago, but there’s a reason we describe the wheels as glacial.)
For the past two decades, a school has been classified as 4A for what would be the traditional high school sports that are not football by having a student body of 601-1,410. (This does not apply to hockey, skiing and lacrosse, which are one-division sports, except for boys lax.) Thus, Battle Mountain (794, as of count day on Oct. 1, 2013) and Eagle Valley (711) are 4A schools, while Vail Christian (110) and Vail Mountain (113) are 2A (92-240).
Recently, CHSAA readjusted the numbers for wrestling, and it seems the dam has been broken. (Eagle Valley wrestling is now 3A, while Battle Mountain is just agonizingly over the 3A-4A cut line.) On Thursday, CHSAA floated a plan with different numbers for different sports — a novel concept.
And there would be a big difference for some local sports teams:
In the spring of 2016, Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley would move to 3A, even accounting for some growth at both schools. On the diamond, 3A would be 368-876.
Baseball is simply different for mountain teams like the Devils and Huskies. Though Eagle Valley has competed well in the playoff chase, even in Gypsum, spring comes more slowly to the high country.
The Devils do well with teams in similar weather situations in the 4A Slope like Summit, Glenwood Springs, Steamboat and, well, Battle Mountain, the latter being in an even more difficult climate situation.
However, Eagle Valley baseball runs into a wall when facing lower-elevated opponents like Rifle, Delta and Palisade.
Under this proposal, Rifle (720) and Delta (626) would still likely be in a 3A Slope, but Palisade (1,053) is out. Meanwhile, Aspen (555), Basalt (373) and Coal Ridge (547), all schools to which snow at baseball practice is no stranger, are likely candidates.
It’s not hard to see Eagle Valley vying for a playoff spot in a league with Rifle, Delta, Glenwood (797), Summit (770), Steamboat (645), Aspen, Basalt and Coal Ridge. It’s hard to see the Huskies competing for a playoff spot immediately, but they would be competitive with Aspen, Basalt and Coal Ridge.
If this proposal goes through, then Eagle Valley’s runners drop to 3A, not that the Devils haven’t been doing quite well as far as qualifying for state in 4A.
The drama here would be where Battle Mountain goes. Class 4A would start at 815, and the Huskies would likely be on the bubble here. Battle Mountain is and will be fine at 4A, but don’t be surprised to see the school’s running coach, Rob Parish, stuffing students in closets on count day on Oct. 1, 2015.
No good news here. The boys will have 5A and 4A classes, but girls lacrosse remains one 45-team division. That probably means that the Mountain Conference, lax’s Western Slope equivalent, will only send its champion to the postseason until it starts winning in the playoffs.
This is a whopper — in a good way — for Battle Mountain. The Huskies would become a 3A team because the class is now 396-883. Battle Mountain soccer coach David Cope is vacationing in Hawaii right now, but just spit out the pineapple he was eating.
Battle Mountain’s won the 4A Slope two years running. While past performance does not guarantee future results, the new numbers take out a lot of the players that have been in the Huskies’ way to a state title, say, like Evergreen (1,009) Golden (1,289) or Niwot (1,311).
Valor Christian (847) will be on the bubble, but this is intriguing. A reminder, everyone — this proposal is for the 2016-17 seasons, so no drooling yet.
And remember that 2A soccer is starting up this spring. While VMS and Vail Christian will probably still be playing Aspen and Coal Ridge during the regular season because of geographical convenience, the Gore Rangers and Saints won’t be competing for a playoff spot with the Skiers and Titans.
Taking this further, do Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley, Vail Mountain and Vail Christian all end up in a 3A Slope? Part of me is nostalgic because when I started at the Vail Daily, the Huskies, Devils and Bandonis, er, Gore Rangers were playing one another twice a year.
Track and field
Class 4A would start at 723, so Battle Mountain would stay put where they are.
Eagle Valley is at 711 for this cycle, which probably means, with a usual amount of growth, will join the Huskies. Since both schools have been quite good in the 4A Slope the past few years, that shouldn’t be an issue.
However, don’t be surprised if Devils coach Jeff Shroll makes sure a few kids don’t show up for school on count day.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.