Paul Valencia: Rankings only mean fun for fans

Commentary: Paul Valencia

By Paul Valencia, Columbian High School Sports Reporter

Published:

 

From the eyes of outsiders, Southwest Washington is looking like a winner this fall.

Of course, those of us who live here know we have it better than other parts of the state. We just don’t like to brag.

Still, it feels good when other people think highly of our region, too.

We already know that the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League is pretty strong in football. Other papers think so, too. Half the league has been or is ranked in the top 10 in one publication or another. Then there is a team that is 5-0, trying to break into those rankings.

Our region also is getting plenty of recognition in volleyball and soccer, too.

The Seattle Times has the Prairie Falcons No. 2 in its Class 3A volleyball rankings. No. 2? That’s nothing. The coaches can do that one better. The coaches association has Prairie No. 1.

Over in the 4A, the coaches have Camas at No. 4 and Skyview at No. 9.

In soccer, Union is No. 7 in the Seattle Times. Camas is No. 9. Columbia River, meanwhile, is No. 9 in Class 3A. We know from experience that any soccer team that gets to state from Southwest Washington can make a long run in the playoffs.

Even if the rankings mean little, or nothing, it still feels good for our athletes to see that others have a high opinion of their programs.

If The Columbian says Camas is good, or Prairie is good, or Skyview is good, yeah, it’s cool. But around here, that’s like a child getting praised by her mother. Nice to hear, but not surprising.

However, when the Seattle Times or a panel of statewide coaches says Camas, Prairie, Skyview or whoever around here is good, that’s like getting a compliment, out of the blue, from a stranger. A little more gratifying.

The rankings also are a lot of fun for the readers. Fans love them, which is why we run them in our paper and in our blog. Society, in general, loves to rank things.

With that said, here is a big asterisk regarding the Washington’s high school sports rankings: They’re fun, but they are meaningless in terms of making it to the postseason or winning a title.

In some states, in some sports, ranking systems are used to determine seeding for the postseason. So a ranking could help a team with its march through the bracket as, theoretically, the best teams would play the weaker teams in the opening rounds of the playoffs.

That does not happen in Washington. Not saying it should; just saying don’t view rankings for anything more than they are: Recognition for hard work and victories up to the point when the particular poll was taken or ranking established.

Last year in October, Richland was ranked No. 1 in Class 4A state volleyball. Skyview was No. 2. Neither team made it to the state tournament. Yes, the top two-ranked teams failed to reach the Sweet 16.

The same poll had Camas No. 2 in 3A and Prairie No. 8. Both teams reached state, Prairie finished fifth and Camas did not place. By the way, Mount Spokane, which was ranked first, finished fourth.

There also is coaches poll for cross country. Last year, Prairie was No. 5 and Camas was No. 6 at one point. Camas ended up winning the state championship. Prairie, by the way, did finish fifth, a rare perfect placing for the poll.

We’ll keep publishing the polls. Readers will keep clicking on the polls. Fans will keep discussing the polls.

Just remember, by the end of the season, there is no poll to determine anything. The championships are all taken care of on the football field, the volleyball court, the soccer pitch, the running trails.

Getting some recognition along the way is great. Especially when the recognition is heading toward Clark County.

We know we have a bunch of winners around here. The polls suggest the word is spreading.

Paul Valencia covers high school sports for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4557 or e-mail at paul.valencia@columbian.com

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