Hudson's Bay dropping to 2A for next sports season

Columbia River will remain in 3A GSHL, but league reduced to four schools

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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Vancouver Public Schools officials confirmed Monday evening that the Hudson's Bay Eagles expect to compete in Class 2A next school year for Washington Interscholastic Activities Association sports.

"These are the final numbers," said Mick Hoffman, the athletic director for Vancouver schools.

Hudson's Bay came in as the largest 2A school in the state and chose not to opt-up to remain in 3A.

"They're going to stay at 2A," Hoffman said. "They declared today."

Columbia River also had 2A numbers, but as expected, the Chieftains opted up to remain in the 3A Greater St. Helens League.

The WIAA released initial enrollment numbers for reclassification in November and revised numbers in December. Schools had until Monday to declare to opt up. With the number of schools that did opt up, the numbers changed in each classification. That brought Hudson's Bay down to the 2A ranks.

Stoney Myers, the athletic director at Hudson's Bay, said he did not think the Eagles were going to be in the 2A ranks after the first numbers were released. He got a call the day before the holiday break informing him that it was possible. He then spoke to his coaches, to get their input on what the Eagles should do if they were, indeed, in the 2A ranks.

"The decision was definitely the right decision for our building," Myers said. "That's where the majority of the coaches wanted to be."

He added there were some who wanted to opt up to 3A, but those coaches told Myers that if it was beneficial to Bay's athletic program in general, they would support the move to 2A.

Hoffman stressed that the numbers released this week are final, but schools do have the opportunity to appeal. Reclassification will not be official until the WIAA's executive board meets and accepts the numbers later this month. He did not see any reason why Hudson's Bay would not be a 2A team, though.

Hudson's Bay came in with an enrollment count of 982 students. Fort Vancouver, with 1,020 students, was the second-to-last school to remain at the 3A ranks.

Mountain View, as had already been reported, is moving from 3A to 4A. That will make for a seven-team 4A Greater St. Helens League — Battle Ground, Camas, Evergreen, Heritage, Mountain View, Skyview, and Union.

It also will mean the 3A GSHL will be left with four teams — Columbia River, Fort Vancouver, Kelso, and Prairie.

"We'll need to find a way to take care of those four 3A teams," Hoffman said. "We don't want to play each other four times in basketball or baseball, and we don't want to play each other two times in football. We need to get creative and take care of the schedules."

The athletic directors in each league will be working on those details in the coming weeks.

"There are a lot of unknowns," Hoffman said.

Another change involving Southwest Washington schools is Woodland appears headed to a return to 2A after spending two seasons as a 1A program. The Beavers are the smallest 2A team in the state, with an enrollment number of 472 — some 510 students smaller than Hudson's Bay.

There could be 13 or more teams in Class 2A's WIAA District 4, with two leagues. That could lead to more allocations to state competition, another reason Hudson's Bay did not opt up, Myers said.

Hoffman and Myers also wanted to make clear that moving to 2A will not necessarily make the Eagles more competitive right away in all sports. The top 2A programs are competitive with many 3A and some 4A programs.

But there should be benefits in the long run, they said.

"The difference we anticipate in seeing is the sub-varsity levels should be more competitive," Hoffman said.

If junior varsity and freshmen athletes have more success early, perhaps they will stick with the sports throughout high school.

"Our hope is our younger teams will find more success and stay in the program and in time will help the varsity improve," Hoffman said.

The WIAA goes through reclassification every two years while at times modifying the way it counts enrollment numbers.

This year, students at alternative schools were not counted. Hoffman said he believes that led to Bay's numbers falling close to the boundary, and with the number of opt-ups, the Eagles were in the 2A numbers.

"Hudson's Bay decided to play at where their numbers came in," Hoffman said. "There were more positives to that than negatives."