Classification changes await approval

Posted March 04, 2009, at 10:45 p.m.

There will be new Class D champions in high school boys and girls basketball next winter, if recommendations of the Maine Principals’ Association Classification Committee gain final approval this spring.

That’s because Woodland High School, which swept the Class D crowns at the Bangor Auditorium last Saturday, will move from Class D to Class C in basketball for at least the next two-year cycle — along with soccer, baseball, softball and cheering.

Woodland’s shift would be one of a modest number statewide under the reclassification process, which involves classifying schools according to enrollment every two years.

The Class D enrollment for basketball, soccer, baseball, softball and cheering for 2009-2011 is 199 and under. Woodland’s enrollment on the date used for reclassification — the April 1, 2008, state Department of Education survey — was 200.

“If we’re in Class C, that’s where we’ll play,” said Woodland boys basketball coach and athletic administrator Troy Cilley.

The change in classification will not involve a major change in scheduling for the Dragons. They have played several Class C teams during the season in recent years and that strength of schedule typically served the school well during Class D postseason plan.

“We play quite a few Class C schools now, and we’ve had some success,” said Cilley.

“It’s going to be mental more than anything else,” added Cilley. “If we can have the kind of regular season like we did this year, 11-7, we’ll still be in the hunt.”

Cilley, 1990 graduate of Woodland when the Dragons also played in Class C, expects the move up to be a short-term event, perhaps just two years until the next reclassification because of the steady decline of mill jobs that have been the economic bedrock of the Baileyville area for generations.

Proposed enrollment cutoffs for basketball, baseball, cheering, soccer and softball for Classes A, B and C for the next two years are the following: Class A: 725 or more; Class B: 400-724; and Class C: 200-399.

Other Eastern Maine schools that would change classes in those sports under the classification committee’s recommendations are: Nokomis of Newport and Leavitt of Turner Center from Class A to Class B; Erskine Academy of South China, Class B to Class A; Central of Corinth and Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft, Class B to Class C; Hodgdon, Limestone/Maine School of Science and Mathematics, and Woodland, Class D to Class C; and Schenck of East Millinocket, Class C to Class D.

Maranacook of Readfield, which already competes in WM “B” in several sports, would move from Eastern B to Western B in basketball next winter.

Nokomis has been in Class A since 1977. And while the school’s girls basketball teams won a Class A state championship in 2001 and a second EM crown in 2003, the boys basketball program has been an infrequent postseason participant.

“Competitively I think the change is great for us,” said Bill Brooks, who just finished his second year as the varsity coach at Nokomis and previously coached at Class B Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield. “Having five years of experience with a Class B program and looking at my program here, we’re a Class B program.”

The shift to Class B won’t necessarily translate into an immediate reversal of fortune for the Warriors, who have gone 16-92 over its last six years in Class A and haven’t qualified for postseason play since 2003.

“Year in and year out, we’ve been one of the smallest, if not the smallest, Class A schools in the state,” said Brooks. “Not that playing in Class B is going to be any easier, but right now we’d be the largest Class B school in the state, and that’s got to have some advantages.

“As far as my program goes, it gives us a better chance to play in Bangor.”

The MPA’s Classification Committee met three times before making its recommendations, which will be reviewed by the association’s March 19 Interscholastic Management Committee meeting and presented to the full MPA membership for a final vote at its spring Interscholastic Division Business Meeting on April 30.

Some of the more significant reclassification proposals would alter the landscape in volleyball and wrestling.

Volleyball would switch from a one-class, two-division alignment to separate Classes A and B based on enrollment.

Jeff Sturgis, assistant executive director of the MPA, said the reason for this switch is that while interscholastic volleyball in Maine originated among several Down East schools, it has expanded to 21 schools statewide, including many larger southern Maine schools such as perennial state champion Greely of Cumberland Center.

Class A in volleyball would feature 11 schools with an enrollment of 475 or more, with Class B for schools with an enrollment under 475. Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor and Ellsworth would compete in Class A, while Bucksport, Calais, Jonesport-Beals, Lubec, Machias, Narraguagus of Harrington, Sumner of East Sullivan and Washington Academy of East Machias would be among the Class B teams.

In wrestling, Bucksport, George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill, Calvary Chapel of Orrington and John Bapst of Bangor would move from Eastern C to Western C, while Gardiner and Morse of Bath would move from Eastern A to Western B and Medomak Valley of Waldoboro and Winslow would switch from East to West in Class B.

These changes result from the fact Western Maine has few wrestling teams in Classes B and C, meaning top teams in each of those classes are almost guaranteed to qualify all their wrestlers for the state meet, greatly enhancing their chances of winning a state title.

This season, for instance, just four full teams — Lisbon, Dirigo of Dixfield, Madison and Monmouth Academy — competed for the Western C championship, compared to approximately a dozen full teams in Eastern C.

As a result, the Western C regional required just 33 bouts to qualify wrestlers for the state meet, compared to 178 bouts required to qualify wrestlers from the Eastern C regional to the state meet.

The top four wrestlers from each of 14 weight classes qualify for the states, but in Western C there were three or fewer wrestlers in 11 of the 14 weight classes.

“The goal is to try to make things as equal as we can between East and West,” said Sturgis.

Other proposed classification changes involving Eastern Maine schools beginning with the 2009-10 school year include the following:

Cross country: Hampden Academy from Class A to Class B; Bucksport from Class B to Class C; Gardiner and Leavitt of Turner Center from Eastern B to Western B

Field hockey: Hampden Academy and Gardiner from Class A to Class B; John Bapst from Class C to Class B; Rockland from Class B to Class C

Golf: Camden Hills and Leavitt from Class A to Class B; Washington Academy from Class C to Class B; Central of Corinth, Houlton and Orono from Class B to Class C

Ice hockey: Brewer and Lawrence of Fairfield from Class A to Class B

Skiing: Camden Hills from Class A to Class B

Tennis: Gardiner and Morse from Class A to Class B; Foxcroft Academy from Class B to Class C

Outdoor track: MCI and Rockland from Class B to Class C

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