Nine-year-old Fossil Ridge High School is widening the athletic gap with Fort Collins’ original high school, thanks to ever-growing enrollment driven largely by kids from outside Fossil Ridge’s traditional neighborhood boundary.
In the past two years, Fort Collins High School has lost nearly 200 students. The school now has an estimated 1,486 students. Fossil Ridge, meanwhile, has gained nearly 200 students, up to 2,135.
Now, Fort Collins’ football team is looking at moving down to Class 4A next season, having slid under the 1,610-student threshold long ago. If the Lambkins lose just 18 more students, that will be an option for every sport.
This season, thanks in part to lackluster enrollment numbers, the Fort Collins football team has about 60 members. Fossil Ridge’s football team has 110.
Fort Collins football coach Eric Rice couldn’t immediately be reached for comment as to why the Lambkins’ numbers are nearly half as much as Fossil Ridge.
Principals of Poudre High School, Fort Collins and Rocky Mountain all said school of choice is a give-and-take affair, with schools sending kids from their boundaries to other schools and taking in schools from outside their boundaries.
If school of choice was a game, Fossil Ridge would certainly be winning.
From 2011-2012, Fort Collins, Poudre and Rocky Mountain all lost students. Fossil Ridge had a gain of 5.8 percent, while Fort Collins had a loss of 5.8 percent.
Looking at 2013’s estimated enrollment at the four Class 5A high schools, Fort Collins is again set to lose students. This time, the Lambkins’ enrollment has fallen by 4.3 percent. The SaberCats’ enrollment numbers jumped again, this time by 3.2 percent.
Fort Collins athletic director Rob Larson declined to comment on reasons why he believed there was such a disparity in enrollment between Fossil Ridge and Fort Collins.
Poudre and Rocky Mountain’s enrollment numbers have stayed relatively static. Poudre School District and the local high schools couldn’t provide numbers for how many kids within Fort Collins High Schools’ traditional boundaries choice in to Fossil Ridge. But because of their close proxomity on the southeast side of the city, it’s reasonable that Fossil is drawing students who are in the Fort Collins High School boundary.
Fossil Ridge, which has grown by about 50 percent in the past four years, has had more athletic success than ever during that growth. The SaberCats held a clear edge over the other city schools last year, scoring the best finish in 11 of 18 sports the four Class 5A sports share.
There were notable victories for Fort Collins. The football team won a league title. The girls’ basketball team went to the Sweet 16, and both boys and girls cross country and track and field teams topped Fossil Ridge at the state championships.
. Those notable victories might get fewer and farther between as Fossil Ridge continues to grow and Fort Collins continues to shrink
Four years ago, when Fossil Ridge athletic director Ken Denning first started with the SaberCats, he estimates enrollment was below 1,450.
That makes for 47 percent growth in four years. Denning said he didn’t know what the school’s capacity was, but joked the SaberCats might have to look at adding another building.
Part of the growth can be attributed to the southeast corner of the city seeing the most growth in th city.
Another, big part, is the appeal Fossil Ridge has to folks within other high schools’ boundaries. Based on data from March, Fossil Ridge has the highest number of choice students among area high schools, with 28.6 percent of its student body from outside of the Fossil Ridge boundary.
Fort Collins, which resides in the second-newest building among high schools in the city, sits second in choice students with 25.49 percent of its student body coming from outside of the traditional Fort Collins boundary.
Fair is fair
There might be four 5A high schools in Fort Collins (for now), but there’s no rivalry fiercer presently than the Fort Collins-Fossil Ridge bedlam.
It extends to all sports, former Lambkins standout soccer and basketball player Katy Couperus said during a phone interview. Couperus, who is a starting midfielder for the University of Cincinnati’s women’s soccer team, said she and her teammates always wanted to beat Fossil Ridge.
“I would say Collins and Fossil definitely have more of a rivalry than the other schools,” said Couperus, who happens to room with former Fossil Ridge soccer standout Taylor Nelson at Cincinnati.
Fossil Ridge’s Nicole Thompson, a regular at the 5A girls golf state championship whose neighborhood school is the SaberCats, said she has “lots” of friends who choiced in to Fossil Ridge. Some transfer to be with friends and some for sports.
“Swimming is really big at Fossil Ridge, so a lot of girls swimmers (from Fort Collins) would come to Fossil Ridge,” Thompson said.
If not for one Missy Franklin and Regis Jesuit, the Fossil Ridge girls swimming team would have won the state championship, further distancing the school from its city rivals.
Couperus said the kids she knew who choiced out of Fort Collins High School did so to attend Fossil Ridge.
“A lot of it was that friends were there,” Couperus said.