New classification alignments from the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) place Ballard, Garfield, and Roosevelt High Schools in the Metro 3A League, rekindling cross-town rivalries and saving transportation costs with fewer games on the Eastside.
However, there is a concern that experience playing against more competitive schools in KingCo 4A, might give Ballard, Garfield, and Roosevelt an advantage over smaller schools in the Metro League.
“Those schools have been playing larger schools and now that they are coming back into Metro, there’s the concern about being able to compete with [smaller schools],” said Mike Colbrese, executive director of the WIAA.
Eric McCurdy, Seattle Public Schools athletic director, acknowledged Ballard, Garfield, and Roosevelt have experience competing against powerhouses, such as Bothell and Issaquah, but pointed out that the Metro League also has some competitive teams.
“I think [Ballard, Garfield, and Roosevelt] learned a lot from a competitive standpoint,” McCurdy said. “They have some skills and experience, but in the Metro League, you also have O’Dea and Eastside Catholic. Those teams are hard to overcome.”
Last year, O’Dea’s football record was 12-1, and the team played against Eastside Catholic in the State Semifinals. Eastside Catholic’s football team (11-3) lost to Bellevue in last year’s State Championship game 52-20.
Kyree Mcghee, a senior fullback and outside linebacker at Garfield, said their team was at a bigger disadvantage, because they were switching leagues.
“We’re going against teams we haven’t played against, and we haven’t seen tapes of them play,” Mcghee said.
McCurdy said there was little change to the three divisions within the Metro League — Ballard will join the Valley Division along with Ingraham, Nathan Hale, Franklin, and Chief Sealth, and Garfield and Roosevelt will join the Sound Division along with Cleveland, West Seattle, and Rainier Beach. The Mountain Division remains mainly private schools, with the exception of Bainbridge.
The schools are realigned into divisions and leagues every two years, but the school enrollment data used to classify the leagues will not be updated until 2018, according to the WIAA.
“We’re 17 schools strong; we’re very excited about the league,” said McCurdy. “We’re trying to move forward with the league and be as productive as we can.”
Another change within the Metro League includes splitting the swimming season between fall and winter to create a boys team and a girls team. Also, not all schools at the 3A level have JV teams for all sports, so JV teams at Ballard, Garfield and Roosevelt may still be traveling to the Eastside to play games against KingCo schools.
This means schools will still spend money on transportation for JV teams, but costs would be greatly reduced for Varsity teams.
“There’s a big financial stink in transportation to go by bus,” said Melissa Leonard, president of the Ballard High School Boosters Club. “It’s an issue if you don’t have money for transportation, so parents have to be asked to carpool, and you’re asking them to leave work to accomodate.”
Feedback from the three schools has been positive with students and coaches excited to rekindle old rivalries, including Garfield and Franklin, and Ballard and Ingraham.
“[The students] know a lot of those other players and kids at the other schools,” said Derek Sparks, Garfield’s head football coach.
Sparks also said the league move would make the playing field more even for teams such as Garfield, because the competition level was so high in KingCo 4A.
“You don’t have the advantage of having the depth of second string or third string players that are strong, so you often times have freshman play up to fill the team,” Sparks said of Garfield’s games in the 4A conference.
Darrion Peterson, a junior defensive tackle at Ballard, said he was excited for the shorter game commute, which means leaving class later for games that start right after school.
“We get a lot more time to be in class so as a whole team we can stay focused on our schoolwork,” Peterson said.
More games closer to home also means stronger community engagement, said Joey Thomas, Ballard’s head football coach.
“People live for those games; people live to see Garfield play Franklin or Ballard play Roosevelt,” Thomas said. “They’re huge games for the people in these communities and the spirit of sports.”