Two of the three reclassification motions passed a second read at Tuesday’s Wyoming High School Activities Association Board Of Directors Meeting, including one that will restructure volleyball, basketball and track classifications to a 16-16-16-rest format.
The vote to place the top 16 schools by enrollment in Classes 4A, 3A and 2A with the remaining schools in Class 1A passed by a 13-2 margin.
Reclassification in soccer that would change Class 4A from 12 to 14 teams passed 10-5 while the motion to shrink wrestling to just two classes statewide failed overwhelmingly.
The discussion on the volleyball, basketball and track restructuring was the most spirited and time-consuming as board members weighed the advantages and disadvantages with cost of travel, time out of school and inequity.
Regional scheduling became an issue during the discussion as multiple board members brought up other schools’ unwillingness to play outside their classification. One of the most notable instances came from Owen St. Clair, representative for Wyoming Indian, who said larger schools have not scheduled Wyoming Indian, historically, in basketball because of the school’s legacy as a Class 2A power.
Arguments against the reclassification came from those who felt it would hurt lower-enrollment schools that will not be able to compete at the same level as their larger counterparts. Activities directors voiced concerns that the contrast in competition would deter some students from participation.
Evanston representative Bubba O’Neill addressed those concerns by citing the hard-working attitude of the athletes and their ambition to tackle challenges.
“I think we can step up and do hard things,” O’Neill said. “It’s not easy but it’s possible.”
He went on to say that there is “inequity in Wyoming, that’s the way it is.”
The cost of travel under the adopted reclassification was brought up by Park County School District No. 6 superintendent Ray Schulte. Cody High School, which is in Park County School District No. 6, has been the subject of cuts to spending and will be Class 4A in volleyball, basketball and track under the new reclassification.
He fears that schools’ unwillingness to play outside their classification will increase travel for an outlying school like Cody. Their closest competition would be Powell, Rocky Mountain, Meeteetse, Burlington and Greybull, the majority of which would be at least two classifications lower than Cody.
“We won’t be able to keep all the sports we have” if Cody is forced to travel to play predominantly Class 4A competition, Schulte said. “We may not be able to anyway.”
The board will meet again on Wednesday to discuss moving a five-class proposal further along in place of the new format, but the 16-16-16-rest format will be the one implemented unless action it is taken off the table at a future meeting.
Each conference will be split into quadrants: Northeast, Southwest, Southeast and Mountain West for Class 4A. Kelly Walsh and Natrona would be in the Mountain West along with Riverton and Rock Springs.
Evanston, Green River, Jackson and Star Valley would be in the Southwest; Cody, Campbell County, Thunder Basin and Sheridan would be in the Northeast; and Cheyenne Central, Cheyenne East, Cheyenne South and Laramie would make up the Southeast.
The motion to stray from a three-class wrestling classification to two classes was overwhelmingly denied, as the case for a more competitive state tournament was trumped by the opportunity for more athletes getting to compete at the tournament.
The reclassification in soccer passed, which would move either Riverton or Star Valley up to Class 4A with the addition of Thunder Basin. As it stands now, Riverton would join Class 4A but with enrollment numbers fluctuating that is not a certainty.
Also under the reclassification, the discussion of moving away from quadrants and into conferences for 3A was raised, citing travel costs. Conference alignment would be up to the classifications, not the WHSAA.
Opening the meeting was a presentation by Burns Activities Director Barry Ward, who made the case for his school to stay Class 2A because of their transient enrollment numbers. Under the reclassification Burns would be in the Class 3A Southeast with Rawlins, Torrington and Wheatland.