"The Oak Harbor Wildcats will be a member of the largest league in the state when the 2001 school year opens, as the Western Conference will be gaining eight new members based on student population counts completed Oct. 1.The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) gathers enrollment data every two years at the beginning of October, November and December. These enrollment figures are used to determine which classification each school will compete in. Schools with enrollments exceeding 1,200 students in grades 10, 11 and 12 compete in Class 4A, the state's largest classification.Based on the counts conducted Oct. 1, it appears that Stanwood, Everett, Lake Stevens, Monroe, Mount Vernon and Jackson will move up. Arlington is very close and will most likely exceed the 1,200 plateau but has already opted to move up. Meadowdale and Lynnwood have also indicated they will opt to play up a classification to maintain traditional rivalries and eliminate travel requirements they would incur if they moved to a different league. Travel for the Wildcats will be more palatable. Oak Harbor High School Athletic Director Jeff Stone likes the new look. This will be a much better travel arrangement for us. With the exception of Cascade, we will be staying north of Everett and staying out of the heavy traffic. The only way it could have been better would have been for Everett to be in our division and Cascade in the other. We will drive past Everett to get to Cascade. That is not that far, but that puts us into the heavy traffic.Attendance may also improve. With so many teams in our division from towns with just one high school, the number of people that follow their team here for any given game should be better. Historically those school have better followings, said Stone. That translates into more gate receipts.All schools, with the exception of Mount Vernon, currently compose WesCo 3A. Mount Vernon competes in the Northwest League. Sehome, a current 4A school that will be moving down, will take their slot in the NWL. With the recent opening of the new Bellingham High School, all three high schools in the Bellingham School District will compete at the 3A level.Athletic directors from both conferences have approved the proposal to form the conference, which will be divided into two divisions: Arlington, Cascade, Lake Stevens, Marysville-Pilchuck, Monroe, Mount Vernon, Oak Harbor, Snohomish, Stanwood composing the Northern Division; and Edmonds-Woodway, Everett, Jackson, Kamiak, Lynnwood, Mariner, Meadowdale, Mountlake Terrace, Shorecrest and Shorewood forming the Southern Division.Stone added, This looks a whole lot like the Northwest League of 30 years ago. It will be good to renew some of those old rivalries.The athletic directors will present their proposal to the high school principals for their approval in a meeting scheduled for today (Wednesday).The increase in the size of WesCo should bring with it an increase in playoff berths available to member schools. The league would remain in WIAA District 1. District 1 currently receives two berths in each team sport.This year the WesCo and KingCo have agreed once again to share their berths to the state playoffs by playing bi-district playoffs. Each league's first-place team will receive an automatic berth while the second-place team from each league will meet the third-place school from the other in a mini-playoff. Winners of those two games will advance to the state playoffs.The decision to continue our bi-district relationship with KingCo has not been made yet, Stone commented. "

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