Coupeville High School left the Cascade Conference four years ago to join the Olympic League 1A division. Now, the Wolves are basically back to where they started before the move.
Coupeville will join the new 1A North Sound Conference, which begins play next fall. In the NSC, Coupeville will reunited with five former members of the Cascade Conference, which is disbanding at the end of this school year.
Coupeville had hoped to join the 1B/2B Northwest League, but the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association denied its appeal last weekend to drop from the 1A classification to 2B.
When Coupeville originally joined the Cascade Conference in 2006-07, it was the smallest school by far in enrollment and one of only two 1A schools in the league; the other six were 2A.
As a result, the Wolves struggled to consistently win against their bigger foes.
Level Playing Field
When Coupeville moved to the Olympic League in the fall of 2014, it found what it was looking for — a more level playing field and more wins.
Although Coupeville (at 227 students in 2015-16) was still the smallest school in enrollment in the four-team 1A division, it was much closer to Chimacum (250) and Port Townsend (278) in size than the schools in the Cascade Conference. Klahowya holds 445 students and is the second largest 1A school in the state.
After not winning a single title in the Cascade Conference, Coupeville and Klahowya dominated the Olympic League.
Travel costs and missed class time, however, trumped the victories, and Coupeville announced this winter it was leaving the conference.
At the mercy of the Port Townsend ferry schedule, Coupeville teams were often forced to leave before noon for away games, pulling athletes early from class. The ferry also required the games to be scheduled at various times, and high winds and low tides also caused problems when ferry trips were cancelled.
The WIAA conducts school enrollment counts every four years and schools are placed in classifications based upon those numbers.
Two years ago, when the last count took place, Coupeville had 227 students. It now has 208, and the cutoff between 1A and 2B was set at 214.
Coupeville petitioned the state to drop to 2B in hopes of joining the 1B/2B Northwest League, where the Wolves have spent most of their athletic history.
The league currently includes 2B schools Friday Harbor (199 students), La Conner (172), Orcas Island (160) Concrete (124) and Darrington (97), and 1B Mount Vernon Christian (78).
Sunday, Jan. 28, the District Directors denied Coupeville’s request to be reclassified. Coupeville appealed to the WIAA Executive Board, and it also denied the Coupeville request Monday.
According to Coupeville athletic director Willie Smith, the first decision was based upon two areas: Coupeville’s enrollment leveling out and that Coupeville would be the largest 2B school.
Based upon projected enrollments, Coupeville will hover around 208 students and will not continue to shrink. The state said when the new counts are taken in two years, the cutoff of 214 students between 2B and 1A will likely change and Coupeville could very well be among the 1A schools once again.
The state was concerned that if Coupeville was the largest school in the Northwest League, it would dominate.
Smith argued that Coupeville never dominated when it was previously in the league, and that the current league members weren’t concerned because they immediately voted to accept Coupeville when approached with the idea of the Wolves rejoining the conference.
Coupeville will now join the North Sound Conference, which includes 1A Granite Falls (461 students), South Whidbey (358), King’s (354), Sultan (347) and Cedar Park Christian – Bothell (249), all from the former Cascade Conference.
Once again, Coupeville finds itself significantly smaller than all but one of its league opponents.
“It simply means that we just have to work harder, play smarter and be more committed at every level: administrative, coaches, athletes and community,” Smith said.
“I’m ready for this, our coaches are ready for this and we will see if the other two can step it up. Our coaches voted to move to the new league prior to finding out we could be 2B without hesitation and believe that they can take our programs to the next level, and I truly believe that as well.”
As far as the state’s decision, Smith said, “No sour grapes, no feeling sorry for ourselves — just strapping up our boots and getting to work because no matter what classification we were going to end up in, that’s the only option we have to get better.”
Soccer coach Kyle Nelson said the decision was “a mixed bag.” The negative of joining the Northwest League was it played both boys and girls soccer in the fall, which would mean Nelson could no longer coach both sports.
Boys basketball coach Brad Sherman also saw advantages to joining either league, which included travel time and consistent game times.
“Either way,” he said, “I’m excited for the opportunity next season.”
Track coach Randy King also said he was “excited about the changes.”
The North Sound Conference “will still be a better situation for travel, and the consistent high level of competition provides incentive to always seek ways to build,” he added.