Declining enrollment moves Liberty sports to 2A

February 6, 2014

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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Liberty High School sports teams will compete in the 2A classification for a two-year period beginning in the 2014-2015 school year.

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association released enrollment numbers showing Liberty, at 891.8, is the size of a 2A school. Schools with less than 990.8 students, but more than 472, are considered 2A.

In the recent past, the Patriots have opted up to the 3A level, despite its stature as one of the state’s smallest 3A schools, but this time around, administrators have decided to test the 2A waters.

“We are going to explore that two-year window at the 2A level,” said Stark Porter, Liberty’s athletic director.

Hazen High School, with an enrollment of 1,059.4, will remain at 3A.

The Patriots’ league opponents will not likely change, since KingCo is already a 3A/2A league. The difference will come in postseason play, as they compete against schools with more comparable enrollment numbers.

Liberty has seen its fair share of success at the 3A level, most recently with the state champion girls soccer team. The drop down to 2A won’t change the way she runs her program, though, Liberty girls soccer coach Tami Nguyen said.

“I’m not bothered by it at all,” she said. “After seeing my team and the girls, what a positive experience state was, I believe that we’ll be competitive at 2A.”

The team’s goal will always be to compete for a state championship, she said, no matter at what level Liberty competes.

Nguyen also dismissed concerns about athletes getting seen by college coaches at a lower level, saying she was a prime example that coaches will find the best talent, no matter where they’re playing.

The Liberty coach played her high school career at 1A Seattle Christian, where she won four state titles and became the state’s all-time leading scorer. Nguyen went on to play at the University of Washington.

The Patriots cross-country team has also made significant strides at the 3A level recently. Coach Mike Smith’s team had its first state medalist in freshman Brigette Takeuchi at the fall state competition.

The move to 2A is both a good and bad thing for his team, Smith said. It’s a positive for his boys team, which had to navigate tough 3A district opponents to get to state, but it remains to be seen how it affects the girls, he said.

“Going down to 2A doesn’t necessarily mean the competition gets easier,” Smith said.

The girls in particular were poised to earn their first state team trophy next year, as top-ranked Glacier Peak made the move to 4A. Now, Liberty will have to compete with Sehome at the 2A level, one of the state’s best cross-country programs.

It’s nothing the Patriots can’t handle, especially with the young talent they have returning, Smith said, but it does make things a little more interesting for his girls next year.

“For the boys, the district competition we’ve had historically was always incredibly hard for them, so going down to 2A gives them a little more wiggle room,” he said.

The move will have a great impact on the Liberty swim teams, coach Kris Daughters said.

The district standards and state-qualifying times should be a bit easier for her swimmers, she said, allowing her to send more athletes to state.

The girls swim team, in particular, will benefit from the move after narrowly missing a team trophy this fall, Daughters said.

“It will be a really positive move for the swim team,” she said.

Porter said he looks at the move as a two-year experiment, after which the school will re-evaluate things.

“We have a few programs that are successful at the 3A level,” he said. “Track’s been healthy, girl’s soccer, they’ll be successful at the 2A level as well. It will probably help some of the other programs with competitive equity.”


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