Foster High School will play in the 16-team 2A South Puget Sound League starting next school year, with the demise of the Seamount League.
The Bulldogs will compete against some familiar 2A teams in its new league, but there are others they will only play in the postseason at district or state tournaments.
The league is still working out the details of the transition, including deciding how to determine which teams will play at district tournaments.
The 2A South Puget Sound League will have two divisions, with eight teams each: Mountain and Sound.
Foster is in the Mountain Division, along with Foss (Tacoma), White River (Buckley), Washington (Tacoma), Lindbergh (Renton), Franklin-Pierce (Tacoma/Puyallup), Fife (Fife) and Evergreen (near White Center).
The teams in the Sound Division are three former Seamount schools, Highline, Renton and Tyee, and Orting, Steilacoom, Clover Park (Lakewood), Eatonville and River Ridge (Lacey).
Right now, the SPSL has two divisions, one for 3A schools and one for 2A schools.
Harvard Jones, Foster’s athletic director, is hearing from athletes and coaches that they are excited to play in a league with more schools. The Seamount League currently has eight teams, including two 3A high schools, Kennedy and Hazen, that are larger than the other six schools.
Now, there’s a level playing field, which Jones said is “exciting for our coaches and our kids.”
The league will try to schedule cross-over games between divisions so teams can still play traditional rivals, Jones said. It’s also possible to create new rivalries and rekindle old ones, he said. Foster once played in the Nisqually League against some of the 2A teams now in the SPSL.
Every two years high schools across the state realign their leagues, based on current enrollment, as required by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, which governs high school sports. Sometimes, the changes in alignment are negligible.
But the WIAA has changed the classification cycle to every four years. That prompted schools to consider whether it was time to move to a different league, “because you’re going to be there for awhile,” according Jones.
The decision by Kennedy and Hazen to move up to 4A, the classification with the biggest schools, and compete in the North Puget Sound League forced Foster and the remaining Seamount schools to seek out a new league, Jones said. Like Kennedy and Hazen, schools in Auburn, Kent and Federal Way are making similar decisions.
“When Kennedy and Hazen were leaving to go to 4A, that left us with only six schools in our league, which isn’t really a viable league as far as getting enough games in and getting allocations to go into the playoffs,” Jones said.
There were some concerns early in the discussions about the distances Foster’s teams will travel to go to divisional away games, Jones said. White River High School is in Buckley and four of the schools are in the Tacoma area, but those are accessible by freeway.
“First and the most important reason when we talk about travel is time out of the classroom,” Jones said.
Some competitions, such as baseball or track, are played in the afternoon, which might mean travel begins before the end of the school day. And nighttime sports such as basketball and football could mean “a late night for some of our kids” because of the ride back to school, Jones said.
The league will try to schedule creatively to minimize the impacts, he said.
School buses will continue to take the teams to away games, Jones said, and the district will charter a bus if a school bus isn’t available, just as it does now. Transportation costs might go increase, he said.
“I think we are in good shape,” he said. “Out of the two [the divisions] we got the better end.”