Injuries, low participation drive DW to request WIAA reclassification
January 27, 2022
DAYTON/WAITSBURG—At the Waitsburg School Board meeting, DW Athletic Director Sam Korslund reported that all basketball had been canceled for the weekend after coaches tested positive for COVID-19, as well as some athletes. As of Monday, January 24, the girls basketball team was able to resume practice and return to their game schedule, but the boys games were still canceled. For up-to-date information, be sure to visit http://www.dwsports.org and sign up for text or email notifications.
Korslund said that the teams are still battling through a rough season. He was happy to announce that the boys varsity team had their first win, and the girls had their first game lead in a while. He said that the girls were very competitive but tired towards the end. There are not enough players to sub out athletes.
“There are no two ways about it; they have had a very rough season,” Korslund said. “But they are not getting down on themselves or each other. I count that as a win.”
Echoing Korslund, Boardmember Lisa Morrow said the girls basketball team just does not give up.
Several spring sports coaching positions need to be filled before baseball, softball, and track and field seasons can begin on February 28.
The DW Combine Leadership Team, formerly the combine committee, held its first meeting in January. Game locations were finally settled at the meetings, resorting back to the original plan formed by the first committee nearly three years ago.
All football games will be played in Waitsburg, while high school volleyball and basketball will be played in Dayton. Middle school volleyball and middle school basketball will be hosted in Waitsburg. Baseball games will be in Waitsburg, and softball and track will be played in Dayton. Golf athletes will practice at the Touchet Valley Golf Course.
Korslund said that he had a hearing regarding a classification appeal, as DW athletes struggle to keep up with the competition in their current classification, 2B, according to Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) rules. Dayton and Waitsburg school districts have experienced declining athlete populations and excessive travel costs to play teams in their classification. He said he did not think the WIAA would grant the classification change.
He sent information to the Combine leadership team and said athletes and coaches have been supportive of a potential change.
WIAA has changed some classification-qualifying rules, including the use of the free and reduced lunch program enrollment, to determine which bracket a school would play in. Larger schools, formerly 1A schools that have been allowed to drop down to 2B, have resulted in unfair competition for smaller athletic programs, like DW’s.
The athletic combine may be allowed to drop down a classification to 1B. This would mean they could return to playing similar-sized teams, including Colfax, Gar-Pal, and Desales. However, they may not qualify for postseason games for two years.
If the WIAA allows the combine to change their classification, the school would have to go back to 8-man football. The combine may have the option to request to play 11-man football if desired, but he said he has talked to football coaches, and they are all supportive of dropping down.
Leadership team representative Charlie Barron voiced that the combine leadership, parents, and schools need to decide and stick to it.
Barron said he had concerns about requesting to play up in a single sport to appease a few parents. He said that numbers, and the safety of athletes, must be a top priority.
“It’s been a lot of the same old concerns, and old business, and it really is all how you look at it, and how you present it to stakeholders; taxpayers,” Barron said. “You could say that we got into this combine because we didn’t have the numbers to play 11-man. If you look at today’s numbers, we still don’t have that. Even with the combine, we don’t have the numbers to do that safely.”
Barron noted that several athletes had been injured in all sports.
“To hide behind legacies, or schools, or whatever we did when we were there, it frustrates me,” said Barron, “This is supposed to be about the kids.”
Barron, a parent of DW athletes, a graduate of Dayton High School, and a resident of Waitsburg, urged everyone to consider the kids first and foremost.
Superintendent Mark Pickel said long-distance traveling had pulled students out of class longer than necessary. He said athletes recently had their longest bus trip for four hours to Cle Elum.
He also had concerns about the injuries, which were not limited to broken bones and severe concussions, and athletes being defeated in their senior year simply because larger schools and teams outmatched them.
Korslund said he has been trying to get the WIAA to understand that while the two school's athletic programs are combined, the schools are not. They are two high schools of 60-70 students each, and culturally, they are like 1B schools.
“We have eight girls for basketball this year. We had to bring eighth graders up for a JV team,” Korslund. “I can understand that some people may say that students won’t want to play if there isn’t a chance for postseason games. They already do not have a chance at postseason play as it is.”
Korlsund expressed that he thinks that the constant defeat is already impacting athlete numbers. He said that he was not optimistic about the reclassification, but if it were granted, he could appeal to the 1B league to ask for a one-year postseason restriction instead of two years.
Board member Lisa Morrow asked if parents could write letters or send comments to help influence future classification-related issues.
“I’m pretty sure you have parents who had to take ambulance rides with their kids this year, who would step up to the plate and talk to this individual,” Morrow said.
At the time of the meeting, no decisions had been made.