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How 5 leagues restructured after latest WIAA reclassification cycle (2024-28)

One of state's largest 4A leagues - 4A SPSL - just got bigger with addition of Bonney Lake, Spanaway Lake and 2022 3A football champion Yelm

The 2024-2028 reclassification cycle has arrived, and the WIAA board of regents solidified the organization’s six classifications with one of its primary aims to even out the top two classifications (4A, 3A).

The goal was to reduce the number of schools in 3A, which over the past four years has led to 20-team state fields instead of the more manageable 16-team brackets.

While this round of reclassification came closer to that goal, bringing the 3A number down from 79 schools during the last four-year cycle to 73, it still didn’t get down to the desired 68 or so teams.

Other reclassifications changed things across the state as well – at least for the next four years. The 4A ranks went up from 51 to 60; there are 63 2A schools, 55 in 1A, 54 in 2B and 105 in 1B.

Here's examining how reclassification has reshaped - or created - five leagues around the state beginning in September:


3A PCL/SSC (merged league)

2023 Washington high school football: Eastmont at Timberline

New league alignment: Seven teams from the SSC, four remaining from the PCL and newcomer Bellarmine Prep (from 4A to 3A) come together.

What they were previously: The South Sound Conference had eight teams, while the Pierce County League boasted seven before Yelm is the SCC, and Bonney Lake, Spanaway Lake and Stadium in the PCL outgrew 3A enrollment.

What they are: The combined, likely 12-team league creates a new 3A mega-league that will look like a South Sound version of Seattle-based Metro League.

What the changes mean: The number of playoff berths go up for the single entity versus being split between two smaller leagues in the still-crowded 3A ranks.

Quotable: "During the reclassification, the landscape of the 3A classification began to take shape and barriers that existed in the past were removed and a new exciting, competitive league became a viable option,” Bellarmine Prep communications director Craig Coovert said. “This new league allows us to “play where we live" while maintaining a very competitive environment for our programs.



Mead players and coaches celebrate Saturday night's victory against Lake Washington in the Class 3A championship match in the Yakima Valley SunDome.

New league alignment: The leagues on the east side of the mountains won’t look as different as many of the larger-classification conferences on the west side.

What they were previously: The GSL already covered three classifications, ranging from 4A to 2A members.

What they are: The names remain pretty much the same, but at least one member will try to make a similar impact on post-seasons in the 4A ranks that they have consistently done in 3A of late. The Mead Panthers move up – along with their highly successful volleyball and girls basketball squads – to challenge in the 4A echelons.

What the changes mean: Mead growing out of 3A was a step toward the balance that the WIAA is still working towards across the classifications.

Quotable: “We’re excited to get back to 4A,” Mead volleyball coach Shawn Wilson said. “We’ve been 4A for the majority of the time. Yes, we’ve had some success during this last cycle, but we did in 4A, too. We’re looking forward to getting back and seeing what we can do.”



Spanaway Lake football 2023

New league alignment: One of the largest leagues in the state gets bigger with the likely additions of step-ups from 3A in Bonney Lake, Spanaway Lake and Yelm. Another Tacoma school in Stadium also could wind up as a member of the newly-aligned SPSL.

What they were previously: A 10-team league that played in divisions in basketball and filled a football regular season with all league contests.

What they are: A potential 14-team juggernaut that will play all sports in two divisions, something already done in basketball, and which will afford every team to play non-league contests in football for the first time in years.

What the changes mean: Already a force in many sports, the SPSL is adding another football power in Yelm, which played for the 3A title in December, along with up-and-coming programs from Stadium and Spanaway Lake, jumping up from the 3A PCL.

Quotable: ““We’re excited for the challenge,” Yelm football coach Jason Ronquillo said. “It should be a really good league. We’re also excited to get it all settled so we can start to figure out our non-league scheduling.”



2022-23 Washington boys basketball: Gonzaga Prep vs. Federal Way at Bellarmine Christmas Classic

New league alignment: At least two potential new additions, teams already in the league moving between classifications, and a third team from Tacoma maybe asking for admission to the fold.

What they were previously: A combo 4A/3A conference that had seven teams each in 4A and 3A.

What they are: A potential 16-team league would potentially have eight 4A and eight 3A schools. Auburn and Auburn Riverside are now 4A, up from 3A, while Federal Way’s enrollment moves the Eagles into the 3A division of the NPSL, where they join the remaining five – Kent-Meridian (appeal granted to stay 3A despite 4A enrollment), Auburn Mountainview, Jefferson, Todd Beamer and Kentlake – and newcomers Enumclaw and White River, who move up from the 2A SPSL to 3A.

What the changes mean: 3A newcomers Federal Way, Enumclaw and White River will keep that division competitive – at least within the league. The 4A ranks could become intriguing with the two Auburn schools joining a building Decatur program, the second largest school in the state in Tahoma and football power Kennedy Catholic.

Quotable: It’s the only classification we haven’t won a league title,” Enumclaw football coach Mark Gunderson said. “We’ve been in that league before. That’s what we’re going to be chasing. We’ve played the Kents and the Auburns, and we know White River well.”



2023 Washington high school football: Arlington-Monroe

New league alignment: Arlington and Cascade of Everett each move from 3A to 4A; Marysville-Pilchuck is no longer opting up to 3A from 2A

What they were previously: In 4A, there were just five schools; 14 schools in 3A

What they are: In 4A, there are now seven participants; and 11 schools remain in 3A

What the changes mean: Three programs from the previously over-populated 3A ranks move into alternate classifications. And for football, the Tomahawks will join the 2A Northwest Conference, along with fellow Wesco member Archbishop Murphy.

Quotable: “When you get to the 3A and 4A levels, there isn’t a lot of difference competition-wise,” Arlington athletic director Tom Roys said. “We look forward to moving into that 4A level. It’s going to be good.”