The Toledo School District has opted to discontinue their partnership with Winlock in regard to certain high school sports with the intent of competing in 2-B play rather than 1-A.
It had been announced in December Toledo’s status would be changed by the WIAA from 1-A to 2-B starting next school year, allowing them to compete against other local 2-B schools rather than traveling as far away as Stevenson and Forks for regular games.
While this change would automatically apply to their independent sports programs, combined sports such as soccer, baseball and fastpitch would still compete at the 1-A level if Toledo continued to partner with Winlock.
It was with this in mind the Toledo School Board voted Thursday to not renew their agreement with Winlock for combined baseball, fastpitch and girl’s soccer, though boy’s soccer was elected to remain in tact as there are no local 2-B leagues to compete in.
Toledo Superintendent Sharon Bower said the decision had been influenced heavily by feedback from community members who had been approaching herself and other officials after news of the re-classification had been announced. She said residents have said they are excited to be able to play old rivals such as Napavine, Onalaska, and Winlock in district games, and said they have overwhelmingly supported the decision to create independent teams for the sports in question.
But Winlock residents and officials have reacted very differently, saying a split of the combined sports programs would put students at a disadvantage by requiring districts to bear all of the financial burden for coaches and equipment related to the programs, as well as decreasing the level of potential student participation.
Winlock Athletics Director Brian Maley told the Winlock School Board Feb. 19 he was concerned their district’s recent turnout for spring sports has been significantly low, stating Winlock’s participation in 2013 had seen 10 students in baseball, 15 students in fastpitch, and eight students in girl’s soccer. He also said lower participation figures may also lead to the elimination of corresponding junior varsity programs, preventing younger and less-proficient students from being able to compete at a less-demanding level.
The Winlock School Board responded by taking a vote that night to support maintaining all combined programs, with Superintendent Shannon Criss stating she would present the board’s decision and sentiments to Toledo the next day. Though Criss was joined by parents and officials from Winlock to voice their concerns during Toledo’s meetings, Toledo officials chose to discontinue combined baseball, fastpitch and girl’s soccer in the interest of their constituents, they said.
Both Bower and Criss have acknowledged this decision has been, and likely will continue to be, met with great emotion on the part of community members, and Bower said she hopes they understand Toledo’s decision was not personal, adding she hopes a separation of the three teams does not cause a rift between the two districts.
In addition to boy’s soccer, Winlock and Toledo will still share wrestling and cross-country teams, as the students involved are considered individual competitors and a combining of the two does not affect the schools’ standing within local athletics districts. However, it had been expressed during the Winlock School Board meeting that board members would like to see an elimination of all combined sports programs if Toledo was not interested in keeping all of them, though no official action was taken to do so.
The now-independent baseball, fastpitch and girl’s soccer programs are expected to begin in spring of 2015, and current program offerings should not be affected.