Taos is out of District 2-4A and Santa Fe is in under new proposal

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By Mike Cote

Many coaches around the state, including more than a few from Los Alamos High School, have bemoaned teams from small districts which sometimes seem to qualify for postseason events by default.

Guess who might now be in one of those loathsome districts?

In the newly revised New Mexico Activities Association’s Alignment and Classification Proposal, District 2AAAA, which Los Alamos competes in, could be down to just four teams for the four-year block of 2010-2014.

The NMAA, the governing body of most interscholastic activities in the state, including most major sports, revealed its revised proposal Jan. 27. The original proposal was released by the organization in early December.

According to the NMAA, the plan was revised based on factors such as feedback from member schools, differences in school enrollment — the 40-day official enrollment was used for the initial proposal, the 80-day enrollment for the revision — and geographical concerns.

Under the new proposal, Los Alamos would only be joined in the district by Española Valley, Capital and Santa Fe. Santa Fe, which plays in Class 5A has had declining enrollment in recent years, is already beneath the Class 4A ceiling with its 80-day enrollment this year.

Should Santa Fe in fact drop down a classification, it is projected to be the largest 4A school in 2010-11, the first school year the NMAA’s proposal would take effect.

Meanwhile, Bernalillo and Taos, two of the schools currently in District 2AAAA, would both be moved.

Bernalillo would be shifted over to District 5AAAA, a district comprised of teams in and around the Albuquerque area.

Taos, however, would drop down to Class 3A under the revised plan.

Taos is one of the smallest 4A teams in the state with 825 students, according to its 80-day count. That number is projected to drop next year to under 800.

Because the NMAA is proposing that the Class 4A population floor be raised from 901 from 801, where it is currently, Taos, which would’ve been on the cusp under the initial plan, is well below the floor under the current plan.

The revision suggests a population of between 901-1,650 students for Class 4A. Only Class 5A would have a wider population range.

Los Alamos would be unaffected by reclassification with its current population of 1,143 and its projected population of 1,122.

The move by Taos from 4A to 3A is just fine with Taos athletic director James Branch, who expressed his concern to the NMAA following the first proposal.

“Whatever is going to benefit our student-athletes at Taos is what I’m for,” Branch said. “If that means we play in 3A, so be it.”

Branch said the population spread between Taos and Santa Fe jumped out at him immediately in the December proposal.

While Branch said he would like to keep Los Alamos on its sports schedules as much as possible, he welcomed the chance to move back into District 2AAA, the district Taos competed in prior to the 2000-01 school year.

“Where do you think we’ll be more competitive?” Branch said. “How can we be expected to compete with Santa Fe and the schools that maintain a population of 1,100-1,200?”

Taos’ declining enrollment, Branch said, has been due to the fact that the city of Taos has become a popular retirement spot. Retirees don’t often have high school-aged children to replace those who are graduating.

When Taos joined 2AAAA in 2000, its population was approximately 1,000 students.

Bernalillo would join in District 5 along with another former member of District 2, St. Pius X. Other schools in District 5 include Albuquerque Academy, Atrisco Heritage, Del Norte and Moriarty.

District 2 won’t be the only small district in 4A. Both District 3, in south central New Mexico, and District 4, in southeast New Mexico, are slated to be three-team districts.

Another big revision in the NMAA’s new plan is to keep the three-classification system for wrestling.

In the December plan, Classes A-3A and 4A would’ve been combined into a six-district classification with each district having an average of seven schools.

Instead, District 2AAAA would be comprised of the four schools that most other sports would contain.

Los Alamos head coach Eric Sorenson said of the first proposal that he wouldn’t have been terribly sorry if the NMAA voted to shrink wrestling’s classification system.

Swimming and diving would also remain one classification with four districts. Los Alamos is currently in District 1 along with 15 other schools.

If approved by the NMAA, the new proposal could be amended after the 2011-12 school year to accommodate school districts that have seen a “significant change” in their populations from the previous two years.