Every two years, the Minnesota State High School League reevaluates schools across the state and adjusts the competitive section assignments accordingly, so that each school is in a fair class and section, playing against other schools of its caliber.
Changes in enrollment and the addition or deletion of programs or cooperative agreements are taken into consideration. The MSHSL aims to move as few schools as possible.
For NYA Central High School, this affects some Raider teams more than others. For example, the baseball, softball, golf, girls’ soccer, track and field, wrestling, and volleyball teams have few to no changes in the new sections assignments, which will begin next season in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years.
The Raiders’ boys’ and girls’ basketball teams both move from Section 5AA (this year) to Section 2AA. No longer will the Raider hoopsters play against teams from Annandale, Foley, Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, Maple Lake, Milaca, Providence Academy, Rockford, St. Cloud Cathedral, or Watertown-Mayer. Instead, they will see the rest of the Minnesota River Conference in Belle Plaine, Jordan, Mayer Lutheran, Sibley East, Tri-City United, and LeSueur-Henderson, also with Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity, New Richland-H-E-G, Glencoe-Silver Lake, and Maple River. For coach Nat Boyer and the Raider boys’ basketball team, seeding should be easier, as the Raiders will get the chance to play every subsection team in the regular season. Come section time, historically strong teams like Maple River, New Richland, St. Peter, Waseca, and W-E-M will challenge Central.
“With the new section we will be seeing some definite teams that are strong and more importantly we may be playing a couple of more teams three times in the season, which adds a whole new dynamic to playoff basketball,” Boyer said.
For the Raider girls’ team, head coach Gary Lembcke is looking forward to the move.
“I like our new subsection … because we will have teams that have great fan following which for tournaments adds to the excitement,” he said. “Our new section has New Richland which won state last year and return their best player as well as a majority of their team. Also St. Peter in that subsection as well.”
The only downside for Lembcke to general subsection play are teams that choose not to play a postseason, thus throwing off the balance.
Cross country will move into Section 5A (from 4A), along with Glencoe-Silver Lake. The new section includes Annandale, Foley, Hinckley-Finlayson, PACT Charter, Watertown-Mayer, and Mayer Lutheran, among many others. Central cross country coach Mark Lagergren said that while 4A was probably the toughest section in the state, 5A will still be very competitive for the Raiders.
“Blake and Minnehaha Academy were very tough (in 4A),” he said. “5A, in my opinion, is much more balanced.”
Last season, the Raiders advanced two individual runners to the state meet, and “would love to do that, and more, for next fall,” Lagergren said.
He predicts that Mora, Milaca, and Annandale will be good teams next season, although he is unsure who will emerge as the state qualifying teams (top two) at the meet.
With this newly adjusted section, it has yet to be decided where the meet will be held, and although Lagergren applied to host it, he assumes the Raiders will be traveling quite the distance for the meet, as many of the schools are at least an hour bus ride away.
Section-dominating Aitkin and Duluth Marshall are no longer in the Raiderettes’ dance section. Also missing are Minneapolis Washburn and Richfield. The rest of the teams in Section 2A remain. Mayer Lutheran also competes in the same section, and LHS head coach Maryann Porter is happy to see the section more centralized, which will allow the Crusaders and Raiderettes to compete more frequently against section teams in the regular season.
“I also hope to see a better metro representative at state in Class A, now that Aitkin and Duluth Marshall are back up with the other northern schools,” she said. “We see so many metro teams in both Class AA and AAA and we (Mayer Lutheran) have been the only metro team in Class A for the past two years.”
The football team is moving from Class AAA to Class AA, so with that comes big changes in the section. Now a part of Section 2AA, the Raiders will see G-F-W, Kenyon-Wanamingo, LeSueur-Henderson, Medford, Pine Island, W-E-M, and Zumbrota-Mazeppa in section competition, instead of former competitors Breck, Jordan, Watertown-Mayer, Henry/West Metro, Rockford, West Lutheran/Southwest Christian, and Providence Academy.
The basketball teams were hardest hit at Mayer Lutheran too, as the two Crusader squads will jump from Section 5 to Section 2 in Class AA. For the boys, three of the four 2013 section semifinal teams are now gone: Annandale, St. Cloud Cathedral, and Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted (Mayer Lutheran being the fourth). In Section 2AA, the Crusaders will now face six of the eight Minnesota River Conference teams (all but Watertown-Mayer).
The Mayer Lutheran girls’ basketball team is making the same section shift as their male counterparts, with just Glencoe-Silver Lake and Jordan moving from Section 5 to Section 2 with the Crusaders. The section will be Minnesota River Conference-heavy, which is positive for head coach Kris Gustin, as the Crusaders will be familiar with those teams.
“The bad news is we will likely be in the north half, with probably all of the conference teams,” he said. “This means someone will have to beat two, and perhaps three, conference teams to get to the section finals. The subsection could be almost like a conference tournament.”
But perhaps the biggest change of all comes for the LHS football team, who will move from Class AA to Class A and join Section 2. Kimball Area is the only team the Crusaders will be familiar with, as the Cubs are also moving. The new section for LHS includes: Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart, Kerkoven-Murdock-Sunburg, Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity, and Minneapolis North Community.
When the Minnesota River Conference football schedule kicks up in the fall, LHS will be the only Class A team competing, while the rest of the schools are either AA or AAA.
“That’s going to be a real challenge,” Aurich said.
A full listing of the competitive sections can be found on the MSHSL website.
Contact Melissa Marohl at [email protected]