The time has come for East Valley High School to put its competitive feet to the fire of the Greater Spokane League and cease dragging them for fear of failure.
Quite simply, East Valley has become a big school. Its enrollment next year, according to school district projections, will be more than 1,200 students. That will make it a 4A school in a 3A league.
When the East Valley school board voted Tuesday to remain in the Frontier League, it was clear board members were listening to their constituents.
But the reasons put forth by those who spoke out against East Valley High moving up to the GSL sounded merely like excuses.
Time and again at Tuesday’s board meeting, people came forward to say their young athletes did not want to go into the GSL or that they weren’t ready to compete at that level.
Others said they liked the small school atmosphere of EV. A choice student said she enrolled there rather than at Central Valley because CV was too big. A couple of parents said they liked the idea of traveling to small communities such as Colville and Clarkston.
Another parent said that after witnessing last Friday’s 35-7 football loss to CV he wasn’t sure EV should be in the GSL.
Face it. This isn’t the East Valley of 30 years ago, when the school had the league’s smallest enrollment - but also had a State AA championship football team that averaged seven wins per year and a State AA championship track program that was annually among the state’s best.
This is a school that presently has only 100 fewer students in three grades than Central Valley High, and unlike that school, houses its freshmen under the same roof.
Its present enrollment, 1,162, is more comparable to GSL schools than the Frontier where the second highest enrollment, at Clarkston, is 716. Expected growth will make EV one of the largest, if not the largest, 3A schools in state.
Those who balk at the move are comfortable in the Frontier League, to which EV has belonged for 24 years. They like the fact that this fall The Knights won three league championships, qualified to four state playoffs, won a state championship and placed sixth in another.
Winning is associated with its enrollment advantage and people don’t want to risk it ending.
Although enrollment is a factor, to totally equate it with athletic success or failure is ridiculous. That is selling short a school’s sports programs and the abilities of its athletes. “I’m a little ashamed of the parents who say their kids are not good enough,” said one parent. “The kids are better than they give them credit for.”
Gonzaga Prep, with just 692 students, has been successful in the GSL and a state football power. Prep’s enrollment is not much larger than Friday’s EV football playoff foe, Prosser. The Mustangs have annually been a State AA finalist and coach Tom Moore wants to stay in the newly designated 3A Mid-Valley League, even though his school is small enough to play at the 2A level.
Moore believes the advantage of competing against larger schools outweighs any benefits of playing smaller ones, despite people who preach that if his school stays in 3A it will lose.
“If kids hear that they believe it,” he said. “We were an A school until 1989 and didn’t tell our kids we’d get beat (when Prosser moved up to AA). We went 9-0.”
The Frontier’s smallest school, Pullman, beat the Knights 31-14 for the league football championship the week before the Knights’ loss to Central Valley.
West Valley, the league’s third-smallest school, has won three consecutive Frontier League all-sports trophies.
When East Valley’s girls won their third straight State AA cross country championship, they did so with times that would have placed them at least second in the State AAA race.
So a move to the GSL needn’t be as traumatic as the speakers Tuesday night made it sound.
Volleyball coach Jim Dorr is one of six East Valley varsity coaches ready for a new challenge. In two years as head coach his teams have gone to the state tournament twice. They were undefeated in league this year and stand to lose by a switch to the volleyball-intense GSL.
“If we don’t go in (to the GSL) there will be no one to play and no way to get better,” he said. “We’ll have wasted the last three years.”
It’s a mindset. If parents, coaches, and athletes believe they can win and schools give them what it takes to succeed, their programs will do just fine.
No one has surmounted a challenge by making excuses.