WHS ready for transition

Published 6:45 pm Saturday, June 2, 2012

Washington athletic director and girls’ basketball coach Allison Jones (center) and the Pam Pack sports teams will be making a move from its NCHSAA 3-A classification to a 2-A classification come the fall of 2013 as a result of the latest NCHSAA reevaluation process. (WDN Photos/Brian Haines)

Come fall of 2013 Washington High School’s address will be the same, but the home of Pam Pack will be one of the biggest on the block as the school is scheduled to relocate from a NCHSAA 3-A classification to a 2-A one.
Every five years the NCHSAA reevaluates its conference alignments as well as all the schools classifications and this fall it was determined that Washington High School’s average daily membership (ADM) was not high enough to support a 3-A classification. A designation the school missed making by a handful of students.
“Every five years the North Carolina High School Athletic Association goes through a realignment process and basically they just look to see if any changes need to be made to the conferences,” said Allison Jones, Washington’s athletic director and girls’ basketball coach. “Primarily, they take a look at your enrolment numbers to see how big you are and how many students you have … Those are the numbers that have to be used to classify high schools. So your largest high schools are 4-A, then you go to 3-A, 2-A and 1-A based on your enrolment.”
Throughout Washington’s history the school has always been in the 3-A classification, but it happened to suffer a dip in its ADM that coincided with the NCHSAA’s five-year reevaluation process, and the result was that for the next five year’s the Pack will be a 2-A school regardless if it’s ADM increases or not.
“We’ve always been 3-A, we’ve never been below the 3-A cutoff until this year,” Jones said. “This year it just happened to be the year they did a realignment. … We missed the cutoff by only a few students.”
With the change, Washington now goes from being one of the smallest 3-A schools in the state to one of the biggest 2-A schools in North Carolina.
With an ADM of 996, East Davidson stands atop the 2-A list, but right under it is Washington and North Lenoir who are tied with an ADM of 989. Right above them, and last on the list of 3-A schools, is South Rowan who has an ADM of 999.
The change in classification also signifies a change in conferences. The Pam Pack will go from competing in the Coastal Conference to the Eastern Plains Conference which will also include North Pitt, Southwest Edgecombe, Farmville Central, Beddingfield and North Johnston High School.
“When the realignment takes place we will be in the Eastern Plains Conference, but it’s not what you know to be the Eastern Plains Conference now,” Jones said, who will have the honor of serving as the new Eastern Plains Conference president. “If you look at the Eastern Plains now you will see that there are some schools that won’t be there when we get there because they will have moved to another conference. A lot of schools have stayed in the same classification but the lines for that conference have moved around so they are in a different conference even though they stayed in the same classification.”
Like it or not, Washington will be a 2-A school over the next five years despite the fact that its population is expected to increase.
“They have to use the numbers that were given this year and we just happened to have the smallest group we’ve had at the high school,” Jones said. “We will grow. Immediately next year we will be back in the 3-A classification numbers but it’s what happened this year that they have to go on.”
The move down to 2-A, which was received with mixed feelings by the Pam Pack coaches, will no doubt aggravate some of the 2-A schools who will be forced to compete in the upcoming years against Washington, who is expected to have 3-A numbers. Jones was sympathetic to those gripes but said that fair or not all schools must abide by the process.
“Just in talking with some other athletic directors, and not specifically the ones that will be in our new conference but just in general during the realignment process, that has been an issue that a lot of schools have talked about. … But, it is what it is. Nothing is perfect.”
In the past five years Washington athletics has had varied success as the little fish in the big 3-A pond, but Jones warned that just because it will now be considered one of the sharks in the 2-A ocean that it should not overlook its future opponents.
“We’re going to face a lot of good teams, it will just be a different look for us and a different feel,” Jones said. “I think that our coaches realize (the change) does not matter and that you still have to prepare the same way you always have … There are a lot of good teams in the 2-A level and we don’t just automatically assume that we can be better because we’re moving down a classification.”
Like any good coach, Jones will guide her school through its current transition while trying to anticipate future moves. For the foreseeable future, the Pam Pack will look to include plenty of its former Coastal Conference rivals in its nonconference schedule, not only to keep rivalries in place, but to also to keep pace with those 3-A teams should Washington be granted 3-A status again in five years.
“Fortunately, a lot of the schools in our conference right now have agreed to play us in our nonconference scheduling once we go to our new conference so that we can keep those rivalries going,” Jones said. “I think a big part of high school sports are your rivalries, and if we ever find ourselves back in the 3-A classification than we won’t have been away from those schools for so long.”