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North High Elects to Drop a Level in Sports Classification
Earlier this month the coaching staff and administration at North High voted to drop from 6A to 5A in sports classification starting in the 2018 season. The Oregon School Activities Board approved the drop pending decisions on how many classifications there will be (there is a proposal to change the number of classifications to 5). In either system of classification, it looks like a new league would be formed of the six Salem-Keizer high schools along with the three from Bend. If North were to drop to 5A, the league would likely join includes Wilsonville, Canby, Woodburn, Silverton, Central, and others.
The decision by North staff is based largely on demographics, that is, population statistics. In a Guest Opinion in the Statesman Journal, Viking Association president Steve Chambers presented the case for the drop. You can read the opinion piece by going to the following link:
The arguments really boil down to numbers, economics, and safety. As a high poverty, high minority (now a majority of "minorities") school, North gets far lower turnouts for sports teams than schools of higher socio-economics, like West Salem, Sprague, and South. To give one example from football: West Salem had 210 kids turn out for varsity, junior varsity, and freshman teams, while North had 95. In a matchup between the two schools, West put completely different groups of athletes on offense and defense, while North was forced to play most of its skilled players on both offense and defense, leading to some very tired Vikings vulnerable to injuries. In a single freshman team game, 9 players were injured, 7 with concussions. There were not enough players left to field a team for its next game.
The disparity in girls' sports is even greater. Only in cross country and track are there enough girls out in order to field full varsity, JV, and freshman teams. Golf hasn't had enough players to even get a varsity score in the conference championship (5 kids make a full team). The numbers and skill levels of the girls' in softball led to the Vikings frequently having games end early in the innings because the "mercy rule" (where one team is up by a significant margin) require games to be ended to "stop the bleeding."
North athletes are not as likely to be able to afford off-season club teams, camps, or private coaching. One example is volleyball where the average cost for a club team is around $2000. The occasional student, like Ian Carlos (see wrestling story below), can access clubs, though in Ian's case the club is run by his father. In these cases, chances are greater for success. One unintended outcome of joining club teams is that athletes get pressure from teammates to transfer to another school, often South or West Highs, to continue to play together.
When a large proportion of our kids come from families in poverty, sports is not the highest priority. The fees and the necessity to buy shoes and other specialized equipment are a deterrent. Families put pressure on kids to get jobs or to come home right after school to babysit younger siblings to help the family.
This is not a coaching issue. North has really good coaches, though after low turnouts and constant losing many of them move on to other schools where they can be successful (as measured in wins). This is an economic and cultural issue. And moving down will level the playing field to a certain extent, at least in numbers of participants.
Viking pride will not go away. The coaches, parents, and athletes are still Viking true!
North Cheer Takes 4th in State
Viking cheerleaders came home from State competition with a 4th place trophy. The Vikings were competing in the Small Coed classification. It has been five years since Viking cheerleaders have placed at State. North is coached by alumna Bri MacInnes.