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Tuesday, November 29, 1994 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Enumclaw Step Closer To Moving Up To Spsl

Shelly Thiel calls it a homecoming of sorts.

Enumclaw High School, once a member of the old Puget Sound League, is a step closer to joining the South Puget Sound League's North Division next fall after its membership petition was approved yesterday by the SPSL Principals' Association. The alignment with the North Division is contingent upon Clover Park remaining in the South Division.

With declining enrollment, Clover Park is considering a drop to Class AA and has made membership inquiries with the Pierce County League. However, Auburn Principal Kip Herren said Clover Park officials have received strong community support for remaining in the SPSL. A decision will be announced Dec. 15.

Enumclaw, currently a member of the PCL, expects enrollment figures to push the school from Class AA to Class AAA next fall. There is a chance Enumclaw could remain just under the limit of 999 students for Class AA schools during the current reclassification period (this October, November and December), which determines classifications for the 1995-96 and 1996-97 school years, according to Thiel, the Enumclaw athletic director.

But the school expects its enrollment to rise above 1,000 - possibly 1,300 - by the time the next reclassification period comes along in two years. The prevailing sentiment in the school and community, Thiel said, is to make the move now.

The Enumclaw School Board is expected to make the final decision Dec. 19.

"In a way, it's a case of coming back home," Thiel said. "Enumclaw was in the old Puget Sound League with Auburn and Kent from the 1930s until 1967."

Enumclaw was then a member of the Seamount League until 1989, when officials opted to move to the PCL after the Renton and Highline schools dropped from Class AAA to AA and joined the Seamount, which brought an end to the North Puget Sound League. Auburn and the three Kent schools, the other NPSL members, were accepted into the SPSL.

Riverside, the new high school in Auburn which opens next fall with grades nine through 11 (no senior class), also will be in the SPSL North Division, although it might compete in the PCL in football. Enumclaw would make the PCL a nine-team division. The South Division currently has eight teams. If Clover Park drops out, some shift would have to be made to create two eight-team divisions, according to Herren.

"We would want to create balance," he said.

But that wouldn't necessarily mean Enumclaw would have to join the South instead of the North, according to Herren. Other division configurations are possible. Some officials in the three Federal Way high schools, for instance, feel more strongly aligned with the South Division schools. But that would mean two South Division schools would have to move to the North Division. Puyallup, Rogers and Sumner are closest, but also are strongly tied to the South.

"Ideally, Enumclaw would be in the North Division because it's a good fit," Herren said, noting geographic and program compatibilities, "but there are other considerations."

While Thiel was thrilled with the prospect of Enumclaw joining the North Division - "That's great!" he said - he was not enthusiastic about the possibility of aligning with the South Division.

"That's not good news," Thiel said. "Beggers can't be choosy, but that doesn't sit well at all. . . . But if we didn't go there, where would we go?"

Possibly nowhere. Thiel admitted Enumclaw might choose to stay in the PCL if enrollment figures allowed rather than join the SPSL South Division.

"We'd have to sit down and look at things," he said. "I don't know."

Enumclaw's enrollment in the top three grades was 1,003 in October and 1,001 in November with the projection less than 1,000 by Dec. 1. Next year at this time, though, it could be close to 1,200. Last year's graduating class was 195. This year's ninth-grade class is 425.

"It's not like we're going to be hovering around 1,000," Thiel said. "It isn't like we would be short-changing our kids (by going Class AAA) or anything like that."

A realignment committee also has looked at the possibility of splitting the SPSL into two leagues, resurrecting the NPSL. But the recommendation is to remain one league, according to Herren.

"The idea of starting a super-league the next couple of years is real important to us because of all the changes that are going to be occurring," he said.

More classification shifts are expected in two years - and the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association is considering a new method of determining classifications. Tahoma, now in the PCL, appears ready for Class AAA by 1997 and Highline (Seamount League) has been on the bubble the past two years. Plus, Kent opens its fourth high school in 1997, one year later than originally scheduled.

Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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