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Kansas’ Class 4A schools to split into two divisions for five sports

Published June 4 at 10:16 a.m. | Last updated June 4 at 9:38 a.m.

The 64 high schools in Kansas’ Class 4A voted to split into two divisions for five sports, effective this school year for volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball. Football will split into two divisions in Fall 2014.

The Kansas State High School Activities Association announced Tuesday the proposal passed 42-22.

Pratt principal Steve Blankenship was one of the architects of the proposal. Proponents wanted smaller schools in the class to be able to compete more equally for state championships in those team sports.

“This is something I’ve looked at for five years, gathering information on, sent surveys out,” Blankenship said prior to the vote being announced. “… I’m very relieved. I’m happy that this is done and over to be honest with you. It’s been a stressful year talking about this non-stop. I’m just happy that this is a positive result and that we can move on with what we should be doing and serve our kids.”

Class 4A will be split in half, with the 32 largest schools in Division I, the 32 smallest in Division II. There will be separate postseasons for volleyball, basketball, softball, baseball and football.

Last year, the largest 4A school (Highland Park) had 729 students in its upper three grades, while the smallest (Rock Creek and Frontenac) had 258. The difference is much larger than in 6A, 5A, 3A or 2A. Class 1A has a bigger difference between its biggest and smallest schools, but it already split into divisions for volleyball and basketball.

“Right now I’m feeling very pleased and confident, a little bit ecstatic, even,” said Holton principal Rod Wittmer, who worked with Blankenship and Girard middle school principal Randy Heatherly. “We thought we had a good chance of passing it or otherwise we would not have partaken on this path.

“We thought it would be a little closer. I think our presentation and the information we put out gained some traction with the membership.”

Volleyball is the first sport that will be affected, and the KSHSAA executive board must quickly put into place a new sub-state system, as well as find a site for a state tournament.

“There’s a lot of work ahead, absolutely,” said Mark Lentz, KSHSAA assistant executive director. “Getting to secure the sites is one thing. I know everybody is working on that right now, to try and figure what is best. You want something that is centrally located for the classifications.”

Blankenship said it is possible 4A will follow the sub-state model already used in Class 6A and 5A, which have 32 teams.

“If they follow the model that 5A and 6A have, there’s nothing to invent,” Blankenship said. “The hurdle will be finding a state site.”

Volleyball currently plays two classes at each state site, so the change might not be drastic. Both divisions in 4A could be in Salina, while 3A could go with 2A and both divisions of 1A can be together.

Reach Joanna Chadwick at 316-268-6270 or jchadwick@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @joannachadwick.

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