Following a drop in student enrollment, MHS is granted permission from OSAA to move down from 5A classification.
By John Hampton | News Editor
Marshfield will no longer be the little brother.
As school enrollment has declined, Marshfield has had a more difficult time competing against larger schools.
On Dec. 3, 2012, Athletic Directors Boyd Bjorkquist and Mike George traveled to Portland to meet with OSAA officials regarding Marshfield’s athletic classification. They returned to the school with the news they had hoped for: MHS is now a member of the 4A classification and the Far West League.
“We were about 100 students below the 5A cutoff,” George said. “We were three students over the cutoff last year.”
The 5A cutoff line is at 875 students, whereas MHS now has an enrollment of 776 in grades 9-12. This transfer to 4A will match Marshfield against schools of a smaller size. MHS will be in the top third of the classification in Oregon as far as size measured by number of students.
“We believed that there was a better opportunity for Marshfield to be successful on the 4A level, because we will now be playing teams relatively close to us in size,” Bjorkquist said.
Marshfield will become a member of the Far West League starting in the 2013-2014 school year, joining Brookings-Harbor, Douglas, Siuslaw, South Umpqua, Sutherlin and cross-town rival North Bend. Bjorkquist believes competing against these more local schools will have a positive impact.
“We will have a much better visitor turnout at our home games,” Bjorkquist said. “Only about three spectators would make the trip down from Eugene.”
The switch could also save the athletic department money for travel. Marshfield teams will now only have to travel an average of 69.2 miles for league games, as opposed to 112.8 miles in the Midwestern League.
Head girls basketball coach Bruce Bryant believes the closer proximity will help build better relationships between the schools.
“It creates community rivalries, which are fun,” Bryant said.
Marshfield will enter the new league as the largest school. Sophomore Alyssa Hedgpeth, a member of the girls swim team, believes the new classification will give her team a greater chance for success.
“It will help us out as a team at state,” Hedgpeth said.
Bryant added that some teams in Oregon have experienced immediate success when moving down a classification. According to Bryant, Cottage Grove High School once had the weakest athletic teams in the Midwestern League, but experienced immediate success when its teams moved down to the 4A classification. This had a positive impact on the school.
“Anytime you have an opportunity for success, it has a positive impact on the athletes, school and community,” Bryant said.
The switch to a smaller classification is not a guarantee, however, that Marshfield will have a larger athletic impact at state level. Bjorkquist believes there are still many good teams that come from smaller schools.
“I think what we will find is that there will always be teams that will be competitive regardless of a school’s size,” Bjorkquist said.
Bryant also believes there will be teams that will be difficult to defeat, despite being in a smaller classification.
“There are teams like Sutherlin who have built very strong programs that could perform well in any division, and we may have trouble beating them next year,” Bryant said.
Hedgpeth agrees the Far West League has strong teams.
“North Bend has built a really good program and they will be our toughest competition,” Hedgpeth said.
Despite some strong teams, the general consensus is that Marshfield will now have a better opportunity for success.
“I think it is important for schools to experience success,” Bryant said. “It will improve the morale of the athletes and increase school spirit.”