LONGMONT — Five years ago, when Jared Gunderson was still the athletic director at Faith Baptist School, he proposed to the school's administration that its athletic programs join the Colorado High School Activities Association.
Back then, the administration had several concerns that outweighed what the apparent gains from having the school's sports sanctioned by the athletics governing body that oversees most of the state's prep sports. The current administration, which now includes Gunderson himself, revisited the issue a number of times in the past few years and finally decided the time was right to join CHSAA for the 2015-16 school year.
"Our current School Committee and school administration met a number of times and reached the conclusion that CHSAA membership will provide greater opportunities for our school not just in athletics but also in other extracurricular activities," Gunderson said. "While playing for a state championship is a neat idea, we are much more interested in providing opportunities for our students to interact with students and schools outside of our circle of Christian schools."
The Faith Baptist Pioneers will be joining the rest of the state's CHSAA-sanctioned sports for volleyball, girls basketball and boys basketball. The school has not yet decided whether it will move forward with boys soccer since it has an enrollment of only 33 students and the smallest classification for boys soccer includes school with enrollment numbers up to 600 students.
For the 2015-16 school year, the Pioneers' teams will play probationary seasons with the possibility of joining the 1A 5280 League in 2016-17. Gunderson said the Pioneers should be able to fill their schedules with a number of current CHSAA schools as well as teams from their current league, the Front Range Christian Athletic Association. The Pioneers will be eligible for the state tournament next year as an independent.
Based on how the school's athletic teams have fared in recent seasons, Gunderson believes the Pioneers will be able to compete with other CHSAA schools despite the school's size.
"The FRCAA is actually a very competitive league," Gunderson said. "We have not won a league championship in any sport for several years. We generally play several CHSAA schools in each sport every year as non-conference games, usually winning about half and losing about half so we have historically been very competitive with CHSAA competition. I think moving to CHSAA will cause each of our sports to rise to the challenge of opportunities for better competition. Our school has worked very hard for years to comply with CHSAA and NFHS guidelines so the transition should be very smooth."
Current Faith Baptist athletic director and girls basketball coach Jim Stadler has some reasonable concerns about the Pioneers' numbers and how the move will work. But overall, he said the teams will just have to step up to the new challenge.
"This year is an unusual year for us because we have six girls and we're picking up and eighth grader," Stadler said. "Until we join CHSAA, we can do that in our league. Joining CHSAA is a little scary because of our numbers. But it will give us more competition and open some doors for the girls."
Those doors begin opening in 2015-16.
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