DENVER — For the first time since the Colorado High School Activities Association switched to having just one annual meeting, the CHSAA Legislative Council gathered at the Denver Marriott Tech Center on Wednesday.
The agenda was jam packed with items that had the potential to significantly change the prep sports landscape in the state of Colorado.
Perhaps the most momentous news coming out of this year’s Legislative Council meeting was a trio of votes that passed, adding three new sports — girls wrestling, boys volleyball and unified bowling — under the umbrella of CHSAA sanctioning. It was the first time since 1998 that CHSAA approved the addition of any new sanctioned sports.
“Girls wrestling is a sport that’s going to grow and grow now that it’s official,” St. Vrain Valley School District athletic director Rob Berry said. “Now that it’s official, it’ll be a little more organized, a little more complete and I think now we’ll see more girls come out and wanting give it a go. It’s exciting.
“Officially adding any new sport is exciting because there are things that come along with it that all kids wants to be able to participate in. Now they’ll be able to make records, they’ll be able to compete for state championships, they’ll be able to represent their school. It’s really a good thing.”
Berry has witnessed first-hand the swelling popularity of emerging sports like girls wrestling and boys volleyball in the SVVSD. A district-wide girls wrestling program growing continues to grow based out of Mead High School and six district schools — Erie, Frederick, Longmont, Niwot, Skyline, Silver Creek — fielding boys volleyball teams this spring. In the Boulder Valley School District, Boulder and Broomfield also have boys volleyball programs.
Apart from watching those sports received sanctioning under his watch, Wednesday’s Legislative Council meeting was an eventual one for Berry, personally. He received an award for his service after spending the past 15 years as the district AD, as he plans to retire this summer. Current Niwot High athletic director Chase McBride will take over Berry’s vacated position.
Another major change to come out of this year’s meeting was the addition of a second classification for girls lacrosse in Colorado. In a move that mirrors a classification split of boys lacrosse that took place prior to the 2013 season, starting next year the state’s 58 girls lacrosse teams will be divided into 5A and 4A divisions.
Not only does the split show that Colorado is a part of a national trend that has seen participation numbers in girls lacrosse increase steadily in recent years, the addition of a second classification is exciting news for new programs at smaller schools like 3A Holy Family and 2A Dawson School.
“We’re excited for that,” Holy Family athletic director Ben Peterson said. “It’s kind of like our boys lacrosse program. If we were competing with all 5A, it would be a very, very long time before we could have a prayer of making the playoffs. It gives us a better shot to build the program and for the girls to see some success sooner.”
Dawson girls lacrosse coach Blake Fisher agrees, saying, “It was actually something they mentioned at the coaches meeting earlier in the year and I didn’t think it was something that could happen. It’s huge news for smaller schools and teams that are developing. I think it’s going to help so much, confidence-wise, go have games against more appropriate opponents.”
A proposal to add a new eight-team 6A classification for postseason football in Colorado, however, did not pass. Despite the best efforts of Fairview head coach Tom McCartney, who spoke passionately in favor of adding an eight-team 6A class, the proposal was denied by a 69-4 vote.
“This is an opportunity to keep coaching, an opportunity to keep building your program,” McCartney said at the meeting. “I want to be one of those elite eight, I want to be one of those in the top bracket.”
Fairview athletic director Terrin Kelly was not surprised that such a monumental shift in the football classification structure did not pass. He also said that doesn’t mean it can’t happen in the future.
“I have a coach that’s passionate about the idea,” Kelly said. “He believes in making a more advanced system than we currently have. The 6A proposal is part of the bigger picture that he’s looking at, and he’s comparing us to other states and what they’ve done with some of their classifications. I believe that logically, it makes sense, but the rest of the state doesn’t necessarily agree with that right now. We’ll see what happens moving forward now that the idea has been made known to everybody.”
Also in football, a football committee report passed that creates a new playoff seeding criteria that is based on four data points — RPI, MaxPreps rankings, Packard rankings, and a coaches poll — for Classes 1A-5A.
Also at this year’s Legislative Council meeting, a petition to allow competition on Sundays for approved national events passed, a game day cheer division was added to spirit, and several new schools had their CHSAA membership approved. The Council also approved an officials fees report that will gives basketball and soccer referees a bump in their fees structure.
In soccer, Colorado will change to new system for postseason qualification in 2A that requires teams to meet a 12-game minimum that must include at least 10 teams that are National Federation of State High School Association members. The state will also switch to the diagonal system of control, which is an officiating system that is essential standard across all levels of the sport.
In softball, a double bag at first base will be implemented as a safety precaution and the mercy rule has been changed. Games will now end via mercy rule when a team leads by 15 runs after three innings, 12 after four or 10 after five.
In swimming, swimmers are now required to compete in six official high school meets in order to be eligible for state championship qualification.