Ninth-graders may be eligible for all prep sports

Schools: Community forums focus on proposed athletics changes

of the HeraldMarch 12, 2014 

The Puyallup School District is the only one in the South Puget Sound League that doesn’t allow ninth-grade student-athletes in every sport.

That could change this fall.

A task force has created a plan to allow ninth-graders a chance to compete on high school football, volleyball, basketball, girls cross country, girls soccer, track and field and boys wrestling teams. The proposal will go to the Puyallup School District Board of Directors on April 7 at Ballou Junior High School.

During the past several years, ninth-graders at Puyallup junior high schools were permitted to compete at the high school level on baseball, fastpitch, tennis, bowling, gymnastics, girls wrestling, water polo, swimming and diving, boys cross country, boys soccer and golf teams.

That’s because those sports aren’t offered at the junior high level.

Puyallup School District Athletic Director Rick Wells, who is on the task force, said having ninth-graders compete at the high school level would be an asset to the community.

“Equity is important because, right now, you have some kids who can’t play at the high school level when their counterpart in our league (SPSL), in the state of Washington and even within their own school get the opportunity to do that,” Wells said. “A girl wrestler, a boy cross-country athlete, their counter-gender part doesn’t have that opportunity, no matter how good they are. That’s the inequity part we can’t, in a clear conscience, continue to cultivate.”

Wrestling and cross country are two sports where that currently occurs. Ninth-grade girls can compete at the high school level, but ninth-grade boys must compete at the junior high level only.

In cross country, the opposite is true. Boys are allowed to compete at the high school level, but girls have to compete at the junior high school level.

Other schools in the SPSL don’t have that issue because ninth-graders compete in high school athletics only.

“If you look at the other junior highs in our area, and our league, all of those athletic programs have moved their ninth-grade programs to the high school,” Wells said.

If the proposal passes, the eighth-grade teams at the junior high level would become the varsity teams, Wells said.

“I think that is being fair to people across the board and is giving everybody that same opportunity that every other school around them has,” he said.

Wells said junior high schools play an eight-week season per sport. High school athletes typically get about 12 weeks per athletic season.

The task force, which was formed in March 2013, conducted community forums and discussed the proposal with the public March 3-5.

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