Back in June, the Minnesota State High School League’s Board of Directors approved adding a third class to cross country and soccer as well as a fourth class to volleyball beginning in the 2021-22 school year.
In cross country, the 64 largest schools will be in Class AAA, next 96 largest in AA and all remaining schools in A. The proposal also included that two teams from every section will still advance to state, but now only top six individuals not on those teams qualify. Eight individuals previously qualified.
In soccer, the 64 largest schools are in AAA, next 64 in AA and all remaining schools in A.
In volleyball, the 64 largest schools are in AAAA, next 64 in AAA, next 128 in AA and all remaining schools in A.
For reference, St. Francis is 64th in enrollment at 1,234 students. Northfield is 62nd and Owatonna 56th.
At the next demarcation point, Waseca is 128th at 566. New London-Spicer is 160th at 405.
New Life Academy of Woodbury is 256th at 216.
The full enrollment list is available on a link on the MSHSL.org home page.
How will this new classification system affect area teams?
Faribault High School
Per the Minnesota State High School League’s 2019 figures, Faribault High School has the 83rd largest enrollment at 958.
Its enrollment is not expected to climb to the point of reaching the top 64 schools, so FHS appears solidly in Class AAA.
This benefits the Falcons as they’ll no longer contend with metro schools in the section playoffs. In the 2018 season, FHS had the 10th smallest enrollment out of 12 teams in Section 1AAA ahead of only Winona and Albert Lea.
Section mate Farmington exceeds over 2,000 and both Lakeville schools are north of 1,700. Lakeville North won the AAA state title in 2017.
Also moving up from the current section could be Northfield, the three Rochester public schools and Owatonna.
Closer to FHS’ enrollment in southern Minnesota are Albert Lea, Austin, Mankato West and Winona.
BA’s enrollment is at 178 and 289th highest in the state. The margins are thin this far down the enrollment list, but the Cardinals would need to grow by about 80 students to jump to Class AA, so their spot in Class A is safe.
Section and conference mate, Medford, has 240 students and climbing, which could bump the Tigers up to AA. Caledonia is at 235.
A large chunk of Section 1 is composed of schools smaller than BA, so there shouldn’t be too big of a shakeup.
Just seven spots ahead of BA is WEM with 183 students.
In a tie for 278th highest enrollment, it would take quite a big jump to climb up inside the top 256 to move up to AA.
That’s just fine for the Buccaneers who have thrived in Class A with a 31-win last season and a state championship in 2016.
In WEM’s Section 2, rival Mayer Lutheran likely isn’t going anywhere with a 184 enrollment.
In the South Subsection, New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva could be on the edge at 251.
K-W’s enrollment is 213, making it the 238th largest in the state.
That would slot the Knights in AA where it was until moving down to A for the 2019-20/2020-21 cycle.
K-W on the edge of potentially staying in A, so where enrollment figures shake out in a few years will be influential here.
Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf
With an enrollment of 26, MSAD is firmly entrenched in Class A. The Trojans have not elected to compete in MSHSL postseason play in recent years.
Unlike volleyball, the new classification system doesn’t appear to benefit FHS as much in soccer.
As it stands, FHS has one of the bigger Class A programs in the two-class system. Now, it will be among the second 64 teams to fall into Class AA.
The Big 9 Conference schedule will remain the same and non-conference foes shouldn’t be much different, either. The big difference will be FHS can no longer feast on developing programs that are usually co-ops between small towns.
The MSHSL’s co-op rules state that the main school’s enrollment is counted 100% as well as 50% of the enrollment of remaining schools. FHS co-ops with Bethlehem Academy, which has an enrollment of 178. Adding 89 students to FHS’ 958 equates to 1,047 which would still fall below the 64-team threshold even without considering other co-ops.
K-W co-ops with Triton. Triton’s enrollment is 309, so add half of K-W’s 213 makes either a 415 or 416 total.
The program may sneak into Class AA, but is best suited to remain in A as it just beginning to field varsity squads.
Again, co-ops are highly prevalent in small-school soccer and can also change composition by the time 2021 rolls around.
WEM does not field soccer.
FHS co-ops with BA, so that enrollment figure equates to 1,047. That’s a far cry from the top 64 and likely means these squads will remain in Class AA.
The larger teams move up to AAA, though, which will help at the section meet. In Section 1 in 2018, FHS had the seventh highest enrollment of 16 teams. The Falcon boys took 10th place with three smaller schools ahead of them. The girls were fourth with two of the top three (Farmington and Lakeville South) likely moving up to AAA in the future.
WEM co-ops with Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton. J-W-P has an enrollment of 205 and will take half of WEM’s 183 for a co-op total of either 296 or 297 depending how you slice it using the 100%-50% rule described above.
That still would likely be too low to move up to AA, so WEM/JWP will remain in A.
There are some big schools in the section who could be on the way up, including Belle Plaine (437), Fairmont (464), Glencoe-Silver Lake (479), Tri-City United (483) and St. Peter (593).
K-W co-ops with Zumbrota-Mazeppa.
In 2018-19, Z-M had a 320 enrollment and K-W 213, making for a 425 (or 426) total with the formula.
It’s hard to say which co-ops will stay intact when classes change, as well as to know where their enrollment figures will shake out.
There is a chance Z-M/K-W could move up to Class AA, but sticking in Class A seems more likely.