Bethel, Eatonville getting ready for league switch

By Pat Jenkins The Dispatch Student-athletes at Bethel and Eatonville high schools are doing more this month than getting ready for the fall sports season. They're alsp preparing to usher their schools into new leagues. With the start of the 2015-16 school year, Bethel is moving from the 4A South Puget Sound League's (SPSL) South Division to the 3A Pierce County League, formerly the 3A SPSL. And Eatonville is going from the 1A Evergreen League to the 2A SPSL. The debuts in the new leagues will start with the fall sports season. Football teams start practicing this week, and the other sports' practices begin next week. The decisions to switch leagues were made last spring and were driven by the schools' desire to compete against schools of similar size. Enrollment categories go from the high end at 4A to 1A and smaller. Bethel High is one of two schools in the Bethel District that are leaving the 4A ranks for 3A life. Spanaway Lake is the other. New schools joining the 4A SPSL were a factor in moving Bethel and Spanaway Lake, according to Bryan Streleski, the district's athletic director. "With the addition of Bellarmine, South Kitsap and Olympia, we felt it was better for our students" at Bethel and Spanaway Lake to compete in a 3A league, said Bryan Streleski, the district's athletic director. He predicted 3A competition "will give student-athletes a positive experience. If we are going to have to travel throughout the (region for competition), we want to compete against like-sized schools, and 3A offers that opportunity.GÇ¥ The change disrupts some natural rivalries. Bethel and Spanaway Lake will still face each other, but Graham-Kapowsin, the Bethel district's third high school with sports programs, remains in the 4A SPSL. Joining Bethel and Spanaway Lake in the Pierce County League are Bonney Lake, Lincoln, Lakes, Mount Tahoma, Stadium and Wilson. Eatonville's shift to the 16-school, two-division alignment of the 2A SPSL is spurred by an increase of Eatonville's student enrollment from 1A to 2A status. Eatonville officials say the SPSL schools are closer geographically than those in the Evergreen League, Eatonville's previous conference, which will be an improvement for travel time to away games. In addition, the Cruisers were in the SPSL during 2010-12 and have rivalries there that are deeper, as Eatonville athletic director and football coach George Fairhart has noted. Other SPSL members in the same division as Eatonville include Orting, River Ridge, Steilacoom, Clover Park, Highline, Renton and Tyee. Half of them (Eatonville, Orting, Steilacoom and Clover Park) are in Pierce County, three (Tyee, Renton and Highline) are in King County, and one (Olympia's River Ridge) is in Thurston County. SPSL officials say a goal of the divisional orders is relatively equal travel distances between the schools. Eatonville left the Nisqually League in 2010 to join the SPSL, returned to the Nisqually for the 2012-13 school year, and then spent two years in the Evergreen League before the latest change.


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