What does that mean for Abilene?
By TIM HORAN
Gas up the car or truck. It’s going to be a long ride through postseason play in some sports.
Essentially, that was the message Abilene Athletic Director Will Burton told the board of education at the last meeting.
Burton said that Abilene voted against the Kansas State High School Activities Association splitting Class 4A into Class 4A Division I and Class 4A Division II based upon September enrollment.
“We were one of 22 schools that voted ‘no’ on that. Unfortunately, more schools voted ‘yes’ and it only needed a simple majority for it to pass.”
There are now going to be two divisions in class 4A and the top 32 teams will be Class 4A Division I and 32 teams in Class 4A Division II for five sports: football, volleyball, basketball, softball and baseball.
“Our numbers historically would put us in the upper division; one of the smaller upper division teams,” he said.
“Football will not take effect this year as we have to finish our two-year district cycle,” he added. “Volleyball, basketball, softball and baseball will look different this school year when we will go to the 32-team format. Actually, what we will be doing is what 6A and 5A have been doing for several years.”
Burton held up a Kansas map saying, “Don’t laugh. I’m going to show you my high-end technology.”
But school board members got a clear picture looking at the pins representing Class 4A Division I schools.
The nearest high schools are Wamego 64 miles one way, McPherson 64 miles, Buhler 83 miles, Topeka Hayden 84 miles and Highland Park 90 miles. And by itself, surrounded by virtually no Class 4A Division I schools, is Ulysses which is 274 miles from Abilene High School.
“Going off of this year’s numbers, we’re kind of on an island,” Burton said. “There’s no more Chapman, no more Concordia, no more Clay Center, no more Smoky Valley. They are lower division and they are secure for lower division schools. Wamego is the smallest of the largest division. They are a bubble school. We won’t know until those counts are in.
“We’re on an island. Here’s Ulysses (in southwest Kansas),” he added. “Coaches can get their daubers down and say that the world is coming to an end but essentially, to compete for a state title in anything, you have to play these schools anyway at some point potentially. So that’s not, to me, a major thing.
“For me, it’s the travel that is going to occur,” Burton said. “Whereas we might see these schools eventually, we’re going to see them a lot earlier now. When you start looking at a four-team football district, how is that going to go and who are they going to put out with Ulysses?”
He mentioned McPherson, Buhler, possibly Wellington, Abilene, Wamego, Hayden and Highland could be a group.
“Highland Park is the largest of the 4As this year,” he said. “Do they (KSHSAA) bump them up into 5A and they are in the picture and everything is even further east?
“Our amount of travel for postseason is going to go up,” he reiterated. “The other scary factor on that is, we’re very fortunate or have been, to have most of our state tournaments in Salina. That hasn’t been determined yet. Do you try to go into southeast Kansas which traditionally didn’t host something now? I don’t know. That’s the scary part: the travel and why we voted no. There is no more, ‘Let’s go to Chapman for sub-state basketball.’ That’s a nice 10-mile trip.
“I don’t see us fluctuating,” he said of Abilene High School. “We’ve always historically been in the top 32. The fluctuation is going to be who’s moving from 4 to 5 or 3 to 4 or 4 to 3.
He said the division will have no effect on the regular season schedule except for football districts.
“One of the questions I get in the community is ‘So what league are we going to be in?” he said. “We’ll still be in the North Central Kansas League. We’ll still play Chapman, Clay Center, Concordia, Marysville and Wamego. That will still be our league affiliation.”