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Few major changes were made as the Minnesota State High School League realigned its section placements for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years. However, the minor adjustments did have a major impact on District 833 high schools East Ridge, Park and Woodbury.

Section realignment: Small changes, big impact on area high schools

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Section realignment: Small changes, big impact on area high schools
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Few major changes were made as the Minnesota State High School League realigned its section placements for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years. However, the minor adjustments did have a major impact on District 833 high schools East Ridge, Park and Woodbury.

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The MSHSL board policy states that schools are to be re-classified and re-assigned to sections every two years. The assignments for the next two years were completed last week.

MSHSL Assistant Director Chris Franson, who is responsible for Section Assignments, said there weren't many changes this year.

"After six or eight years we do a full re-sectioning, this was kind of one of those in-between years where we try to balance out new enrollment changes and look at the number of teams in each section and just tweak it a little bit," Franson said.

However, perhaps the biggest impact locally was on the area basketball and wrestling teams.

In boys and girls basketball, East Ridge was split from Woodbury and taken out of Section 4AAAA, and placed in Park's section -- Section 3AAAA. In boys basketball, East Ridge and Park will compete with powers Apple Valley, Eagan and Eastview and fellow Section 3AAAA newcomer Cretin-Derham Hall, which also used to be in Section 4AAAA.

Staying in Section 4AAAA, Woodbury now has a slightly easier road to state without the Raptors and Raiders. However, Mounds View was moved into Section 4AAAA from Section 5AAAA and Mahtomedi was moved up into Section 4AAAA from Class AAA.

"The change in that section was because Mahtomedi moved from AAA to AAAA," Franson said. "The advisory board has asked us to try to keep it at eight teams per section and have a pure 64 teams total in the biggest class. When Mahtomedi came up we moved one team to the south and that was East Ridge."

On the girls side, East Ridge and Park won't have to contend with 2009-10 state champion Lakeville North in Section 3AAAA. The Panthers and Lakeville South were both moved to Section 1AAAA. Along with East Ridge, Henry Sibley was moved into Section 3AAAA.

Park head coach Stephanie Tolkinen said she was happy about the way it worked out for her team.

"I feel it is a very competitive section and seems to make a little more sense geographically," Tolkinen said. "It is nice to have at least one conference team in with us now. We already have Henry Sibley on the schedule as a non-conference opponent, so that helps with the scheduling. I am excited to see a couple of different teams and to see what we can do in the future."

East Ridge girls head coach Glen Wurm said the move will create a little more homework for his staff, but what doesn't change is that a team always needs to play good basketball to win section games.

"We will now have to learn more about some other teams," Wurm said. "They will have to do the same, but not to the extent we will have to, because the majority of the other teams play in the same conference. We are, however, scheduled to play Apple Valley, Henry Sibley and, of course, Park next year."

Section 3AAA wrestling: East Ridge in, Hastings out

In wrestling, East Ridge joined Park in Section 3AAA and perennial power Hastings was moved to Section 1AAA, meaning heavyweights Apple Valley and Hastings are no longer in the same section. Also, Minneapolis Southwest moved into Section 3AAA.

However, Park and East Ridge will still need to contend with defending Class AAA state champion Apple Valley in order to qualify for the state tournament as a team or to send individuals to state. Apple Valley has won the past five Class AAA state titles and 15 state championships since 1995.

"We are excited about the change of moving Hastings south and East Ridge and Minneapolis Southwest in," Park head coach Jim LaBrosse said. "It definitely opens doors for many of our wrestlers to have an opportunity to make it into the state tournament and puts us in the running for a top-three team finish. Unfortunately, we have to contend with Apple Valley -- the No. 1 wrestling team in the nation this year. It looks as though they will be ranked in the top three nationally again next year."

This past year, Apple Valley and Hastings were the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked teams in the state and qualified 22 total wrestlers to state out of the 28 possible berths. Apple Valley sent 13 individuals to the state tournament and Hastings sent nine to state. Of the six remaining spots, Eagan qualified three wrestlers to state and Rosemount, Burnsville and Henry Sibley each sent one wrestler to state.

"The big thing there was that Mankato and Austin didn't opt up into AAA from AA, so two teams needed to go to Section 1AAA," Franson said. "The first one was Northfield and then it was kind of a toss up between Hastings and Farmington. Hastings is already in the south for baseball, track and volleyball and a few others as well."

In swimming and diving, Mounds View and Roseville were each moved out of Section 4AA, which is East Ridge, Park and Woodbury's section. The Mounds View boys won the Section 4AA championship and finished fifth in the state this year.

In football, Section 4AAAAA -- East Ridge, Park and Woodbury's section -- will be down to seven teams, as Henry Sibley was moved to Class AAAA. Henry Sibley was also moved down a class in boys and girls hockey and gymnastics and will not be in Section 3AA, which is East Ridge, Park and Woodbury's section in those sports. Apple Valley was also moved out of Section 3AA in gymnastics as the section shrunk from 10 to eight teams.

In volleyball, Holy Angels was added to Park's Section 3AAA. There was no change to East Ridge and Woodbury's section in volleyball. There were also no changes to baseball, soccer or tennis for the District 833 public high schools.

A two-month process'

Beginning in mid-February, enrollments were obtained by the MSHSL from the Minnesota Department of Education. The current enrollment formula is 9-12 enrollment less 40 percent of the Free and Reduced Lunch totals in 9-12 from every school.

The top 128 schools in enrollment, after applying the formula, are classified in Administrative Class AA. The rest of the schools are Class A. Using the enrollments, each MSHSL activity is re-classified, based mainly on enrollment and geography.

Once classes have been identified, schools have the opportunity to move up a class. This year, as an example, Totino-Grace opted to move up a class in football and is now in Section 2AAAAA along with perennial powers Mounds View, Stillwater and White Bear Lake.

The MSHSL uses a three-part process for re-sectioning. Starting with the current placements, the League places schools new to that class in the nearest geographic region, then may move schools out to balance the number of teams in each section.

"The whole process takes about two months," Franson said. "We get appeals and opt-ups and collect the data from the Department of Education, before we actually can get to the section assignments. There does get to be a lot of steps in the process. Schools are interested in scheduling for the future so we try to get them out as fast as possible. We don't get the numbers from the Department of Education until mid-February, so there's a pretty quick turnaround."

When moving schools to a new section, the League states it tries to move as few schools as possible, that geographic sections should not overlap and that it attempts to numerically balance Class AA (or higher) sections to within two teams and Class A sections to within four teams. Travel concerns or time out of school is considered only if all of the previous can still be satisfied.

The League states strength of programs, district or conference rivalries and requests to the MSHSL office are not considered. Also, the MSHSL board has the ability to adjust balances in the off-year should sections become extremely unbalanced due to program changes, but there are no appeals on the placements.

Franson said it's the third cycle with the new enrollment formula, but there is still occasional concern from the public. He said he does keep a list of issues he fields, but it isn't used when moving schools around.

"The program we use actually doesn't have names associated with them and are just basically dots on a map," Franson said. "We don't take that stuff into consideration ahead of time."

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