By BRIAN KELLY
BAINBRIDGE — There's a good chance North Kitsap High School, and possibly the Olympic League, would welcome the Bainbridge Spartans to the Olympic League.
"At [North Kitsap High School] I think we would like Bainbridge back in our league," North Kitsap Athletic Director Chris Franklin said. "It would be a great rivalry."
Though he can't speak for the Olympic League as a whole, Franklin said the West Central District would like the Spartans back as well. A good fit, Franklin called it.
However, an internal survey of head coaches at Bainbridge High shows that most want to stay in the Metro League and not play against schools in the Olympic League.
Bainbridge school officials are grappling with the question of where the Spartans should compete as the leagues are aligned to fit with student enrollment numbers. The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association released enrollment numbers for all high schools in the state late last month, and the number of students at Bainbridge High places the Spartan athletic program into 2A classification.
BHS is currently a 3A school, but under the new alignment, Bainbridge can "opt up" to remain in 3A in a modified Metro League, or apply for acceptance into the Olympic League and compete against other 2A schools.
At the school board meeting later this week, the board will host a study session to consider which league fits best for Bainbridge.
BHS officials have polled coaches — and also surveyed student athletes and parents — to find out their league preferences.
Nineteen head coaches were polled, and 11 said they wanted to stay in the Metro League, and eight opted for a change to the Olympic League.
If Bainbridge plays in the Olympic League, it could potentially face North Kitsap, Kingston, Bremerton, Olympic, Sequim and Port Angles in conference play.
"Bainbridge plays tough in most sports; we play tough in most sports," Franklin said. The rivalry between Bainbridge and North Kitsap is "an old one, but a good one," he said.
If Bainbridge opts up for 3A Metro League play, the Spartans would likely square off against familiar opponents such as the private schools of Seattle Prep, Lakeside, Holy Names, Eastside Catholic and Bishop Blanchet, plus public schools including West Seattle, Rainier Beach, Nathan Hale, Ingraham, Garfield, Franklin, Cleveland, Chief Sealth and Ballard.
A poll of players and parents by Bainbridge officials found that 59 percent want BHS to "opt up" to Metro 3A.
Approximately 37 percent want Bainbridge to compete in the 2A Olympic League, while 4 percent would like BHS to play in a Seattle-based 2A league, such as KingCo, which includes schools such as Liberty, Sammamish and Lake Washington.
Bainbridge officials have also examined the amount of instructional time lost by students who participate in sports, as well as league-by-league cost comparisons.
Officials report that students would be in class more if the school plays in a 2A league based on the Kitsap Peninsula.
For the fall sports season, for example, student athletes miss approximately 115 minutes of class time when they participate in a single away game.
For an Olympic League contest, the missed class time is approximately 67 minutes.
Officials estimate it would also be cheaper for Bainbridge to play in the Olympic League.
The transportation costs for 200 away trips in the Metro League is estimated to cost $93,196. In the Olympic League, the cost is estimated at $59,267.
Kaycee Taylor, the head coach for the Spartan boys swimming and diving team, was part of the BHS team that looked at league alignment. Taylor said he wasn't surprised that coaches, players and parents want to stay in the Metro League.
"The coaches have that sense of where their program is going to be the most challenged," he said.
"A lot of people think of Bainbridge as more a suburb of Seattle as opposed to a neighbor of Kitsap. It's what we've [the coaches] known for years and years," Taylor said.
"Whichever way the decision goes, there will be lots of opportunities for all of the sports," he added.
The school board meets at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12 in the Commodore Commons.
— Bainbridge Review writer Luciano Marano and North Kitsap Herald reporter Kipp Robertson contributed to this story.