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Cheney will play where the numbers are

Blackhawks stay in new, five-member Great Northern League


When it comes to enrollment figures shifting area schools between sports classifications, and causing re-alignment of some leagues, Cheney High School’s situation is pretty straightforward. In fact, the way Blackhawks’ athletics director Jim Missel sees it, so too is everybody else’s.

“Everybody’s playing where their numbers are, and that’s where Cheney is going to play – where our numbers are,” Missel said. “We learned our lesson.”

That last statement was a reference to Cheney’s tenure as a 3A school in the Greater Spokane League from 2002-2006, something all 16 varsity programs didn’t want to repeat after the Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association released new classification numbers last week. Those numbers showed Cheney with a grade 9-11 enrollment of 893 students, 10th largest among the Blackhawks’ 63 other fellow schools in the 2A classification.

The numbers did cause a shakeup of the Great Northern League as both Deer Park and Colville dropped, as anticipated, into the 1A classification and Northeast A League with enrollments of 461 and 449 respectively. The 2A-1A cutoff was 472 students, with 990.8 marking the difference between 2A and 3A.

Also remaining in the GNL are East Valley (849), West Valley (713), Clarkston (557) and Pullman (516). There was some preliminary discussion about East Valley possibly opting up to 3A and becoming part of the GSL, which became divided into an uneven alignment of six 4A and four 3A schools after re-classification, however the Knights coaches voted to nix the move.

“Coaches agree that had we had news of this in December, this might have changed things,” EV athletics director Joe Kostecka said in an email. “However, the deadline has come and passed and we need to honor our commitments we made to our fellow GNL members. EV will remain a proud member of the Great Northern League.”

Missel echoes those sentiments, noting most schedules for fall 2014 have already been established. For Cheney football, that means four league and four non-league games, with Missel hoping to find one more non-league match up.

Cheney will continue its series with Idaho school Lakeland, while also playing non-league games with Colville in the season-opener, at Deer Park in week two and with Moscow.

Right now Missel is looking for a game to fill week four, scheduled as a bye, and said he has been contacted by several GSL 3A athletic directors about the possibility, although they are limited to non-league contests in weeks 1-3.

“We’ll see if they will change, switch out,” he said. “There might be some rotation going on.”

Cross country and track and field’s league meets will all be duals, with other weeks filled with invitational meets.

Basketball, soccer and volleyball will each play the other GNL schools three times, with the first counting as a non-league contest and used as a tiebreaker to determine league playoff seeding.

Baseball and softball have three games with GNL opponents – all counting in league standings. As for their remaining, typical 20-game schedule, Missel isn’t sure.

“I don’t know how tough it is to find eight non-league baseball games,” he said.

With the exception of individual sports and football, district playoffs consist of seed two playing seed five and the three and four seeds playing, with the winners facing off for the right to take on the regular-season champion. The winner of that game is “glued” into sub-regional competition with the Central Washington Athletic conference as the GNL’s top seed, earning a home game, while the loser gets the No. 2 slot and hits the road.

Missel is excited about the new format and views it as a challenge, something he has never done before. He gives a lot of credit to GNL president Russ Brown for scheduling meetings that helped keep the league together.

“My hat’s off to Russ Brown,” Missel said. “He organized everything with West Valley and we got things accomplished.”

John McCallum can be reached at


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