Mountlake Terrace HS moving back up to 3A classification in fall 2020

Mountlake Terrace football coach Tony Umayam (File photos by Doug Petrowski)

After spending four years competing at the 2A level, the sports programs of Mountlake Terrace High School will be moving back up to 3A beginning this fall as the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) announced their 2020-2024 high school classifications on Monday.

For Mountlake Terrace, the 3A classification is a return to what Hawk teams competed in for about 10 years before a drop to the 2A classification in September 2016. After years of enrollment declines at Terrace, the number of students at the school has now stabilized at a level that is comparable to other area and state 3A schools, warranting the change. In addition, the WIAA made changes regarding how the organization determines where schools will fit in their revamped classification system.

With an adjusted enrollment of 1,011 in grades 9 through 11, Mountlake Terrace slides into the bottom third of the 3A classification, one of 79 schools statewide that will be competing in the classification through 2024.

Overall, the 21 sports offered at Terrace will see little change with the reclassification to 3A. Almost all of the Hawks’ sports teams already compete in the 2A/3A Wesco League, facing area 3A teams including Edmonds School District rivals Edmonds-Woodway, Lynnwood and Meadowdale.

Football has been the one exception for regular-season scheduling during Terrace’s current 2A cycle. After two seasons playing against the 3A schools in the Wesco League in 2016 and 2017, the Hawks’ football team has been part of a 2A Northwest Conference league the past two years, a league that included teams from Skagit and Whatcom counties. With the classification change back to 3A, Terrace will rejoin the Wesco League for football this fall and be part of a 3A South division that will consist of Terrace, Edmonds-Woodway, Lynnwood, Meadowdale, Shorecrest, Snohomish and newly-reclassified Monroe (down from 4A beginning this fall).

With the changes, Terrace will again face the Warriors, Royals and Mavericks on an annual basis — at least through the 2023 season.

Terrace football coach Tony Umayam likes the idea of playing more games against local teams and not having to travel north to Bellingham or other Northwest Conference schools for league contests.

“At least our games will be closer proximity (to Mountlake Terrace), so that should help our crowds,” Umayam said.

The biggest change for all Terrace teams come 2020-2021 will be in postseason district and state tournament play. Hawk squads that made it into 2A district and state tourneys over the past four years often had to travel farther than they would have for 3A postseason play.

Mountlake Terrace softball coach Shannon Rasmussen.

“I’m excited to return to 3A,” said Terrace softball coach Shannon Rasmussen. “The only major change we have experienced the last three years is the location of our district and state tournaments. . . It will definitely be nice to have districts and even state tournaments — if we qualify — closer to home so more fans can attend.”

Rasmussen’s squads the past three seasons have qualified for the District 1/2 2A Softball Tournament, but had to travel to Sedro Woolley for the event. In 2017, when the team made it to the WIAA 2A State Tournament, it was in Yakima — in contrast, the softball District 1 and State Tournaments for area 3A teams have been held in recent years in Everett and Lacey respectively.

With the move to the 3A classification, Rasmussen also noted that postseason district tourney play beginning in the 2020-2021 season for Terrace will now be against teams that the Hawks line up against in regular season competition too. During the current 2A cycle, Terrace faces mostly local 3A Wesco teams then must take on the 2A schools from the Northwest and KingCo Conferences in the postseason.

“I also look forward to the opportunity to play the teams in our league in the postseason,” Rasmussen explained. “The last few years we have basically gone into districts blind, without knowing very much about our opponents.”

“Our league games were essentially practice games to get us ready for districts,” she continued. “But now there will be added pressure during league games — knowing that we might face the teams again in the postseason brings an added excitement to each game and just makes each game that much more important in the long run.”

Mountlake Terrace boys soccer coach George Dremousis

Mountlake Terrace boys soccer coach George Dremousis agreed that moving to 3A will be beneficial for district tournament play.

“I love having to face our traditional rivals again in districts and not a bunch of teams from up north or down south who we know nothing about,” Dremousis said.

Long-time basketball coach Nalin Sood doesn’t have as much enthusiasm as some of his fellow Terrace coaches for the upcoming reclassification to 3A.

“Being that now in four years this will be our third change in classifications, I cannot say I am personally excited about it,” Sood said. “One just gets to learn the lay of the land and then we change from 3A to 2A (in 2016) and now back to 3A.”

“That being said, it is what it is,” Sood added. “Our basketball program looks forward to the challenge of being the best we can be and beating the best, whether that is 2A or 3A.”

While a move back up to the 3A level does suggest tougher competition for Hawks’ teams, especially in the postseason, Sood, Dremousis and Rasmussen all said that isn’t necessarily the case.

Mountlake Terrace boys basketball Coach Nalin Sood (Photo by Jonah Wallace)

“Historically, it has been much more challenging to trophy at the 3A state tournament with all the private and Seattle schools competing there,” Sood said, “but two out of the past three years we did make it to (the 2A state tournament in) Yakima and well, there aren’t exactly pushovers there – and the same can be said for our 2A district tournament.”

Dremousis and Rasmussen echoed Sood’s thoughts about the competition level comparison between 2A and 3A postseason tournaments.

“I’ll play whoever is on the other sideline,” Dremousis stated, “and for us in soccer, it doesn’t change a thing. You still have to be very good to get to the playoffs and through districts to state.”

“The competition at 2A in districts and state is really comparable to that of 3A,” Rasmussen said, “so I don’t expect it to make a difference in how far we can go in the postseason.”

The one exception to classification competition levels may be with football, noted Umayam. “In football, numbers are critical,” he explained,” so I’m also expecting the competition to be at a higher level on average than before.”

For Sood, Dremousis, Rasmussen and their respective Hawk basketball, boys soccer and softball squads this winter and spring, it will be one last chance to shoot for season, postseason and possible state tournament success at the 2A level. Beginning this fall, it will be 3A competition for all Hawks’ teams.

“If one stays healthy and continues to get better during (league play), then we will take our chances in any tournament,” Sood said.

— By Doug Petrowski

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