While the official swimming district and regional alignments for Texas high school sports won’t be released by the Austin-based University Interscholastic League (UIL) until later in the year, Monday saw the announcement of the official basketball and football alignments for the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 academic years. The early return is a massive shakeup in the landscape of high school swimming in the state with the second-largest number of high school swimming participants (according to the NFHS).
Specifically, the path to the 5A (smaller schools) state championship has gotten a lot easier, as some of the conference’s powers have been moved to the 6A classification.
In Texas, there are technically 6 conferences for athletics, but in swimming those are whittled down to just two: 6A (between 220 and 245 of the state’s largest schools), and 5A (everybody else). The cutoffs for the next two years will see 6A comprise all schools with enrollment of 2150 and above.
The headliners among swim programs is that Houston-Stratford and Austin-Vandegrift, the two highest scoring teams by combined point total at last year’s 5A State Championship, are both moving up to 6A.
Vandegrift is a relatively new school, opening only in 2009, and their growth patterns made this eventual move inevitable.
Stratford’s move, is the latest in what has been a ping-pong for the school. In the 2008-2009 school year, Stratford was reclassified to 4A by the UIL in what was then a 5-conference system. They appealed on the grounds that they would lose their historic rivalry with Memorial High School and the fact that their new alignment would force them to travel on average over 50 miles to face each district opponent.
They won that appeal, but eventually were moved down to 4A anyway (and eventually 5A in 2014, which was still the second-highest classification).
All of that is to say that things are going to get a lot tougher next season not only at the state level, but at the district and regional level. In the state of Texas, there are no qualifying times to the regional and state championship meets; rather, swimmers advance on the basis of placings within their district and region meets.
Swimming alignments are not out yet, but it seems probable that Vandegrift will wind up in the same district as Austin’s Lake Travis and Westlake High Schools, which represent the #9 and #1 teams from last year’s 6A State Championship meet. For football and basketball alignments, Stratford is in a district with Klein High School and Houston-Memorial High School. The Klein boys were 3rd at last year’s 6A State Championship meet, and the Memorial girls have placed in the state’s top 10 in 5 of the last 6 years.
Once the official swimming realignments are out, we’ll analyze how the district and regional movements might affect the state championship even further.
View the full football/basketball realignments here.