In the fall of 2013, Northwood will be moving from the 2A division to the 3A division, due to its population exceeding 1,000 students. This change will impact every sports team at Northwood.
Every six years, high school sports conferences are realigned based on the number of students in the schools, and this year will be the first year that Northwood has reached a high enough number to be moved to 3A.
“3A is just a way of acknowledging the number of students we have at our school, so now that we have exceeded [1,000 students], we are getting moved,” said Northwood athletic director Jason Amy.
The new division will be made up of nine other schools: Cardinal Gibbons, East Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, Northern Vance, Orange, Southern Durham, JF Webb and Cedar Ridge, a school that is currently in Northwood’s conference and will be moving up as well.
“It’s a step up; it will be tougher, so we’ll probably have a year or two that we kind of cut our teeth, and [then we will] get back on top,” said principal Chris Blice.
Amy agrees that the new division will be harder on Northwood’s teams than the division they’re in now.
“It’s going to mean that we have a lot more challenges as far as competing with other schools,” Amy said. “When you move into competing with 3A, there are a lot more students, and that gives you a larger [number] of skilled players.”
Baseball coach Rick Parks agrees that the talent of Northwood’s competition will increase as the school transitions into 3A.
“There won’t be any more showing up playing competition we’re far superior than,” Parks said, whose team is 3-1 or greater against the teams in their conference the last two years. “Every game is going to be a dog fight and it’s going to be like what you see in the ACC where any team can beat any other team in a given moment.
“We’re going to have to get a lot stronger and a lot more confident in what we’re doing and not just show up and play like we kind of got accustomed to in the past.”
The coaches hope that Northwood should be able to do just that, as the reason the school is becoming 3A is due to the annual increasing numbers in the freshman classes. With more freshmen should come more students willing to try out for high school sports, which in turn would deliver larger, more talented teams. But the county change last year of combining Perry Harrison and North Chatham middle schools into Pollard Middle School may prevent Northwood from being able to find and use that talent.
“I think we’ve actually lost talent,” Parks admitted. “I was getting 32 guys that started at a middle school level game. Now, when they combined the middle schools to Pollard, they’ve still only got one team,” Parks said. “So at the time we’re moving up, we may have been hurt by combining those middle schools.”
Boys’ basketball coach Russ Frazier has also noticed the impact the combined middle school has had on Northwood sports.
“I think it’s gotten to the point where fewer kids are involved now because they combined [the schools],” Frazier said. “So you’ve lost one team, and more kids are competing for fewer spots at one school.”
Regardless of whether or not that is true, some students and faculty are looking at the change positively.
“I think it’s going to be better for all parties involved. As far as our school, there’s always room for growth. Growth means we’re doing things right; it means people want to be here at our school,” said Frazier.
Sophomore soccer player Dana Walker will be a senior when the division change is made.
“I think it will be good,” Walker said. “It’s going to be really different, especially the first year because we won’t be used to the other teams. [But] I think it will be a good change for us because we’ll probably grow and develop as a better team because we’ll have to play harder competition.”
Amy thinks the new division will increase gate sales as well, as when Northwood plays bigger, closer schools, more people are likely to come out to support the visiting team.
However, good or bad, Northwood is going to have to get used to the idea of a larger division.
“I believe that with 3A will come an adjustment period,” Frazier said. “But with that adjustment period I think we will be just fine.”
–By Caroline Schneider