As the Florida High School Athletic Association struggles to settle on a reclassification plan, I still haven’t heard anything I like better than my idea of a 16-team Open division that crowns four state champions within that best of the best bracket before the final two play for Florida supremacy in the Sunshine Super Bowl.
That leaves room to add 4-6 traditional classifications and the Rural division.
But Mark Barrett, a second-year head football coach at Orlando’s University High School, has kindly added more value to the Open division conversation. In Barrett’s reply to a survey I sent out to a cross-section of athletic directors and coaches, he got right down to the root cause of Florida’s playoffs problem.
“A better plan is one that gets to the heart of the issue that creates the biggest competitive imbalance — transfers,” Barrett wrote. “This happens everywhere, in cities, towns and counties. This is not to disparage schools that receive transfers, as they have created an environment that kids want to be a part of. But transfers are the one thing that creates a different reality between schools that get them and schools that don’t.
“The issue with an Open Division simply based on ranking is that there will be teams in the top 32 that are there despite not being on a level playing field with the other teams.”
And the problem with the Metro-Suburban split that was instituted for the 2022-23 season, Barrett notes, is that some suburban schools get more transfers than some metro schools.
He’s hit the nail on the head. And because the FHSAA already requires schools to submit GA-4 forms for any student-athlete who transfers, Barrett said it won’t be difficult to count transfers and use that as the main criteria in selecting Open teams.
I will remind you that not every transfer is for sports, and not every athletics-based transfer is an all-star. Sometimes it’s a player who enrolls at a school down the road where they have a better chance of starting.
But I do like where Barrett is going with this.
His plan would retain traditional districts, based on enrollment and geography – which is the longstanding FHSAA system. He envisions four regions and 16 districts per class with district champions getting automatic berths and four teams per region getting at-large berths based on MaxPreps ranking.
The FHSAA recently sent out a reclassification survey to member schools and is buying some more time to deal with all the complications. The association informed member schools that realignment will not be an action item put to a vote when the FHSAA board of directors meets Monday in Gainesville. Instead it will be a discussion item again.
It’s a smart move. I’m hearing that will likely lead to the board reconvening in December for a vote.
Lake Highland Prep (23-7) in Class 3A and Orangewood Christian (22-8) in 2A won Wednesday night region finals to punch their tickets to next week’s girls volleyball state tournament at Polk State College in Winter Haven.
The Highlanders overcame a rash of sickness to win 3-1 against King’s Academy of West Palm Beach.
Orangewood traveled to Ocala and ousted regional top seed St. John Lutheran 3-1.
Wednesday night’s region finals included Timber Creek at Winter Park, Alachua Santa Fe at Bishop Moore, and road trips for Kissimmee Osceola and Oviedo.
Swimming and diving state championships begin this weekend with Friday’s Class 2A meet at the new FHSAA finals site, the Florida Aquatic Swimming & Training center (FAST) in Ocala.
Saturday’s 1A meet showcases private school powers, including Montverde Academy, which won boys and girls 1A Region 2 titles, along with Lake Highland Prep and Circle Christian swimmers.
Foundation Academy senior Emma Sundermeyer had the fastest 1A region qualifying time in the 200-yard individual medley (2:02.30) and then swam a personal best 4:53.39 time as a top contender in the 500 freestyle.
Windermere Prep sophomore Addison Bitel was the top qualifier in the 100 breaststroke with an All-American time of 1:01.86.
Lake Buena Vista diver Nathan Frette, a 2022 state champion as a sophomore, is favored to repeat in 2A after earning a big 616 score in his region meet.
The 4A (Nov. 10) and 3A (Nov. 11) state meets are next week at the same site.
The big-school team that looks ready to contend for state championship is Windermere High, which goes to the Sailfish Splash Aquatic Center in Stuart on Thursday for 4A Region 2. The Wolverines swept girls and boys District 4 titles ahead of West Orange last week.
Oviedo’s boys and Lake Brantley’s girls were 4A District 3 winners. Their Region 1 meet is Saturday at Lake Brantley.
Defending state champ Lake Mary shot 9-under-par 279 to win Monday’s 3A Region 1 girls golf tournament at Hawkstone Country Club. Ryleigh Knaub matched her district tourney 65 (7-under-par) to again claim individual medalist honors. Her Lake Mary teammate, Meyher Khokhar, carded a 67.
Dr. Phillips shot 287 to win a 3A-2 boys tournament that saw five teams under 300 at The Legends at Orange Lake Golf Club. Windermere (289) was 2 shots behind the Panthers, followed by Viera (294), Winter Park (298) and Lake Nona (299).
Windermere’s Carson Baez and Taneesh Sirivolu both shot 69.
The First Academy’s Palmer Haynes shot 69 at Hawkstone Country Club to lead the Royals (295) to the 1A-2 title ahead of Lake Highland Prep (300), Lake Mary Prep (301) and Circle Christian (304).
Lake Nona and St. Cloud both totaled 322 to share first place in girls 3A-2 at Royal St. Cloud. East Ridge’s Alex Remaklus was medalist with a 68.
XC run and dance
Hagerty celebrated Homecoming festivities last Saturday, which meant a long day for some cross country runners who raced in the wee hours of the morning and danced into the night.
The Huskies boys team won the program’s fourth consecutive Seminole Athletic Conference XC championship meet at Lake Mary High. Seniors Jonathan Leon and Gabriel Abbate finished 1-2 with times of 15:51.49 and 16:15.02 for 5,000 meters.
Leon was a standout for all four SAC title wins in his career. He placed 14th as a ninth grader and second as a sophomore before crossing the line first as a junior and senior.
Lake Mary’s depth shined as the Rams won the SAC girls title for the first time since 2015. Ava McKay, a sophomore, placed sixth to lead the Rams. Winter Springs, which had won the title six straight years (2017-22), was third behind Oviedo.
Two Winter Springs girls, Jolynn Rodriguez (19:25.36) and Scarlett Mason (19:40.57) finished 1-2.
District meets are this week at various sites, including the 4A District xxxx meet at Hagerty on Saturday morning.
Leesburg, a team buoyed by transfers, capped its winningest football regular season (9-1) in 31 years with a 27-20 win against Specially Fit Academy (6-2) on Monday night. Evan James had a difference-making 99-yard interception return in the victory.
The Yellow Jackets have climbed from 2-8 in 2022 to the playoffs under first-year head coach Steven Moffett. Leesburg was 9-1 through 10 games in its 10-2 district title season of 1992.
Varsity Content Editor Buddy Collings can be reached by email at [email protected].