The Minnesota State High School League recently released its new activities classifications for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years. Section assignments are based on geography, school enrollment, and a formula based on the number of free and reduced lunches provided by each school. The MSHSL also added classes in sports like volleyball, cross country, and tennis, so Wadena-Deer Creek will see a number of changes in the teams they face.
According to WDC activities director Norm Gallant, "Every two years, we expect some changes. However, this year we saw more than usual. Some of the traditional lines and orders seem to have shifted, so fans can expect to see WDC compete in a number of different sections.
In the fall, multiple sports will see new alignments. The MSHSL added a class in volleyball, so WDC will move from Section 6A to Section 6AA, which runs from WDC to Foley and includes some heavy-hitting volleyball teams like Pequot Lakes, Albany, Melrose, and Sauk Centre.
"It's definitely somewhere we have never been," Gallant said. "Traditionally we have been in Section 8AA, which runs from WDC to Dilworth and north to Roseau. We will have to revamp our schedule to see some of these new teams, which means we will likely lose some of our traditional rivals."
The MSHSL also added a class in girls tennis, but the Wolverines will remain in a revamped Section 8A, which will include eight teams, all of which the Wolverines traditionally play. Crookston, Roseau, and Staples-Motley are among the traditional contenders, but section champion East Grand Forks and section runner-up Perham will no longer compete in this section.
Cross country will compete in Section 6A instead of Section 8A, which means the Wolverines will compete against new teams like Staples-Motley and West Central Area.
Football also saw a few changes. WDC will continue to compete in Section 6AA with five other teams. Sauk Centre is the only new team in the section, replacing Long Prairie-Grey Eagle. The other teams include West Central Area, Pillager, Osakis, and Staples-Motley.
WDC's winter activities are less affected by the realignments, with hockey seeing the most overall changes and a few teams moving in both basketball and wrestling.
Section 6A saw some large changes that will affect the balance of power for hockey. Defending section champion Little Falls Flyers and heavyweight St. Cloud Cathedral, as well as River Lakes and Sauk Rapids-Rice, are no longer in the section. Another defending section champion, Northern Lakes, as well as Willmar, will join the section, which was reduced from 10 teams to eight teams. Traditional powers Fergus Falls and Alexandria remain in the section.
Both boys and girls basketball will remain in a strong Section 8AA. On the boys side, Red Lake comes into the section, which already includes top teams like Fergus Falls, Perham, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, and Barnesville. On the girls side, Red Lake will join Fergus Falls, Pelican Rapids, Perham, Menahga, and Crookston in a stacked section.
Wrestling saw a couple of major changes in the realignment. Barnesville moved back to Section 8A, while Staples-Motley moved to the east and will join Section 7A. Gallant said the Staples-Motley move is startling, as they have been a Section 6A and prior to that a Region 6A stalwart and contender for years. Osakis also comes into the section to give it eight teams.
Dance, speech, and the one act play will remain in their current sections.
Spring activities had one of the more curious realignments, according to Gallant, as the baseball team moves to Section 6AA while the softball team stays in Section 8AA.
"That's one of those things that happens every so often that, in my eyes, isn't a good thing," Gallant said. "The two sections are managed by different regions and many times the schedules are such that there are conflicts at section time between softball and baseball. Baseball has been in this section before, but it would have been nice to be the same as softball, either way."
The baseball team's new section will include Pierz, St. Cloud Cathedral, Albany, and Sauk Centre. Softball will keep its traditional rivals like Perham, Otter Tail Central, and Park Rapids.
The track and field team will remain in Section 6A and may be in the mix for a section title with Perham. Other teams include Breckenridge, Frazee, Otter Tail Central, Long Prairie-Grey Eagle, Osakis, Pillager, Staples-Motley, Bertha-Hewitt-Verndale, and West Central.
The boys and girls golf teams also move to Section 6AA from Section 8AA and will compete against Staples-Motley, Pequot Lakes, Little Falls, Pierz, Pillager, Ricori, and St. Cloud Cathedral, among others.
"As with every alignment cycle, there are activities that feel like they won, and some that feel like they lost based on where they ended up and who they are with," Gallant said. "We will modify our schedules accordingly to fit with the new classifications and alignments. Hopefully, we can get settled in for a while so we can build some of those new rivalries in the sports where we moved."