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The 2014-15 school term will be a landmark point in Lancaster High School athletic history.
LHS, for the first time ever, will not be in the state’s largest classification for interscholastic competition.
The S.C. High School League, the state’s governing body of interscholastic competition, has placed Lancaster in Class AAA, the state’s second-largest classification with its latest realignment based on schools enrollment. The move, which starts with the 2014-15 school term, is for two years until the league’s next realignment.
Lancaster has been a Class AAAA school since the SCHSL revamped to a four classification system in 1968.
Earlier this week, Lancaster officials learned of LHS’s Class AAA region with the Bruins placed in Class AAA Upper State Region III.
Lancaster, with an enrollment of 1,339 students, will be in a region, which includes Broome (Spartanburg area), Chester, Clinton, South Pointe of Rock Hill and Union County.
Lancaster and South Pointe are moving from Region III-AAAA, which, with the new realignment, will add Gaffney as a new member along with York County schools Clover, Fort Mill, Nation Ford, Northwestern, Rock Hill and York.
Chester and Union County are no strangers to Lancaster as those schools are former Class AAAA region members with the Bruins.
LHS athletic director Mark Strickland said the Bruins going to Class AAA wasn’t a surprise.
“With the last two realignments, we saw our enrollment figures decreasing and figured we would eventually be heading to Class AAA,” Strickland said. “I feel we will be going from one of the most competitive Class AAAA regions to one of the most competitive Class AAA regions in the state.”
Lancaster has the option to appeal to remain in Class AAAA, but with its enrollment figures in line with Class AAA schools, Strickland said the Bruins will play the hand they have been dealt.
Strickland said his biggest concern is travel with bus trips of 90 minutes to three region members – Broome, Clinton and Union County.
“It’s not a great concern for football on a Friday night, but you have to consider your winter and spring sports who also travel during the week,” Strickland said. “We’ve also had some good relationships with Class AAAA schools, so I hate to see that end.
“At the same time we know some of these new schools in our region and we have good relationships with them, too.”
Lancaster fields 20 varsity sports and Strickland said he will begin researching the new Class AAA region teams to see if they field similar sports across the board.
“We plan to keep playing in all of our sports and we want to be able to play our region teams,” Strickland said. “In the past, we’ve also combined with other county schools for our swim teams (girls and boys) and girls golf, but going to Class AAA, we won’t be able to do that because combining with those schools would give us a Class AAAA enrollment. This is something I told our coaches in those sports might happen if we went to Class AAA.”
The League’s new realignment will have a lesser impact on Lancaster County’s three Class AA schools.
The region – Region IV-AA – will have little change, with only a new member in North Central High School in Boonetown of Kershaw County.
The rest of the region will include three schools from Lancaster County – Andrew Jackson, Buford and Indian Land along with three schools from Chesterfield County – Cheraw, Chesterfield and Central.
“North Central is a natural rival, a team many of us have played,” Indian Land athletic director Mike Mayer said.
The addition of North Central gives Region IV-AA a seven-team region.
Mayer said in order to avoid an open date with an uneven number of teams, Region IV and Region III-AA, a Columbia area region, will cross-bracket for play.