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TROJAN BASKETBALL: Trojan basketball moved to Class AAA

WORTHINGTON -- The Minnesota High School League has once again reclassified teams into new competitive sections for the 2013-2014, 2014-2015 seasons.

With the new realignment, the Worthington Trojan boys and girls basketball teams will once again be moving up to Class AAA from Class AA, where they played for the last two seasons.

"We have been here before, so it isn't anything new," Activities Director Mike Traphagen said. "It won't change who we play in the regular season. It will only change who we face in the postseason."

The Trojans will start next season in Class AAA Section 2 in both boys and girls basketball, while the music programs will now be competing in Class AA Section 2.

"It depends on the year, but, traditionally, AAA is more competitive," WHS boys' basketball coach Ron Vorwald said. "There are bigger schools than we are used to playing against. Some years, the classes are pretty even, but a majority of the time there are a lot of really good teams in AAA."

With the move to AAA, the basketball teams will now face Southwest Conference rival Marshall along with Mankato East and West as well as Hutchinson and New Ulm.

But it also means that the Trojans will no longer face other Southwest Conference teams such as Jackson County Central or Luverne in the section tournament.

"The road gets steeper for us in 3A than it was in 2A," Vorwald said. "There are some tougher teams, but you have to play one less game in the playoffs to make it to state. So there is a tradeoff there."

Last time, the Worthington school district successfully appealed to the Athletic Director Advisory Committee to be moved down to Class AA. However, this time around, the appeal was denied, meaning the Trojans will stay in Class AAA.

"Some of our sports and activities were forced to make the change, but fortunately most of our teams were able to stay the same," Traphagen said. "But again, we have been here before, so it really isn't a big deal to us."

The music program, which was part of a 39-school section last year, now moves to a section of 16 teams. However, the competition those teams present is much higher than Worthington has seen over the last few years.

The MSHSL re-evaluates the sections for high school sports every two years based on enrollment reports filed to the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). The MDE releases the enrollments in early February, which the MSHSL then uses to rank the teams in order to put them into classes for the next two year period.

Changes in enrollment, new programs and the formation or dissolution of cooperative agreements over that time leads to changes in section assignments.

"We are going from being one of the bigger schools in AA to one of the smaller schools in AAA," WHS girls' basketball coach Eric Lindner said. "I feel like AA is a lot more balanced from top to bottom. But AAA will give us a lot of different opportunities."

However, the realignment does present other challenges for the Trojans besides the higher level of competition.

"The schools we will be facing in AAA have a lot more kids to choose from to make up their teams," Lindner said. "We seemed to fit right in at AA because the teams we played were closer and it didn't take a lot of money to travel. So if we play them any other day than a Saturday, it will mean the kids won't get home until 11:30 p.m. That will make it a lot harder for them to study and keep up with their school work."

Any way the realignment is looked at; there is one thing that is for certain. The Trojan basketball teams will now have to adjust to the different style of play that Class AAA presents as well as the higher level of competition on their way to the state tournament.

"We will be facing different opponents, but we have had success there before," Lindner said. "We have to assess where we are as a program, but it will be a challenge for us to play at this level. My team will be senior laden next year, so hopefully it will be an easy transition for us."

Vorwald feels the same about the boys team as they head into their first season at AAA without him as their head coach.

"There are a number of kids coming back that leads me to think they will be a solid team again next year," Vorwald said. "But it is hard to tell how good other teams in the section will be from year to year. Although, in my tenure there have been times I've felt like AA has been a better and tougher section than AAA."