The Big Seven will become the Big Six again in the Suburban Conference — and Lee’s Summit is the odd school out.
Lee’s Summit was dropped from the Gold Division to the Red under realignment for 2018-19, which the Suburban Conference announced last week. Lee’s Summit North and Lee’s Summit West will remain in the Gold Division, which was known for many years as the Big Six, along with Blue Springs, Blue Springs South, Park Hill, and Raymore-Peculiar.
Realignment is based on enrollment figures taken last month. Those counts showed Lee’s Summit taking a drop in its number of students, while the other six schools have continued growing.
“We are as small as we have been in several years,” Lee’s Summit athletic director Tracy Bertoncin said. “This is a change we have anticipated. It’s not a change that we’re thrilled about, but it wasn’t a surprise for us.”
Lee’s Summit’s enrollment in mid-October stood at 1,775, down from the 1,823 figure reported last year. Lee’s Summit North’s enrollment was 1,911, up slightly from 1,904 last year, and West was had 2,113 students, up from 2,037 last year.
Bertoncin said the Tigers anticipated the division change, because this year’s freshman class is the smallest in years, she said, though the eighth-grade class is currently 50 students larger. Unlike West and North, where there is still ample area to build new housing, Lee’s Summit no longer has room to grow within its boundaries.
“We are landlocked geographically,” Bertoncin said. “We aren’t going to get any bigger or smaller as far as number of houses, really.”
The Gold Division isn’t a six-team league by design. Bertoncin said, when they realigned the conference, the intent was to have no more than a 275-student difference between the largest and smallest schools in each division.
Blue Springs, with an enrollment topping 2,500, is the largest Gold Division school. Liberty, the largest school in the Red Division, has almost 800 fewer students.
Lee’s Summit will be the third-largest school in the Red Division behind Liberty and Liberty North, according to Bertoncin.
Along with the Liberty schools the Tigers’ new league will include be Park Hill South, St. Joseph Central, Staley, which moved up from the White division, and Truman.
Raytown was dropped from the Red Division down to the White.
The change, of course, means that Lee’s Summit won’t play as many times against its crosstown rivals, but those rivalries aren’t going away — not with all three remaining in the state’s top classification for each sport.
Bertoncin said the school is looking at finding more opportunities to schedule North, West, and its other former Gold rivals. The boys soccer team, for instance, seldom played in Blue Springs South’s tournament, because the field consisted mostly of Gold Division teams.
Now, the Tigers might find it more appealing.
“We will not be able to play them home and away in every sport like we do now.” Bertoncin said. “That’s not going to happen. Once you drop into that different conference, you have to play them home and away, and that only leaves you a certain number of open games, and North and West will become our open games.”
The Suburban Conference also will grow by two members with the addition of Grain Valley and Smithville.
Grain Valley, which is leaving the Missouri River Valley Conference, and Smithville, which is departing the Midland Empire Conference, both will join in the Blue Division with the Suburban Conference’s smallest schools. Grandview, Kearney, Platte County, Raytown South, and Winnetonka will remain in the Blue Division.
Belton will move up to the White Division, where it will join Fort Osage, North Kansas City, Oak Park, Raytown, Ruskin, and William Chrisman.
The Conference will maintain the groupings for a two-year cycle through the 2019-2020 school year.
Starting next football season, the Missouri State High School Activities Association will go to a yearly reclassification, but the Suburban Conference will stay on a two-year cycle.