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Wishkah, Lake Quinault to team up for boys sports

Lake Quinault’s and Wishkah Valley’s boys athletic teams will combine beginning this spring, Lake Quinault principal/athletic director Keith Samplawski confirmed Wednesday.

The long-rumored merger will start with the baseball program in the spring. Although the disposition of boys teams for the 2014-15 school year awaits school board approval in both districts, Samplawski said football scheduling is being done in anticipation of a combined squad.

“It sure looks like we’ll combine in all boys sports,” he said.

Each school will continue to field separate girls teams.

Declining male enrollments at both schools prompted the change.

“We both have plenty of numbers in girls sports,” Samplawski said. “It’s in boys sports where we’re really hurting and we wouldn’t be able to survive as separate entities. I think we foresee, in two years, neither school supporting a football team or a baseball team by themselves.”

Wishkah Superintendent/Principal Ray Yoder also supports the change.

“We’re kind of excited about the opportunity,” Yoder said. “Enrollment is down a little bit and we want to continue to provide excellent sports opportunities for our boys. We need to do this.”

Samplawski, who guided Lake Quinault to a state 1B championship last spring, will be the head coach for the combined baseball team, with assistants representing Wishkah. Home games will be split between the two sites.

Because the combined school enrollments currently exceed the 1B limit, the baseball combine will operate in the 2B classification this spring — playing in the Pacific League with the likes of Ocosta, North Beach, Naselle and Northwest Christian. Beginning next fall, any such combined teams would return to the 1B class.

That means that Quinault will be unable to defend its state 1B baseball title this spring.

Wishkah will continue to operate its own track program, with Bob Eager continuing as the head coach. Lake Quinault has not fielded a track team in several years.

Yet to be determined are the official name, uniform color and mascot for the combined teams. Contests are currently being conducted at both schools, with school administrators scheduled to meet in the near future to choose between the finalists.

Boys coaching assignments for the 2014-15 season have similarly yet to be announced.

Samplawski said what community feedback he has received about the change has been “overwhelmingly positive, because they know it has to happen.”

“It’s never easy to lose your tradition,” he continued, “But, at the same time, it’s an exciting opportunity for us and we really look forward to working with Wishkah.”

“Quinault is a wonderful school district to work with,” Yoder agreed. “We work together very well. I’m very excited. A door closes and wonderful opportunities open with the next door.”