By SCOTT W. COLEMAN, Four Points News
Things are about to get a lot tougher for a pair of Leander ISD teams that have seen tremendous success in recent years.
Vandegrift and Vista Ridge will join Leander High School in rising to Class 6A competition in the coming two seasons, according to the University Interscholastic League’s reclassification and realignment announcement on Monday. That puts all three schools competing in a completely revamped District 25-6A, along with Lake Travis, Westlake, Buda Hays and Kyle Lehman.
Four of the teams in the newly adjusted 25-6A reached the football state quarterfinals and both Westlake and Lake Travis played in Class 6A state title games just six weeks ago.
For Vandegrift, which has seen success competing largely with the other four LISD high schools since the campus opened in 2010, the move not only removes longstanding rival Cedar Park from the ranks of in-district competition but pits the school against two of the Austin area’s historically dominant programs. Having won district championships in a number of sports and advancing to win team athletic championships in both golf and girls soccer, Vandegrift has quickly risen among the ranks of programs to watch statewide.
Despite the obvious challenges, Vandegrift athletic director and head football coach Drew Sanders said, “We’ve done this a long time… adjusting to tougher districts isn’t a new thing, but two state finalists make this hard.”
Growing enrollments at all three Leander ISD schools created the move to Class 6A, which will take effect next school year.
Vandegrift reported 2,255 students for the reporting period, making it the largest of the five LISD high schools. Rouse High School will drop back to Class 5A after its enrollment fell below the new cutoff of 2150.
Vista Ridge (2,250) and Leander (2,187) also came in above the new cutoff. Cedar Park (1,949) and Rouse (2,006) will both shift to a revamped District 19-5A — a nine-team district that includes Bastrop, Cedar Creek, Elgin, Georgetown, East View, Hutto and Pflugerville Connally.
One possible challenge associated with moving into Class 6A competition is the size of the schools, which typically means a larger pool of athletic talent. Schools like Vandegrift and Vista Ridge, which are both near the bottom of the 6A enrollment ranks, would likely end up playing schools with hundreds, or even a thousand more students in the playoffs. More than a dozen schools in Class 6A report upwards of 3,500 students, making the pool for potential athletes much larger.
Locally, Lake Travis and Westlake have been competitive at the 6A level. However, Rouse went from being a state semifinalist in football as a 5A program to a non-playoff team in its two seasons in 6A.
The biennial reclassification and realignment shifts schools according to enrollment. With Leander ISD set to open Tom Glenn High School in 2017, things are likely to change again in two years. For now, though, three LISD programs will face a new set of opponents and a new set of challenges on the way to the goal of bringing home more state championships.