By DAVID CARKHUFF, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Laconia High School girls' and boys' basketball teams are playing in different divisions this winter, with a different set of competitors and a wide range of school sizes.
On Tuesday, the boys played Belmont, a school with 428 students. On Thursday at 6 p.m., the girls host Hollis-Brookline, a school with 815 students.
Broadly, Laconia High School falls into an athletic classification based on a qualifying enrollment of 548 students. But the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association has discretion to reject placements based on competitiveness.
"Boys and girls basketball shall be aligned into four divisions based upon enrollments and petitions subject to the approval of the Classification Committee," reads the NHIAA bylaws.
In football, girls' basketball and baseball, Laconia High School was not granted exemptions to move down to Division III due to the success of these teams, according to Craig Kozens, athletic director/dean of students.
For example, Laconia was runner-up to the 2016 NHIAA Basketball Champions in Division III, the Gilford High Golden Eagles. This kind of success in several sports spurred the NHIAA to hold those Laconia teams in the higher-enrollment classification, even as the school's student numbers dropped, Kozens explained.
In boys' basketball, Laconia is in Division III (301- to 550-student enrollment) by petition; but in girls' basketball, Laconia is in Division II (551- to 1,150-student enrollment) based on committee discretion, according to the NHIAA. Likewise, Laconia football plays at Division II North (590- to 945-student enrollment). Laconia baseball plays at Division II (551- to 1,150-student enrollment).
The girls' basketball team plays with competitors such as Goffstown (1,106), Portsmouth (1,098), Plymouth (686) and Bow (595).
The boys' basketball team plays with competitors such as Sanborn (686), Gilford (510), Berlin (443) and Inter-Lakes (333).
"In baseball and softball it's totally a cost burden," Kozens said, noting that Laconia will send teams in different directions and as a result needs an extra bus. In basketball, cost is not such a factor because junior varsity and varsity teams share a bus anyway, he said.
Because 590 was the floor for enrollment last cycle (two years ago), Laconia fell just below the needed student numbers to stay in Division III.
How may the classifications change during the next review?
"It's difficult to tell, right now we're at 548 so next cycle, I don't know," Kozens said.
Next October is when the NHIAA Classification Committee will start revisiting placements.