The Blake School is requesting to opt up to Class 2A in three sports, most notably its successful yet often scrutinized girls’ hockey program.
The private school, with campuses in Minneapolis and Hopkins, made the announcement public on Friday, posting a new release to its website. In addition to girls’ hockey, Blake wants to move up in boys’ hockey and boys’ tennis.
The Minnesota State High School League will make its decision by the end of March. If approved, Blake's hockey teams and boys' tennis team would play postseason games among the larger schools in the deeper and more challenging Class 2A for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.
Schools are classified by their enrollment in two-year cycles but can request to move sports programs up or down based on different circumstances.
The Bears won their seventh girls’ hockey state tournament title this season, the most by any team. All seven came in the small-school class. Moving to Class 2A would follow a path taken by the St. Thomas Academy boys’ hockey program. Before making the move, the Cadets drew vocal criticism for sustained dominance at the Class 1A level.
The Blake boys’ tennis team has won 16 state titles, all in Class 1A, including three in the past four years.
“The most important factor for Blake in requesting this change of classification for hockey and boys’ tennis is to provide a positive experience for our student-athletes — one that allows for safe competition, appropriate challenges and meaningful experiences,” Nick Rathmann, director of athletics, said in a news release. “Our goal is to help student-athletes reach their full potential and offer them a solid foundation for continued academic and athletic success in college and beyond.”
More from the news release:
Blake’s decision to opt up in these sports was informed by an ongoing, multi-year evaluation of all of the school’s MSHSL-affiliated programs. The process draws on quantitative data for each sport, such as state tournament appearances, state tournament titles, wins and losses, number of coaches, wins over high-class opponents, collegiate players from the program and college-committed players already in the program over the range of years.
The process also includes qualitative perspectives from stakeholders and community members, such as coaches, administrators, parents, guardians, alumni and colleagues at peer institutions and at the collegiate level.
While community input is part of the process, Blake’s decision to opt up in any sport is made at the school-level, not at the department, program or team level.
Blake hockey and boys’ tennis teams will remain a part of the Independent Metro Athletic Conference (IMAC) and will play conference opponents such as Providence Academy, Minnehaha Academy, Mounds Park Academy, Breck and St. Paul Academy. The teams will also have essentially the same regular season schedules as they have had in recent years, which means the level of competition will be consistent with past seasons. Opting up will not impact the operations or opportunities offered through Blake’s junior varsity programs or any other Blake sports or teams.
“Blake’s decision to opt up in competition for these programs is deeply aligned with our mission and core values,” Head of School Anne Stavney said in the news release. “Blake seeks to challenge, educate and support our students in an integrated program of academic, artistic and athletic activities. Our intent to change the classification for team competition in these sports will serve our students well during their time at Blake and in the years to come.”