Napa County high schools seek to join North Coast Section

The three high schools could move into competition with Sonoma County teams.|

Three high schools in Napa County are seeking to move their sports teams out of their current section and into the North Coast Section, which would put them in competition with Sonoma County teams.

Napa, Vintage and American Canyon high schools are currently in the Sac-Joaquin Section and have asked the governing California Interscholastic Federation for permission to withdraw from that section and be moved to the NCS.

The move is meant to benefit student athletes on the field and in the classroom, said Mark Morrison, the executive director for secondary education at the Napa Unified School District.

“Geographically, we think it will create less travel time for our students because they will be out of class less,” he said. “There are great schools in Sonoma and Marin counties that we think match up with our three high schools.”

It may mean more balanced competition on the field as well.

“Our schools are excited about the competitive equity between our schools (in Sonoma and Marin counties),” he said. “We think that we will be competitive in the North Coast Section.”

The North Coast Section also offers at least two sports that the Sac-Joaquin does not, lacrosse and boys volleyball.

The Sac-Joaquin Section is the second-largest section in the state, with 26 leagues and 198 schools spread over 14,500 square miles.

It includes schools from Stockton, Sacramento, Atwater, Grass Valley, Vallejo and Napa.

Morrison said student athletes must sometimes leave school at noon to play games at Central Valley schools.

Principals of the three high schools agreed in the fall to explore a move away from the section their schools have been in for 40 years.

Both of the affected sections must approve the move, but Morrison said he doesn’t know of any roadblocks.

A final decision by both sections’ governing boards could come in April.

It’s unclear which leagues the Napa schools would be added to. There are about 175 schools in the NCS, including the eight North Bay League and seven Sonoma County League schools and dozens in Marin County.

“We’d love for our three high schools to compete in the same league, so they group up with each other,” Morrison said. “It would be really good to connect with our kids to have great rivalries down the road. We’re hopeful for that, but there is no guarantee.”

The NCS alignment committee is scheduled to discuss the request next week at its meeting in San Ramon.

You can reach Lori A. Carter at 707-521-5470 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @loriacarter.

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