FARMINGTON — The high school sports season is up and running as teams across San Juan County hit the practice fields to prepare for the year ahead.
Fans of every team will notice changes this year within districts or classifications after the New Mexico Activities Association announced in November it was moving from Class B through 5A to Class A through 6A.
As a result, every high school in San Juan County — except Kirtland Central, which will still compete in 4A — changed classes for the 2014-2015 season.
Farmington, Piedra Vista and Aztec bumped up to 5A, and with KCHS remaining in 4A, Gallup and Miyamura were added to form the new District 1-5A.
The addition of Gallup High will place the Bengals in the same district with FHS for the first time since the 1995-1996 school year. Scorpions' athletic director Don Lorett sees the addition as a chance to bring back a familiar rivalry to the area.
"They were part of our district back when I was playing and coaching," Lorett said of Gallup. "It should bring some good viewing opportunities to our fans. Hopefully, they'll follow us out there, and Gallup and Miyamura fans will come here."
The two Gallup schools have routinely played many San Juan County schools during the non-district schedule, but by adding them both to the district slate, it forced the 5A teams in all sports to cut down their non-district schedules.
Football added one district game, volleyball and girls soccer added two district matches and boys soccer added four games since KCHS didn't field a boys soccer team.
Lorett said this was expected, but it forced teams to remove some non-district opponents from the schedule.
"We tried to maintain the ones we had history with," he said of the non-district schedule.
The additional games with the Gallup schools will result in an increase in travel costs, but Lorett hopes revenue from the games will offset extra expenditures.
While the changes reignite a dormant Gallup/FHS district rivalry and place the Bengals in the same district with Aztec for the first time since 1962, they also bring an end to other long-standing district encounters.
KCHS won't be in the same district as Aztec for the first time since the 1973-1974 school year and as FHS for the first time since the 1999-2000 year.
PV and KCHS had been district opponents since PV opened in 1998.
In an attempt to keep the local rivalries alive, KCHS will still face all three former district foes during the football season this year and would like to keep the schools on the schedule going forward.
"We wanted to keep as many of the locals as we could because it's such good competition for us," KCHS head football coach Kevin Graham said. "We're grateful to them, because they didn't have to keep us on the schedule."
The Broncos will be joined in the new District 1-4A by Bloomfield and Shiprock. All three schools last competed in a district together in 1998. KCHS was in District 1-4A with the Bobcats as recently as 2012 and with Shiprock in 2010.
Wingate and Thoreau will follow Bloomfield and Shiprock from District 1-3A to 1-4A. Zuni will make the jump from 2A to 4A and complete the six-team district.
Navajo Prep makes the jump to 3A, competing with Newcomb, Rehoboth, Tohatchi and Crownpoint in most sports.
Prep will face KCHS and Bloomfield during district play of girls soccer in District 1-A/4A.