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FARMINGTON – Major changes are coming to high school athletics in San Juan County.

Today, the New Mexico Activities Association approved class and district realignments for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years. The realignment moves Piedra Vista up to 6A, the state’s highest class.

Classification is based on a school's average enrollment over a three-year period. Every two years, the NMAA reclassifies schools based on those averages, breaking up the top three classes — 6A, 5A and 4A — with 24 schools in each class.

The Panthers will join Rio Rancho, Cleveland, Volcano Vista and Cibola in District 1-6A.

Aside from its district opponents, travel will be the biggest change for PV. The four other schools in District 1-6A range from 166 to 177 miles away from PV, and that could force the different Panther teams to take multiple trips per week to Rio Rancho and Albuquerque for away games.

“I sat down with the other (athletic directors) in District 1-6A to come up with a schedule where we’re not traveling as much,” said Frank Whalen, the director of athletics and activities for the Farmington Municipal School District. “We’re looking at trying to schedule games on Fridays and Saturdays, or back-to-back days, so we’re not having to drive down there a couple of times a week.”

While playing road games on back-to-back days would cut down on travel, teams would face the expense of paying for hotel rooms and meals for the players and coaches.

Whalen said PV will try to schedule as many local teams as possible during the nondistrict portion of its schedules to keep local rivalries alive.

Farmington and Aztec remain in District 1-5A, along with Gallup and Miyamura, but will be joined by newcomers Bloomfield and Kirtland Central.

When the average enrollment numbers were released last month, PV ranked 23rd in the state with 1,418 students.

Farmington, Deming and Alamorgordo were all tied for 24th with 1,404 students. But none of the three schools was placed in 6A. The final 6A spot went to Valley High in Albuquerque, which successfully petitioned to remain at the 6A level. Valley did the same two years ago when the last reclassification took place.

Bloomfield and KC were the final two schools to make the 5A cut.

Shiprock will remain in 4A and will be joined by Navajo Prep, which moves up from 3A. Shiprock and Prep will be in District 1-4A with Thoreau and Wingate.

Prep was ranked 72nd in average enrollment to become the last 4A school. Seven other schools have a higher average enrollment than Prep, but because it is a private school, its enrollment of 256 is multiplied by 1.3, according to NMAA bylaws.

Shiprock Northwest will remain in District 1-2A with Navajo Pine, Pine Hill, Ramah and Tse’Yi’Gai.

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.

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