The MPSSAA's biennial classification realignments impact the regional and state championships in all three seasons. For this article we will focus on the cross country realignments. (Photo by Craig Amoss)
Last week the MPSSAA released the new sport-specific regional and state classifications for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years (these do not affect any potential seasons to take place during this current school year).
Today we take a look at the changes and how they will affect the cross country landscape in terms of qualifying from regionals and potential state meet matchups.
First, the teams that changed classifications:
- Boonsboro: 2A -> 1A
- Crofton: will join 3A
- Crossland: 2A -> 1A
- Dundalk: 3A -> 4A
- Digital Harbor: 2A -> 3A
- Easton: 3A -> 2A
- Fairmont Heights: 1A -> 2A
- Fallston: 2A -> 1A
- Friendly: 1A -> 2A
- Gwynn Park: 1A -> 2A
- Hammond: 3A -> 2A
- Hereford: 3A -> 2A
- Howard: 4A -> 3A
- James H. Blake: 3A -> 4A
- John F. Kennedy: 4A -> 3A
- Maurice J. McDonough: 1A -> 2A
- Northeast-AA: 3A -> 2A
- North Point: 3A -> 4A
- Oakdale: 2A -> 3A
- Seneca Valley: 2A -> 4A
- South Carroll: 2A -> 1A
- Southwestern: 3A -> 2A
- Springbrook: 4A -> 3A
Perhaps the biggest mover of them all is Howard, the defending 4A girls state champion, from 4A down to 3A. That could really open up the door for Severna Park (the 2018 champion and 2019 runner-up) to join their boys counterparts as perennial 4A state favorites.
After spending the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons in 3A for the first time in school history, North Point will rejoin the 4A classification where it has been for the majority of its existence since opening its doors in 2005. Seneca Valley is the only team in the state to jump two classifications after renovations to its building in the past few years increased capacity.
Howard's move down to 3A sets up a matchup with the four-time defending girls state champions from Northern, as well as the two-time runners-up from Bel Air. Howard competed in the 3A classification as recently as 2012 and won back-to-back girls state titles in 2006 and 2007.
Making the move up to the 3A classification for the second time in school history will be Oakdale, the defending 2A state champions on the boys side. The last time the Bears competed in 3A (in 2015 and 2016) the girls finished as high as sixth, and the boys placed as high as ninth. Also joining the 3A classification will be Maryland's newest public high school, Crofton (located in Anne Arundel County and pulling in students from Arundel and South River).
Swapping places with Oakdale, Hereford will rejoin the 2A classification after spending this year and the last in 3A. The state's most successful girls program of the past decade, Hereford won five state titles in six years in the 2A classification between 2013 and 2018 (and finished second in 2014). In fact, going all the way back to 2002, the only years in which the Bulls were not a top-two team on the girls side were 2012 (fifth in 3A) and 2019 (third in 3A).
Perhaps the most interesting border between classifications (for cross country purposes) was the one between 1A and 2A. The defending 2A girls state champions and perennial boys contenders from Liberty were one enrollment number ahead of Fallston for the honor of moving to the 1A classification.
Fallston, meanwhile, along with Boonsboro and South Carroll join Williamsport as recent cross country powerhouses to move down to the 1A classification, further deepening the 1A field. Fallston had competed in 3A as recently as the late 2000s and hasn't competed in 1A since 1992.
South Carroll, meanwhile, enjoyed great success the last time they were in 1A (in 2007 and 2008): the girls won a state title in 2007 and the boys finished second each year. Boonsboro continues to be yo-yo'd between the 1A and 2A classifications. The girls won four consecutive 1A state titles from 2015 through 2018, while the boys also won state titles at the bookends (2015 and 2018).
Over the next four pages we will look at some of the bigger changes in each of the regions.