Most area high schools facing new foes, challenges with NMAA’s realignment

With fall sports right around the corner, most area high schools will be contending with a change in classification and new district foes.

That’s because the New Mexico Activities Association’s revised classification and alignment takes effect with the start of the 2018 fall semester, and athletic directors and coaches say it’s just something they have to deal with.

The 6A classification that the NMAA introduced a few years ago has been eliminated in all sports except football.

That means in other sports, Manzano High School slides down to Class 5A.

Estancia, East Mountain, and Mountainair high schools also moved down a class.

Dave Naylor, East Mountain’s athletic director, as well as the school’s head baseball and cross country coach, said the new alignment will be a bit inconvenient from a travel standpoint—the Timberwolves’ baseball district now includes Tucumcari, the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, and Dexter, southeast of Roswell.

But Naylor hopes the realignment will help the school’s other sports programs be more competitive.

“Some of it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in a broad perspective, but it is what it is,” Naylor said, adding, “Volleyball and basketball should have a better chance to qualify [for the state playoffs].”

Moriarty High School remains in Class 4A with other schools that have an enrollment of 550 to 1,299 and is still primarily in a northern district in all sports other than football.

According to the school’s athletic director and head varsity basketball coach, Joe Bailey, Moriarty’s travel will be less than it has been over the past two years.

Bailey noted that the NMAA’s realignment occurs every two years, so it’s something the school has come to accept. He said the Pintos’ opponents will still be very competitive.

In football, Moriarty will remain paired with Portales and Ruidoso while picking up Lovington as a new district foe.

Both Portales and Ruidoso were thorns in the Pintos’ side last year and head coach Joe Anaya said Lovington, a former 5A school, is also going to be a challenge.

“Our entire schedule’s going to be tough,” Anaya said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us.”

Moriarty is gaining several new district opponents in other sports as well, including Los Alamos, Pojoaque, Española Valley, and Taos.

East Mountain has moved down to Class 3A, and though the T’Wolves will still have to square off with Sandia Prep, they’ve picked up several new district rivals in various sports, including Cuba and Laguna Acoma.

Estancia and Mountainair have both gone back to 2A and 1A, respectively.

Estancia’s new football district foes are Capitan, Cloudcroft, Lordsburg, and Mescalero; in other sports, such as baseball and basketball, some of the Bears’ new district additions include Magdalena, Menaul, and Mesilla Valley.

Estancia’s athletic director and head football coach, Stewart Burnett, said the realignment is an improvement.

“It puts us in a stronger football district while maintaining high levels of competition for the rest of our sports,” Burnett said.

Mountainair’s new 8-man football district includes Vaughn, Corona, and Carrizozo.

As the designation of Class 6A will remain only in football, Manzano High’s district rivals continue to include Eldorado, La Cueva and Sandia high schools.

Dusty Young, the NMAA’s associate director, said classification and alignment is updated every two years because of the changes in enrollment numbers amongst the association’s member schools.

“Enrollment numbers fluctuate in both metropolitan and rural areas, and the classification process attempts to place schools of similar size in the same class,” Young said.

The downside of the process, according to Bailey, is that “it makes it difficult to establish consistent rivalries.”