Jordan’s move to 4A brings new competitionMar 09, 2023 10:04AM ● By Travis Barton
Jordan girls lacrosse shared the region title last year with Alta. Starting next year, the two schools will be in different regions. (City Journals)
Every two years, the Utah High School Activities Association convenes to realign regions and classifications according school population numbers and competitive balance.
In the latest realignment, scheduled for fall 2023 to spring 2025, Jordan High School will move from 5A to 4A.
It wasn’t unexpected, Athletic Director Joel Sundquist told the Sandy Journal. They knew where their student numbers were at and they knew the UHSAA intended to decrease 5A (33 schools in the last realignment) and expand 4A (13 schools) into Salt Lake and Utah counties.
“Numerically speaking we were technically on the bubble,” Sundquist explained. “When we saw the initial numbers come out and the other schools they were trying to do, we realized we'd probably be pretty square in 4A. We feel like that met our demographics and at the end of the day, our students are going to be our priority and we want to make sure we are putting them up against schools that are of a similar raw number.”
The realignment expanded 4A to 28 teams with a Logan region, a Utah County region, a southern Utah region and Jordan’s new region that includes nearby schools Cottonwood, Hillcrest and Murray with Park City, Tooele and Stansbury in the mix.
Sundquist pushes back against the perception that 4A is a competitive drop in quality.
“Realistically it's going to be just as difficult, just as competitive day in and day out. Finding ways to stay competitive will be just as hard as 5A,” he said, noting he looks at it more as a “rebalancing of geography” than a drop in classification.
Jordan’s current region has them and Alta on an island while the rest are in Utah County in Lehi, Orem and Provo. An “incredibly tough region,” Sundquist notes, with teams such as Lehi who are moving up to 6A with hundreds of students more than the Sandy school has.
While Alta will be staying in 5A joining the east bench region with Brighton, Skyline and Olympus—some coaches were concerned what the drop could mean for their programs—Sundquist said other things carry more significance than classification status.
“The A classification is not what’s going to attract kids,” he said. “It’s competitiveness, it's winning, it's giving them an experience that they can't find somewhere else.
“So that comes with taking ourselves more seriously on and off the field as coaches, that comes with increasing the quality of the product that we're putting on it. No college football coach has looked at a kid they liked on the field and thought, ‘eh but it's only 4A.’ That's just not how it works.”
Generally the reaction from coaches has been positive according to Sundquist, especially because of the new region.
“The sheer geography of that is what I think we’re probably the most excited for,” he said.
While they will still travel to Park City and Tooele, now kids will have games just down 700 East against Hillcrest or State Street against Murray. Which will also see more students traveling to away games.
Hillcrest High Athletic Director Scott Carrell said, “After our away football game at Jordan, where we had 500-plus students from Hillcrest there, we felt it would be a good idea to really kind of push to get all of us in the same region. It was nice that it worked out and we’re excited for that, it’s going to help us over the next two years, getting more kids out to games to support our student-athletes.”
While some might suggest this change can serve as a competitive reset for any dwindling programs, Sundquist said many Beetdigger programs don’t need it.
“We’re on track to win more region championships than we did two or three years ago,” he said, adding that trophies are his least favorite metric of success.
Drill won region and was a top 10 finalist in February, girls wrestling recently won a region title, boys and girls cross country qualified for state, girls lacrosse shared the region title last year and baseball is a regular state championship contender.
Baseball though, will be staying in 5A after they petitioned the UHSAA to stay up.
Historically, especially over the last 10 years, the baseball program is one of the best in the state, winning two state championships while reaching the quarters or semis on the other years.
Baseball coach Chad Fife and Sundquist felt the levels the program’s achieved warranted a petition to move up, even being willing to jump to 6A. Sundquist reasoned that competing on a weekly basis against historically competitive teams helps maintain the established program’s high standards its set.
“We'll play wherever we can, but we want to make sure that week in and week out, we are playing as high level of competition as we can,” he said. “We would do the same thing for other programs.”
The same can’t be said of the football program at the moment, one of the more visible sports in the athletic landscape. Though the football program has a long history with 12 state titles dating back to 1931, its most recent coming in 2012, it is now three years removed from a winless season during the Covid year and gone 2-8 the past two years.
It’s a complicated situation, said Sundquist, a first-year athletic director at Jordan. The area doesn’t have a little league football team, thereby lacking a feeder program. Kids living in Jordan boundaries are more likely to grow up wearing an Alta jersey.
But starting this fall, Sundquist is helping restart the league with Utah County schools.
“The community is hungry for it,” he said. “I'm freaking ecstatic about it. We'll have kids in Jordan helmets and Jordan jerseys, and it's just going to be a really cool thing.”
The latest realignment has Jordan switching classifications for the third straight time. After being in 5A for the 2017-19 realignment, the Beetdiggers were on the bubble and petitioned to go up to 6A for 2019-21 to be in westside region. For the current alignment, 2021-23, Jordan was moved back down to 5A before the latest change moved it to 4A.
Sundquist said there shouldn’t be too much concern about dwindling numbers.
“Numbers wise we were definitely 5A (this realignment), they expanded the numbers a ton in order to expand 4A. Our numbers are down a little bit, but it's not as wild of a swing as it might appear to people who only look at 6, 5 and 4,” he said.
He noted even when they were in 6A Jordan still had probably 1,000 fewer kids than Copper Hills, one of the biggest schools in the state.
“We’re not hemorrhaging kids, we’re keeping kids, we get permits every single day of kids wanting to come here,” he said. “They tell us what the numbers should be…We were just on that bubble, 150 kids, that’s the numbers we’re talking about.”