The Florida High School Athletic Association, after debuting new football districts earlier this winter, has released the new assignments for volleyball, cross country, swimming and golf for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
Except for golf, the formats changed drastically in the other sports.
Volleyball teams will no longer have to play everyone in their district in the regular season; computer power rankings, likely to be compiled by MaxPreps, will set the district seeds and brackets for their tournaments. So districts have been designed with matching like-sized schools in mind more than geography and travel. The FHSAA has said there will be no appeals or changes in assignments.
Swimming districts got smaller, mostly going from 14-16 teams to 8-10 teams, and cross country districts got much bigger as each of four classes now has eight districts rather than 16.
The county’s nine public and private school FHSAA members are spread among five volleyball districts (in four classes), four golf districts, three cross country and two swimming districts.
In volleyball, which has been trimmed from nine to seven classes, Tohopekaliga is in District 7A-5 with Orange County schools Olympia, Dr. Phillips, Cypress Creek, Windermere, Lake Nona and Freedom.
Osceola and Celebration will go the other direction in 7A-6 against Haines City, Davenport Ridge, Tampa Newsome and Plant City Durant.
OHS volleyball Coach Carrie Palmi said a new group of teams to compete with — Haines City an Ridge have been district foes for four years — will take some adjusting.
“I’m not crazy about the extra traveling we could have to do, but I’m excited that I believe we can still reach our goal of being district champions and compete in the post-season,” she said. “With school choice and new athletes entering school each year you never truly know now what team looks like until you actually compete against them.”
District 6A-10 will have St. Cloud, Harmony, Poinciana, Liberty, Viera, Melbourne and Winter Haven. Gateway drops into District 5A-11 with Palm Bay, Jones, Heritage, Eau Gallie, Rockledge and Merritt Island. City of Life will compete in 2A-7 with Winter Park International Community, Geneva, Orlando Christian Prep and Faith Christian.
In swimming, Gateway, St. Cloud, Harmony and Liberty are in new District 3A-6 with southern Brevard County schools, Winter Springs and East River.
Osceola and Celebration, along with Tohopekaliga, get spared from what Kowboys’ Coach Krystle Bayliss called “a district of death” with western Orange County schools and now go southeast with the likes of Palm Beach Dwyer, Fort Pierce Central, Palm Beach Gardens, Vero Beach and Treasure Coast.
“Our region is still tough but this new District. while far, is intriguing,” Bayliss said. “It's also easier in the sense that we go from a district of 14 teams, larger than every other, to a district of eight.”
Cross country districts swell to up to 18 teams. St. Cloud, who has qualified for the last two Class 4A state meets, join Tohopekaliga in 4A-5 with most Orange County schools east of Interstate 4, Melbourne, Viera, Fort Pierce Central and St. Lucie Centennial. Osceola, Poinciana and Celebration join a group of schools on the I-4 and 75 corridors stretching from here through Tampa to Wiregrass Ranch.
Gateway, Liberty and Harmony, the latter a two-time 3A girls state qualifier, is in 3A-4 with southern Brevard County, Edgwater, Jones, Winter Springs, South Lake and East River.
“Very interesting, definitely a game changer,” Harmony Coach Shasta Edwards said.
In golf, Celebration (3A-5) will compete against western Orange and Lake County schools, Osceola, Poinciana and Liberty (3A-6) go up against Polk County’s bigger schools, and St. Cloud, Harmony and Tohopekaliga (3A-7) have Melbourne, Viera, Vero Beach, Lake None, Cypress Creek and Timber Creek.
Celebration is the only county school competing in bowling, and are in District 9 with eastern Orange County schools and Lake Wales.
Other sports assignments will be released as their seasons end, the FHSAA reported. Basketball, soccer, wrestling and girls weightlifting districts will be released in March, with spring sports like baseball, softball, tennis, track and flag football districts getting released in May or June.