Since arriving in Kingman, the one question that I've been asked is, "Why is it that Kingman High has struggled and Kingman Academy has been so successful in athletics?"
The answer is simple - numbers.
When KHS was placed in Division I in all sports but football and wrestling before the 2011-12 school year, the Arizona Interscholastic Association made the placement based on KHS' enrollment of just over 2,000 students in October 2010. This placed Kingman on the lower end of 5A schools and caused them to be competing against Phoenix-area schools that have enrollment numbers closer to 3,000.
KAHS, on the other hand, is in the opposite situation. Kingman Academy's enrollment of 465 students puts the school among the largest schools in the Charter Athletic Association.
Simply put, the larger the school, the larger the talent pool - and the chance of success is greater.
With the AIA's recent division realignments and the opening of Lee Williams High School, the hope is that KHS' struggles will be replaced by success as the school competes on a more even playing field against schools with comparable enrollments.
"It makes a big difference for our kids to have a chance to go to state or not," said KHS cross country and former head track coach Anne Bathauer. "My kids were getting faster at every meet and performing. At most of the meets they were in the top teams. I can't say enough about them and then we go up against Division I and they are just a dominant force."
Beginning next year and running through the 2014-15 school year, Kingman High will be competing in Division II in all sports but football, where they will be in Division III. While team sports will see some benefits from this placement, the biggest impact will be in individual sports such cross country and track. Their placement in Division I hurt the runners, and senior Paige Cardiff is a case in point.
As a sophomore, Cardiff finished second in the 1600-meter race at the 2011 Division II State Track meet with a time of 5:12.45. During her junior year, her best time in the 1600 heading into the Division I state meet was five minutes and 10 seconds. She ended up finishing in 14th place with a time of 5:18.26, behind the first-place time of Phoenix Xavier's Sarah Fakler's 4:58.63.
The qualifying mark for the girls 1600-meter race in Division I was 5:17.06, compared that to Division II's mark of 5:21.68.
Flagstaff's Taylor Taite won the Division II 1600 race with a time of 5:12.50, five hundredths of a second slower than Cardiff's time in 2011. Had Cardiff competed in Division II, she would've ended up finishing fourth instead of 14th.
"With our numbers, that's where we should be," Bathauer said of Division II. "That gives kids a chance to qualify. My nephew, who swims a 5:22 for (Division II) Queen Creek, qualified and placed in the top 16 at the state meet. Patrick (Webb) swims a 5:10 or less and didn't get a sniff of the state meet."
Besides the individual sports benefiting, so to could the football team, where numbers play a huge role in determining success on the field.
Over the past two years, the KHS football team was a combined 5-15 while competing in Division II. While the impact of the decision to place the Bulldogs down a division to Division III isn't entirely clear yet, the one thing that the division placement could mean is Division I foes such as Mesa Skyline and Surprise Valley Vista are likely going to be off the schedule, as might Division II's Surprise Willow Canyon.
Instead, the Bulldogs could pick up Division IV Wickenburg while keeping Division IV Parker on the schedule along with its fellow Division III foes Prescott Valley Bradshaw Mountain, Prescott, Flagstaff, Flagstaff Coconino and Bullhead City Mohave.
Time will only tell how these next two years will shape up for Kingman High athletics, but the fact that the Bulldogs will be competing on a more level playing field in terms of enrollment is only beneficial. And as Lee Williams continues to grow, this will only help Kingman High.