School board encouraged to allow athletes to play up

Talent trumps age when it comes to certain athletics.

That is the argument made by athletes, parents and coaches in the Anoka-Hennepin School District to school board members during the communication portion of the Sept. 24 school board meeting.

District policy currently states that athletes in sports such as swimming and cross country cannot compete at the varsity level unless they are in grades nine through 12. The only exception is if the seventh- and eighth-grade student is not displacing an older student.

Seventh- and eighth-grade students may practice at the varsity level, however for meets they must either compete against junior varsity participants or in exhibition, where in swimming for instance, they compete against varsity team members but their scores do not count.

Laura Peters, a 2009 Anoka High School graduate, urged the school board to change its policy.

Peters said that nine years earlier she was before the school board asking for an exemption to be allowed to participate in high school sports, namely cross country.

At the time Peters was a nationally acclaimed runner who could have benefited from competing at the high school level.

As a seventh-grader Peters competed at the high school level and she said that pushed her to her full potential. She was the top high school runner in seventh grade, Peters said.

But Peters said her running abilities dwindled as she got older.

She found herself as a high school student competing at the junior varsity level while seventh- and eighth-grade runners competed at the varsity level.

While some athletes might have a negative view of that, Peters said she found herself challenged to again earn her varsity spot.

“I think the rule is more beneficial for parents than the people competing,” she said.

“True competition means you are competing against the very best.”

“This policy limits opportunity and stifles competition,” said Doug Paulson.

Paula Mohr told school board members that the Anoka High School’s swimming and diving program could benefit from the change in policy.

According to Mohr, there are some seventh- and eighth-graders that have posted better times than their varsity teammates, putting the team at a competitive disadvantage.

“Academically you would not do this,” Mohr said about forcing younger athletes to not compete against those of similar ability.

“It is our hope that this playing field will be leveled by the board,” she said.

School board members did not comment on the requests brought up during the communication portion of the meeting as per board policy. Any discussion of the request will come at a future board meeting.

Kelly Johnson is at kelly.johnson@ecm-inc.com

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