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Section Realignment Shows the Growth of Prior Lake High School

05/02/2021, 5:45pm CDT
By Tom Schardin

Section realignment happens every two years in the Minnesota State High School League.

Some schools see some big changes. Some see none. And a few get to see how big they’ve become.

The MSHSL released its new section map for all sports in all classes April 16, along with new enrollment numbers. Guess what school is the third biggest in the state?

It’s Prior Lake.

The Lakers are the biggest South Suburban Conference school and are bigger than five Lake Conference programs, including Eden Prairie and Edina with an enrollment number of 2,722.

Only Wayzata (3,396) and Minnetonka (3,383) are bigger than Prior Lake.

Remember in 2003 when Prior Lake built its new school in Savage? That same year the school moved up to the top class in every sport.

How would the Lakers — with enrollment numbers ranked in 40s at the time by the MSHSL — compete with all the those huge metro west schools?

Now, 18 years later, the question is how will some of these smaller big schools compete with Prior Lake?

Money and enrollment are not the only factors to winning section and state titles. It takes strong youth programs, community support and good coaches. But money, enrollment and increased facilities don’t hurt.

Just ask Edina, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka and Wayzata.

Prior Lake now has elite facilities. That process started in November of 2017 when a $109 million bond referendum passed. That led to the school’s new activity center that opened last August.

There was also $46.8 million in the referendum for additions to the high school, including the new activity center with four courts and a weight room.

The seven schools behind Wayzata, Minnetonka and Prior Lake in enrollment, according to the MSHSL, are Blaine (2,666), Eden Prairie (2,642), Champlin Park (2,623), Stillwater (2,614), Edina (2,587), Shakopee (2,509) and Rosemount (2,408).

The next 10 schools are Maple Grove (2,320), Eastview (2,184), St. Michael-Albertville (2,128), Farmington (2,104), White Bear Lake (2,099), Anoka (2,047), Eagan (2,043), Roseville (2,032), Coon Rapids and Burnsville (1,971).

New sections?

For most sports, the Lakers stayed in same section with nearly the same group of teams. However, track and cross country moved.

Both of those programs have been in Section 3AA for a decade. Both of those sports also moved to three classes.

So the Lakers’ track and cross country teams are now part of Section 2AAA with the likes of Chanhassen, Chaska, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Shakopee and Waconia. For track, Bloomington Jefferson is also in the field, while Edina makes eight teams for cross country.

Prior Lake wrestling may be the biggest benefactor in realignment. The Lakers stayed in Section 2AAA, but Shakopee and New Prague are gone.

The Sabers, winners of the last three Class 3A state titles, moved to Section 6AAA, while New Prague moved down a class to Section 2AA.

Shakopee has beat New Prague in the last two Section 2AAA title matches. The Lakers won the Section 2AAA title five straight years from 2011 to 2015.

Apple Valley is still in Section 2AAA with the Lakers, along with Burnsville, Eastview, Farmington, Lakeville South, Lakeville North and Rosemount.

Section 2AA swimming got even tougher for the Prior Lake girls with the addition of perennial power Edina, to go along with Minnetonka, Eden Prairie, Chaska, Chanhassen, Jefferson and Shakopee.

Volleyball goes to four classes next fall and the Lakers will be in Section 2AAAA with Eden Prairie, Shakopee, Minnetonka, Chaska, Chanhassen and Waconia.

Soccer also goes to three classes. The Lakers stayed in Section 2 with the three Lake powers, Edina, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie.

In football, Prior Lake will no longer be seeded with Section 1AAAAAA teams for the 32-team playoff bracket, but with Section 6AAAAAA schools that include Eden Prairie, Wayzata, Minnetonka, Shakopee, Hopkins, Edina and Burnsville.

For more on section realignment, or to see the new enrollment figures, go to legacy.mshsl.org.

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