Among the notable subplots from the UIL’s biennial realignment was the placement of Allen and Plano ISD into separate districts for the first time since 1997. That split, however, won’t apply to all sports.
The UIL recently released the remainder of its realigned districts for the 2020-22 school years, which revealed that Allen and PISD will remain side by side in both the swimming pool and on the wrestling mat.
“I’m pretty happy. I was worried that we would be split up and not have Allen in the district anymore,” said Lena Harrington, Plano East head swim coach. “They’ve always been such strong competition for us, so I’m excited to see them and Prosper still there. Our strengths are on the boys side and having those two there, plus the other Plano schools, will help make us a better team.”
Joining East in the 7-6A swim district will be city rivals Plano Senior and Plano West, along with Allen, McKinney, McKinney Boyd, Denton Guyer, Denton Braswell and Prosper — a similar alignment to the previous two years, minus the addition of Braswell, which is making the jump to Class 6A for the first time in its history.
It’s a far cry from the districts unveiled in February, which slotted Allen in 5-6A for football and basketball with Prosper, McKinney, Boyd, Guyer, Braswell and Little Elm. PISD, meanwhile, joined Lewisville ISD — Flower Mound, Hebron, Lewisville and Marcus — and Coppell in 6-6A.
Naturally, the surprising split of the state’s four largest high schools sparked plenty of speculation among coaches in sports whose new districts hadn’t yet been revealed. Although some anticipated change, the UIL opted to go with the status quo.
“You’re looking at it, seeing that things are changing and that they’re doing different things in football,” said Brent Mitchell, Allen head swim coach. “It would be the first time since I’ve been coaching that we’ve been apart from the Plano schools, and as much as I would miss them, it would be a fun opportunity to do some new things and be with some different teams, but they put us back together again. It’s pretty much the same district and the same region.”
“As a competitor as a wrestler at Plano East and now as a coach at West, it’s really nothing new. I anticipated some change, but we know the UIL’s energy has been spent elsewhere,” said Clay Goodloe, Plano West head wrestling coach.
Goodloe and the Wolves have a similar look to their latest district as well. Slotted in 6-6A, West is joined by East, Plano, Allen, Coppell, Little Elm, McKinney, Boyd, Prosper and Wylie in a 10-team configuration.
“Like I say with my kids, it’s the toughest district and region in the state, and they know what they’re up against,” Goodloe said. “When you get to the state championships, our kids are already so battle tested. If you get to the state tournament from our region, you deserve to be there.”
The Wolves are coming off a hallmark season that netted fourth-place finishes in both the boys and girls meets at state — one of several Region II-6A teams to shine. In the most recent 6A state rankings from WrestlingTexas.com, six of the classification’s top boys 11 teams will reside in Region II next season.
“I think that when you put some of the best teams in the state in the same district and even tougher teams in the same region — our region has the best Austin school, the best Houston school and two of the best Dallas schools — it doesn’t make much sense,” Goodloe said.
Allen and PISD’s swimming region remained largely the same as well, linked with Lewisville ISD and Southlake Carroll in Region II.
“It’s status quo. We’re going to know everyone we’re racing,” Mitchell said. “There isn’t much change — we know Plano ISD are all going to have great teams along with Denton Guyer and Prosper. It’s amazing how much better and faster we’ve all got over the years. It’s going to be a tough district.”
That ensures another iron-sharpens-iron regular season for local swimming and wrestling teams, with each conference’s yearly champion perennially stacking up among the area’s top programs.
Especially with swimming, there isn’t a lot of instant gratification because a lot of your training is geared toward championship season,” Harrington said. “The dual meets are fun for practice, but in high school swimming they don’t count for a whole lot. Having Allen there gives us that carrot to look forward to in January. When you don’t have competition like that, it’s easy to rest back on your heels and not really push.”
Meanwhile, several other UIL sports will embark on a brand-new slate of district opponents. The 5-6A and 6-6A alignments announced in February for football and basketball will also be reflected in volleyball, soccer, baseball, softball, tennis, cross country, golf, and track and field.