Virginia's Group AAA Commonwealth District will expand to 10 teams for at least the next two years as Courtland High of Spotsylvania was granted membership at a recent meeting of the Commonwealth District Council.
Only six years old, Courtland has become the dominant school in the AA Battlefield District. Already exceeding the 1,001 AAA minimum enrollment, this fall the Cougars won every possible district title except in golf.
The football team has won three state championships, including two in the last three years, and the girls gymnastics team has a state championship and a second-place finish in the past two years.
"It will definitely be a step up," Courtland Athletic Director Gerald Swaim said of the move to AAA, "But I think we're ready for the challenge. To be honest, we would rather stay at AA, but we have no choice."
Courtland will have to make two significant scheduling changes. Girls basketball is currently played in the fall in its region, so its team will have to get used to playing in the winter. Girls tennis will move from spring to fall.
Although Courtland is close to several Prince William County schools in the Commonwealth District, it is approximately 80 miles from Fauquier and James Wood.
The Commonwealth almost became an 11-team league for next season, but Culpeper fell just short of the minimum enrollment and will remain in the Battlefield District. Accepting a second additional school might have eliminated all nondistrict football games, hurting some rivalries. Splitting the district into divisions might have been an alternative.
"If Culpeper had entered this year, in my opinion we would have split the district," said Potomac Athletic Director Jim Qualls. "I don't think too many people would have wanted to do that because, in dividing it, you run into several problems, including rivals and who would be in what division."
The Commonwealth's realignment may be temporary. A new high school is planned for Spotsylvania, scheduled to open in the fall of 1988. Swaim said the ensuing division in enrollment will probably drop Courtland back to AA.
In the first few weeks of the high school basketball season, there have been indications Fairfax may become the Northern Region's surprise team. The most surprised person may be seventh-year Coach Steve Henry.
The Rebels, 7-14 last year, were a deceptive 3-4 through their first five games. Two of those losses were two-pointers to Robinson and Madison.
Fairfax has the region's top-scoring pair in 5-foot-11 guard Randy Dixon, averaging 21.4 points, and 6-3 center Ricky Freeman, averaging 16.9 and 11 rebounds.
"We really thought this would be a rebuilding year," said Henry, whose team was in the regional tournament three years ago. "We were wondering where we were going to get points from, but Ricky and Randy have exceeded every expectation."
Freeman, a senior who has missed parts of previous seasons with a broken bone in his foot and a broken ankle, is shooting 62 percent from the floor despite a dislocated pinky on his shooting hand.
Dixon, who shot 57 percent despite being shuttled between the point and wing, should be helped in January when Cliff Norris is scheduled to begin playing again following a term of academic ineligibility. Sophomore Alex Gregory has stepped up to assume some of the ballhandling duties, and should give the Rebels depth when District games begin.