They went 9-1 in their first 10 games of their first official season.
The Classical School of Wichita is in its inaugural school year as a full member of the Kansas State High School Activities Association, and its girls soccer team is stamping its identity on the rest of Kansas.
Heading into the final week of the 2019 regular season, the Saints are 9-4-0 and the No. 4 seed in Class 4-1A Central/South Central, with a strong shot of hosting a regional championship.
But who, or what, is Classical?
Classical is located at the intersection of Woodlawn and Kellogg. It is a private, K-12 Christian school with graduating classes of about 30. It focuses on “the classical model of teaching,” according to its website.
The Saints compete in 17 KSHSAA-sanctioned sports, excluding football, baseball and softball. The boys basketball and volleyballs team won a regional championship. A few girls tennis players qualified for state, and Classical earned its first All-Metro athlete in any sport in boys swimmer Nathan Chan.
“When kids come out and compete well and compete with class, it’s good advertising for our school,” athletic director Tim Dolloff said. “It kind of gives you a stage to do that when you’re in the KSHSAA playoffs.”
The girls soccer team is queen of the spring at Classical. The Saints have played Class 6A teams Liberal, Wichita West, Wichita South and Junction City, going 2-2 in those games. Coach Nathan Wilkey said getting an opportunity to compete against some of the area’s most well-known schools is important, and his group has even beaten some teams he didn’t expect to defeat.
“We’re definitely getting there,” sophomore Olivia Kenas said. “We have a long way to go, but we are getting there and getting better. Everybody wants to be part of something, and they work hard at what they do.”
Dolloff arrived at Classical four years ago and started looking into earning KSHSAA membership. KSHSAA representatives toured the campus, Classical made a presentation to the board of directors, and the school was voted through
Classical still faces some challenges in athletics, Dolloff said. The Saints aren’t part of a league like the City League or AVCTL. They are independent, which means they have to fill in the cracks of other schools’ schedules.
Dolloff said he has reached out to several leagues around Wichita, but many of the smaller schools in the area don’t play some of the sports in which the Saints compete.
“We would like to join a league,” he said. “I think it would really help our scheduling in basketball and volleyball, but for sports like soccer and tennis, I think it’s going to be a tough go on scheduling whether we are in a league or not.”
Also, given Classical’s small enrollment, many of the varsity players have to double up and play for the junior varsity, too. The Saints don’t have enough players to field two teams, and many schools won’t schedule games unless the JV can get a game in, as well.
Classical has a gym for indoor sports, but it doesn’t have a competition field on campus. It has to rent facilities for its outdoor athletic programs. Like Kapaun Mt. Carmel, Classical uses the renovated Stryker Sports Complex.
There likely won’t be any sports added to Classical’s slate any time soon, though, because of its enrollment. There are only about 30 KSHSAA member schools without a football team, and Classical is one.
Dolloff said with the popularity and timing of boys soccer in the fall, he isn’t sure if the Saints will “ever” field a football team. And any sort of new sport would likely have to come through a cooperative agreement like the girls soccer team has with Hutchinson’s Central Christian.
Dolloff said Classical has grown every year he has been there, but at some point, the model of education starts to become ineffective. If the school gets too big, he said, instead of growing at one location, another site would pop up in another part of Wichita.
As the school has grown, parents and boosters have started to come forward to help renovate Classical’s athletic facilities with a new gym floor and bleachers.
“I think if teams would have come in and seen our old floor, they would have raised an eyebrow about us hosting any events,” Dolloff said. “So I think being part of KSHSAA adds a little bit of credibility to your program.”