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On Monday night, the Lake Oswego School Board unanimously voted to keep Lakeridge High at the 6A classification for the next four years, ending a long and emotional period of debate in the community.

With the decision, the Pacers are accepting obvious challenges as they will, once again, be the smallest public school in the state's highest classification. And yet, it's where Lakeridge belongs.

Even before the Pacers rolled through the spring, garnering two state championships, the decision was an easy one in my mind.

Lakeridge's enrollment issue is a significant hurdle. The Pacers have roughly a 70 percent disadvantage in terms of numbers compared to some other schools at the 6A level.

This issue obviously manifests itself in sports where large numbers of participants are essential, most notably in the high-profile sport of football.

By its lofty standards, the Lakeridge football team has struggled in recent years. However, this has had little to do with the quality of athlete in the program. The Pacers lack depth and, in recent years, size, meaning that when inevitable injuries occur, they are often a fatal blow to the team.

And yet, despite struggling to keep up with the state powerhouses, particularly neighboring Lake Oswego High School, the Pacers have remained competitive.

When Milwaukie and Rex Putnam dropped to 5A four years ago, that was a clear case of a pair of programs that simply could not compete at their current level across the board.

For Milwaukie, the drop has worked out very well with some of the school's higher profile teams faring considerably better in recent years while Putnam has continued to struggle.

“A question that was asked was, 'Is it OK to sacrifice wins for setting the bar high?'” Lakeridge athletic director Ian Lamont said. “For me, it was a no-lose situation. It's all about our students getting the most out their education.”

Lakeridge is not in the same category of those North Clackamas schools. The Pacers have lagged in only a handful of sports in recent years. However, the soccer, cross country, tennis, golf, track and field, dance and lacrosse teams have all seen plenty of success while the basketball and baseball programs have also made significant strides in recent seasons.

That doesn't even include the incredible performances by the school's artistic programs such as band and choir.

To put it bluntly, most 6A schools would kill to have the success that the Pacers are enjoying on many levels.

Lakeridge's own standards are exceptionally high and they should be. For decades, Lakeridge was one of the premier athletic juggernauts in the state. And, honestly, they're not as far removed from that level as many people would believe.

You don't win state titles in sports like boys lacrosse and girls track without a significant influx of talented athletes. That is something that has never changed at Lakeridge.

While the school holds a disadvantage in terms of enrollment, it still holds an advantage in terms of community involvement, support and means that many other 6A schools don't have.

The school has the coaching, administration and the talent to succeed at the highest level.

“I've enjoyed the challenge and the pride that comes with being the smallest public 6A school in the state,” Lamont said.

Lakeridge has always been a school that has accepted adversity and met it and I believe that will continue to be the case for the next four years.

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