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MaxPreps looks at 10 unusual sanctioned high school sportsSep 3, 2012 MaxPreps takes a look today at 10 unconventional high school sports that are sponsored either by local or state associations.
We're not saying they're odd sports, or unique sports. What we are saying is that you won't find these sanctioned sports offered in very many states.
1. Bass Fishing Four years ago, Illinois became the first state to sponsor a bass fishing tournament. Highland (Ill.) won this year's tournament with a record haul of 27 pounds, 13 ounces on Carlyle Lake, about 45 minutes east of St. Louis.
"Probably six or seven years ago as a staff we began looking forward and asking ourselves what might be new events on the horizon to add," said spokesman Kurt Gibson. "We took the idea [bass fishing] to the membership. Originally, we thought around 100 schools might participate."
Officials were pleasantly surprised when 200 teams participated the first year with Frankfort (West Frankfort, Ill.) taking home the initial trophy. Other trophies go to the second- and third-place teams and the individual who catches the largest bass.
The two-day tourney starts with a sectional on 19 lakes. Teams advance on the total weight of five fish for each day. All bait is artificial, though the Alabama Rig is outlawed because its hooks are hard on the fish and all fish must be released after they are weighed.
This year the field grew to 230 schools.
Kentucky is expected to become the second state to sanction a bass tournament.
2. Canoe Paddling
Paddling has been a year-round sport in Hawaii for many years, but it now is an official state-sponsored sport.
Entering the state tourney each year are 16 boys teams, 16 girls teams and 16 mixed teams. Each team has six paddlers with four alternates.
"It just gives kids another motivation to come to school," said spokesman Hartwell Lee Loy. "It teaches teamwork and strategy."
The season runs from December through March and the state meet is a one-day event. Trophies go to the first- and second-place teams in each of three events.
Kamehameha (Honolulu, Hawaii) has dominated the event, winning six times with the girls, four times with the boys and three times with mixed teams.
3. Cricket The Public School Athletic League of New York City has added several sports in the last half dozen years.
Spokesperson Marge Feinberg said, "The PSAL added these sports because we recognized the need to offer students who have interest in the 'non-traditional' sports an opportunity to compete on the high school level."
Cricket was introduced during the 2007-08 school year, and the league attracted 230 students, including five females, who formed 14 teams. Over 150 matches were played during the inaugural season.
Long Island City (N.Y.) defeated John Adams to win the 2012 championship. John Adams has been runner-up three times in the past five years.
USA Cricket has found the PSAL league to be a hotbed, producing stars for the next level.
Fencing has been a staple in New Jersey since the 1970s.
"There was such a groundswell," state assistant director Jack DeBois recalled. "It has grown over the years. We added two schools this year."
The sport likely became popular in high school due to the success of several eastern colleges. There are scholarships to be gained from such powers as Penn State, Ohio State and Duke who recruit heavily in the New Jersey area.
There are 50 boys and 50 girls teams competing in fencing. For a dual match, each school has 15 boys and 15 girls. They compete with three weapons: epee, sabre and foil.
In the state tourney, the top four teams advance from each district (16 total) to the state finals. Trophies go to the top team and each of three event winners.
To show the power of fencing in the state, two New Jersey women — Dagmara Wozniak (sabre) and Maya Lawrence (epee) — represented the USA in the London Olympics.
5. Flag Football Florida is the first state to sponsor girls flag football, having hosted its first state tournament in 2002.
"It was basically born out of gender equity," according to Gary Pigott, senior director of athletics. "It was another opportunity for girls to play a sport. It has relatively low overhead. The main expenses are coaching money, travel and referees."
Pigott said that the invitational, which began with around 60 or 70 teams, has grown to nearly 200.
The state tourney includes a district, regional, semifinal and final. Eight teams go to the state and the champion will play three games in two days.
Schools which have won two state titles each include Leon (Tallahassee) and Seminole Ridge (Loxahatchee).
6. Judo Hawaii added judo as a state-sponsored sport in 2003, but the Public School League actually started it during the 1970s. It was available at a lot of private clubs, but they eventually combined with the schools, coming to the state and asking to receive a state-wide sanction.
In 2012, there were 32 boys teams and 158 individuals competing in judo, while there were 35 girls teams and 143 individuals. Four of the five leagues in the state now offer judo.
"A lot of kids just do judo to try a sport," spokesman Blake Moritsugu said. "It's an Olympic sport. I'm kind of surprised other states don't have it."
Some judo standouts adapt their talent and up with college scholarships for wrestling.
On the boys side, Pearl City (Hawaii) won the first three state titles and has won five overall. Punahou (Honolulu, Hawaii) and Pearl City each have captured three girls titles.
Punahou has produced, perhaps, the most famous judo athletes thus far with the Chow sisters - Chrissy and Mindy - each winning four state championships.
7. Rodeo Rodeo has a history in New Mexico dating back to 1947. Supporters from Santa Rosa started the first high school rodeo in 1948.
Seven years ago the New Mexico High School Rodeo Association approached the state to get its sport officially sanctioned.
State representative Rudy Aragon explained, "It was two fold. They wanted to make sure their kids were maintaining good grade point averages, good deportment and attendance in school. They also wanted their travel to be excused absences (they were not excused before, because it was not a school function)."
Aragon pointed out that the state more or less lets the rodeo association still run the tournament, but both associations give out trophies and medals.
There are 13 events for both boys and girls and New Mexico often sends its top athletes to the national rodeo each year.
For example, former state champion Taos Muncy of Corona (N.M.) twice won the National Finals in saddle bronc in Las Vegas, termed the "Cowboys Super Bowl."
The New Mexico High School Rodeo Association awards $33,000 in college scholarship each year, according to spokesperson Dani Valdez.
8. Rugby Rugby is another sport added in the 2009-10 school year by the Public School Athletic League in New York City. Available for both boys and girls, rugby was another way of getting more students involved in sports.
Its roots came from an intramural program for public schools, which started in 2006. A flag version of the game was started in the middle schools as part of the C.H.A.M.P.S. Middle School Sports and Fitness Program.
The high school league was created in cooperation with Play Rugby USA, a national organization that has arranged the annual NYC Mayor's Cup Rugby Festival for the past two years. The PSAL schools play a form called Rugby Sevens, which includes rosters of 12 players with seven on the field. Each game lasts 14 minutes on a full-size field. The ball may be advanced by either kicking or running, but players are not allowed to pass the ball forward.
The first championships were held in June of 2010.
This year there were 10 girls teams and eight boys teams. The boys championship was won by Canarsie (Brooklyn, N.Y.), while the girls title went to Bronx Studio School For Writers and Artists.
9. Sand Volleyball Sand volleyball was started this year in Arizona on a two-year probationary basis. At the end of the 2012-13 season, it will be brought up to a vote by the membership to see if it remains a sponsored sport.
This year five schools competed in the girls-only sport. Each school fielded five two-girl teams and Xavier College Prep (Phoenix) emerged as the first state champion when all five of its teams triumphed in the finals.
Spokesman David Hines said, "The kids loved it. They found out it was a lot of work playing in sand, but there was marked improvement from all teams. We've got 13 or 14 teams [for next year] and it's growing every day."
10. Synchronized Swimming Minnesota holds the distinction of being the lone state to sanction synchronized swimming, though it does not yet have a state tournament.
The state sponsorship began in 1985 with 15 schools. The sport itself has been around the state since the late 1950s.
This year there were 14 schools, including 417 individuals, competing in the sport. To have a state tournament, a sport must have at least 32 schools according to associate director Lisa Lissimore. They compete in dual meets throughout the season under the state's rules and benefits.
However, the Synchronized Swimming Coaches Association does sponsor its own post-season tournament.
The events are short, long, and extended. In each category, there are divisions for solo, duets, trios, and team.
Over the years, Wayzata (Plymouth), Stillwater (Minn.) and St. Louis Park (Minn.) have been the most successful schools.
E-mail MaxPreps senior writer Dave Krider at firstname.lastname@example.org.