Spartans go Hambo: Florida and Chester team up for spring sports

Chester. Florida students will play as Chester Habletonians for JV girls’ lacrosse and boys’ varsity track this spring. Similar plans are in place for fall and winter sports.

| 12 Apr 2022 | 02:13

Florida Union Free School District and Chester Union Free School District, both known for being small in comparison to neighboring Orange County districts, teamed up for JV girls’ lacrosse and boys’ varsity track this spring.

Lacking full teams for select sports, the districts worked together to merge some teams, and send Florida students to shadow Chester for others. “It’s about opportunity for kids,” said Florida superintendent Larry Leaven. “I think it has added and not subtracted, for sure.”

This spring, Florida merged with Chester for JV girls’ lacrosse to form a team.

For boys’ track, Florida students are shadowing Chester this spring, sending athletes to Chester to practice and compete on their team. Shadowing isn’t new; Florida has been sending students to Warwick to swim for years.

The collaboration between Chester and Florida does not change existing teams’ league classification. If Florida were to send athletes to play football for the Warwick Valley School District, for example, the team would become too big and change Warwick’s class, explained Leaven.

“The division would have challenged Warwick, whereas if we do it with Chester, it’s not a challenge,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for everyone.”

Upcoming seasons

In May, the districts will make a determination about merging modified and varsity football in the fall, and shadowing for cross country.

“We did it for spring sports this year, and we’re watching it work,” said Leaven. “It’s kind of a trial.”

For next winter’s sports, the districts are considering merging cheer teams, and sending Florida students to shadow Chester for wrestling.

Spartans? Hambletonians? Spambletonians?

For mergers and shadows, students will play as the school where they practice. Since Chester hosts football, all students would continue to play as Hambletonians if the fall merger goes through. Right now, Florida students are competing as Hambletonians for JV girls’ lacrosse.

“If we go there, we play for Chester and we wear a Chester jersey,” said Leaven with a laugh. “We can swallow hard and we can make that work.”