File photo/Kerensa Uyeta-Buckley

Sports like football, soccer, and track and field remained among the most popular sports in high school sports across the state last season.

For the past few years, Liberty Ranch’s cross-country team has had similar overall numbers in terms of roster size, says Hawk head coach Brian Robinson.

The program has been steady with its roster of 20-something participants recently.

Cross-country numbers haven’t fluctuated much across the state, either, in the California Interscholastic Federation’s latest Sports Participation Survey, which was released this week.

Overall, however, sports are at an alltime high for the eighth consecutive year, according to the 2019-20 survey. Up by 0.16% since the previous 2018-19 survey, 815,313 student-athletes are competing in high school athletic programs in the state.

“We are encouraged to see steady growth in education-based athletics,” states CIF Executive Director Ron Nocetti. “The CIF looks forward to continuing this trend and will remain focused on its goals of expanding participation opportunities for girls as well as providing additional opportunities for all students at our member schools.”

There were a few sports that saw noticeable increases across both genders. Of the top 10 sports, volleyball saw the largest percentage increase, a combined 2.68% or 1,830 more participants, followed by track and field with a 2.03% or 2,050 more participants, and swimming and diving with a 1.07% increase or 552 more participants.

Football continues to lead the top 10 boys’ sports with 89,756 participants. However, that number decreased by 1.69% or 1,549 participants. Track and field (57,302) is the second most popular sport, which increased by 3.55%, followed by soccer (55,036), basketball (47,675), and baseball (45,132) which increased by 1.77%. Additionally, boys’ volleyball participation increased by 5.99%, as well as boys’ lacrosse, which increased by 4.71%.

For girls, soccer captured the top spot for the fifth consecutive year with 48,647 participants. Volleyball came in second (46,495), which increased participation by 1.08%, followed by track and field with 45,318 participants. Basketball (34,368) and softball (32,502) rounded out the top five girls’ sports. Girls’ lacrosse saw a notable 9.11% increase (10,737), taking over the 10th most popular sport for girls, while girls’ wrestling continues to grow with 6,446 participants for a 7.18% increase.

Softball showed an increase in 269 participants, girls’ wrestling increased by 432 participants and girls’ volleyball increased by 498 participants.

For boys, basketball numbers decreased by 436. Golf also saw a decrease of 444 athletes last season. Boys’ swimming increased by 392 athletes, baseball grew by 785 athletes, and track and field grew with an increase of 1,967 athletes.

Last year, boys’ cross-country participation was up by 22 runners, while girls’ cross-country was down by 198 participants.

Robinson noted that, while team numbers varied across the league for cross-country, each program’s roster numbers seemed to hold steady the past two years.

“Just in our league alone, El Dorado alone was always showing up with 50-60 kids and we were showing up with 20-25 kids and then Bradshaw Christian will have three kids,” said Robinson, who also helps coach the Hawks’ wrestling program with Oscar Johnson.

Liberty Ranch, which released its athletic schedules Aug. 3, will start its modified schedule Jan. 27 for cross-country, with a Sierra Valley Conference meet hosted by El Dorado at Folsom Lake College.

The CIF’s 1,606-member schools were asked to participate in the survey as part of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) nationwide survey that measures the number of students competing in sports in the country.