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International athletes soon to be excluded from district and state competitions

International athletes excluded from...

POST FALLS, Idaho - International athletes in private Idaho schools will soon be excluded from district and state competitions following an 11-3 vote by Idaho's High School Activities Association. 

IHSAA said it's committed to maintaining a level playing field, and that international students give private schools an advantage. 

Foreign students are divided into two categories: F1 and J1. 

International students attending private schools are classified as F1- these students can select which school they'd like to attend, and may stay, and play for 1-4 years at a high school. 

Exchange students attending public school are classified as J1- those students can only stay for 1 year, and their schools are chosen for them. 

F1 students make up 20 percent of Genesis Prep's student body. Administrators are asking ISHAA to reconsider their ruling. 

Last year, the basketball team at Genesis, which includes two international students, won the state title in their division. 

“I think the feeling was that the international kids gave us an unfair advantage,” said Conrad Underdaul, Athletic Director at Genesis Prep.

“We want to be a family,” said Underdaul. “We want to be able to compete as a family. We want our kids to be able to go to regionals or state, just like any other kids.”

The ruling by IHSAA goes beyond athletics- F1 students will also be excluded from all extracurricular activities. 

“I'm not sure that being an international student gives you advantage in a speech competition,” said Underdaul.

International students are devastated.

“It's kind of a bummer because they think that state is just about the trophy, and it's not really the reason I came here,” said Australian Esther Nies, who plays basketball. “I came here to play basketball for the opportunities and experience and to make new friends, and they're just taking that away.”

The school has offered to compete with schools six times their size, but the association isn't budging.

Ty Jordan, Executive Director of ISHAA said excluding F1 students from end of season play was no easy decision, but IHSAA believes it's what's best for all schools in the conference. 

Genesis Prep school principal Chris Finch says the school has no intention of splitting up teams. If the ruling stands, Genesis may seek alternative competition. 

The new rules wouldn't go into effect until the 2018-19 school year. The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association said foreign students are allowed to participate, regardless of an F1 or J1 status in Washington.