OSAA decision means time to move on

We’ve made it pretty clear in recent weeks how we’ve felt regarding the reorganization of the Oregon School Activities Association’s 4A Division Leagues. So it should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been reading this newspaper that we’re disappointed with the OSAA’s decision to move Sweet Home to a new league for the second time in five years.

It’s not the move to a new league that really bothers us. There are some great schools and there will be good competition in the Sky-Em.

It’s the fact that the OSAA Classification and Redistricting Committee, which came up with the new plan that was implemented by the OSAA Executive Board last week, apparently is more swayed by emotional arguments than logical ones.

The committee bought the arguments of schools that brought crowds of parents waving photos of their children, while basically ignoring the fact that its plan forces Sweet Home to either send school buses over two treacherous mountain passes during winter months, or take alternative routes that will add hours to the trips to Central Oregon schools.

Sweet Home district officials provided committee members with hard facts €“ crash data showing that Highway 20 is much more dangerous to drive than Highway 97, the north-south route that many schools complained about. But apparently, four or five district officials, letters from coaches and parents about the dangers, photo evidence of recent wrecks on Highway 20 and all that data just wasn’t enough. We apparently needed to wave photos of our kids €“ and maybe kids from Sisters and La Pine €“ to get the point across.

For Sweet Home, if Highway 20 cannot be used, the next shortest passable route to La Pine would require a one-way trip of more than 150 miles and more than three hours duration in a bus on bare pavement €“ more than 35 miles further than on Highway 20. The same is true for Sisters. Taking Highway 20 is a trip of an hour and a half on bare pavement. Taking the next shortest alternative route adds 80 miles and doubles the travel time.

All this was pointed out to the committee, along with the argument that safety is more important than maintaining six-team leagues, a stated goal.

Apparently, it all fell on deaf ears. Their minds were made up.

The committee had a very difficult task, trying to make things as fair as possible for all the 285 member schools in the state.

But we still think they could have made a better decision in regard to the Huskies. Next time, Sweet Home needs to remember that not only does the early bird apparently get the worm in OSAA-land, but the bird that makes the most noise apparently goes to the front of the line. A good argument apparently isn’t enough. A song and dance may be required.

But enough of that. We’re in the Sky-Em now and it’s time to look ahead.

Fact is, except for the fact that our kids and coaches and fans are going to be spending a lot more time on the road, with the inherent risks mentioned above, the Sky-Em has a lot of pluses.

Coaches say, as we report on page 1 in today’s issue, that the competition balance should be about what the Huskies are experiencing now or possibly better. One problem right now is that Sweet Home teams are at a disadvantage when matched up with schools loaded with athletes who have played club in soccer, basketball, softball and other sports. If you live near Corvallis or Salem, clubs are readily available, whereas it’s quite a drive from Sweet Home if an athlete wants that kind of experience.

The playing field may be a little more even in some of those sports if other schools’ athletes have a level of experience similar to Sweet Home’s. Also, most of the communities represented in the Sky-Em League tend to be very similar to Sweet Home from a socio-economic standpoint. They face many of the same challenges as our athletes and coaches do.

The Val-Co League has been a good run for Sweet Home in a lot of ways. The Huskies have won two boys track and field district titles, four in wrestling, their first district crown ever in golf and, as of Oct. 31, two girls cross-country district titles.

They’ve also won three boys swimming titles, though that is in a special district that isn’t really related to the Val-Co but still bears mention here.

The volleyball, boys basketball, baseball and softball teams have been in the thick of things as well in Val-Co competition in recent years, though they haven’t won a league championship.

We’ve also built good relationships with the other Val-Co schools in many ways, a point made to the OSAA. Hopefully we can continue to do so with the Sky-Em schools.

That was evidenced by the Philomath girls soccer team’s kind gesture toward the Huskies when Sweet Home played its final league game there last week.

The Warriors, who went undefeated in league competition and clearly are the class of the league (which is a special district and therefore isn’t really the Val-Co), mowed the Huskies down 7-0 on the field, but then treated them to a dessert to celebrate Sweet Home’s amazing turnaround in the sport, going from a team that was happy to win a couple of games last year to finishing second in a very tough league this year.

That’s class and that’s the kind of friendly, competitive relationship we’ll be sorry to leave behind.

So, as we hit the highway for those long trips to our new league opponents next fall, let’s look forward to what lies ahead.

And pray for safe journeys.

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