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HIGH SCHOOLS: ADs fume over new alignment ofschools

Stafford will move down in classification and Washington & Lee will move up, under the Virginia High School League’s two-year realignment plan beginning in the 2015–16 school year.

Stafford will transition from Group 6A to 5A based on lower enrollment projections. The move will send the Indians from Conference 4 to Conference 15 where they’ll join Brooke Point, Massaponax, Mountain View, North Stafford and Potomac.

James Monroe is set to remain in the 3A–East Region but move from Conference 27 to Conference 26. The Yellow Jackets would be joined by Spotsylvania and four Richmond-area schools (Armstrong, Hopewell, Petersburg and Thomas Jefferson).

MORE: Here’s a look at the entire proposed VHSL alignment.

But JM assistant athletic director Julian Bumbrey said the Yellow Jackets will appeal the decision at a hearing in Charlottesville on Aug. 11. Bumbrey said because of travel concerns, the Yellow Jackets would rather join Conference 28 with Brentsville, Culpeper, Kettle Run, Manassas Park, Riverside, Skyline, Warren County and William Monroe.

“We’ve got to put our heads together and see if we can come up with a good proposal,” Bumbrey said of the appeal. “We’ll see what happens.”

Washington & Lee already lost its appeal (by an 11–2 vote) to remain in 1A. The Eagles will move to 2A, where they’ll be the smallest school in the classification with 479 students.

W&L athletic director Malcolm Lewis said because there are few 2A schools close to Montross, increased travel costs will likely force the Eagles to cut some sports.

“This is going to kill us,” Lewis said.

The Eagles will leave behind traditional rivals Colonial Beach, Essex, Lancaster, Northumberland and Rappahannock in Conference 43. They’ll join Conference 33, where King William will be their closest competitor. The rest of the league consists of Arcadia, Bruton, John Marshall, Maggie Walker and Nandua.

Lewis said region and state travel will be even farther because nearly all 2A schools are located west of Interstate 95.

“We’ve cut middle school sports. We’ve cut coaches. We’ve cut stipends. We have cut, cut, cut over the past couple of years as every locality is doing,” Lewis said. “There’s no way we can make this move and it not substantially affect the way we fund sports around here.”

Lewis said he hoped the Eagles would remain in 1A. He said he pleaded with VHSL officials to draw the cutoff line one school above Washington & Lee. He noted that the Eagles didn’t make the 1A state tournament in any sport last school year, so “it’s not like we’re bullying anybody.”

The largest 1A school in the 2015–16 realignment, Riverheads, is projected to have 475 students, four more than Washington & Lee.

“If we were the fourth, fifth, sixth team into 2A, I would’ve said, ‘Hey, look, you’ve got to live with it,’” Lewis said. “But we were the last team in. We were much closer to the highest team in 1A than we were to the second-lowest in 2A.”

Stafford’s switch to Conference 15 leaves Colonial Forge and Riverbend as the only area Conference 4 schools.

Group 4A will be split into East and West divisions instead of the current North–South format beginning in 2015–16.

Three schools are moving from Conference 22 to Conference 19. Chancellor, Courtland and King George will be joined in Conference 19 by Caroline, Charlottesville and Louisa. The six schools will be members of the 4A–East Region.

Caroline athletic director Paul Heizer is pleased with the move. Caroline was previously in Conference 20 with Richmond-area schools. But when Glen Allen and J.R. Tucker moved to 5A and were replaced by Huguenot and Powhatan, Heizer pushed for the Cavaliers to join their neighbors to the north.

“Glen Allen and Tucker were relatively short trips, 40 minutes by bus,” Heizer said. “So we lost two of our closest schools and replaced them with two pretty good trips. I liked all the exposure for our kids in Richmond. I thought that was a good thing. But it doesn’t make sense to travel to Powhatan when you can just go to K.G.”

Eastern View departs Conference 22, as well. The Cyclones will be a part of Conference 23 and 4A–West with Fauquier, Liberty–Bealeton and Kettle Run. They’ll be joined by Lynchburg-area schools Amherst, E.C. Glass and Jefferson Forest.

Orange will remain 5A and in Conference 16 with Albemarle, Atlee, Deep Run, Mills Godwin and Patrick Henry–Ashland.

 

Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526

tcoghill@freelancestar.com

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