2013-09-29 / Sports

Lapeer High to play in Saginaw Valley

LAPEER — Lapeer Community Schools announced Thursday afternoon that Lapeer High School will become a member of the Saginaw Valley Conference for athletic competition beginning in the fall of 2014. Lapeer East and Lapeer West will combine into one high school, Lapeer High, on the campus of Lapeer East starting in the fall 2014.

“We’re excited to have found a home for Lapeer High School athletics,” said LCS Superintendent Matt Wandrie. “This new opportunity allows us to maintain classic rivalries with neighboring schools while establishing new ones. We look forward to being a part of a proud conference with a tradition of excellence.”

With the announcement of the planned consolidation of Lapeer East and West High Schools in June 2012, and subsequent denial of membership to the Flint Metro League because of projected enrollment numbers of around 1,600, district officials began what they called a thorough process to determine new league affiliation. This process included soliciting input from parents, coaches, athletic administration, and community members via a number of task force groups and the Athletic Review Committee. Through these conversations, LCS identified as primary considerations in seeking new league affiliation: Drive time to member school districts, competitiveness, natural rivalries, facilities and depth of programs offered for athletics and non-athletics.

When considering the factors listed above, LCS says it determined viable options that included: application to existing neighboring leagues, i.e. the Oakland Activities Association, Saginaw Valley, Macomb Area Conference, etc., developing a new league with neighboring districts or competing as an independent district without any league affiliation.

Wandrie noted that district officials thoroughly vetted the options and, as a result, determined that applying to the Saginaw Valley Conference was the best option available for Lapeer Community Schools. It’s important to note that consideration for all options was taken over the past six months and that certain leagues were not accepting new member applications; others, based on the considerations listed above, were not legitimate options.

Also, the idea of forming a new league failed to achieve widespread support from enough districts to make it a viable option. That’s something that Carman- Ainsworth Athletic Director Bob Root has spent the better part of a year trying to do, also to no avail. Flushing comes out of the Valley and joins the Flint Metro League in 2014, as the County Press announced back in July. All four former Big Nine schools had applied, but Carman-Ainsworth and Flushing were the only two schools which made the final approval by the Metro League as possible new members.

Wandrie stressed that after careful consideration, the district determined that the idea of competing as an independent was not in the best interest of Lapeer’s student athletes, largely because of travel times and inability to compete for a variety of what he called recognition opportunities. Independent schools must often travel long distances to fill open competition dates regardless of geographic location.

The Saginaw Valley, which underwent its own reorganization when it accepted the remaining four member schools of the now defunct Big Nine two years ago, currently consists of 14 schools divided into geographical divisions. The South Division includes Davison, Carman-Ainsworth, Powers Catholic, Flint Northwestern, Flint Southwestern and Lapeer. The North Division includes Bay City Western, Bay City Central, Midland, Midland Dow, Saginaw, Saginaw Heritage, Saginaw Arthur Hill and Mt. Pleasant.

Like the Flint Metro League, special consideration is given to schools separated by significant distance when scheduling weekday contests. For example, Wandrie pointed out, a hockey game scheduled for a Wednesday might be moved to a Friday evening if playing a longer-distance crossover school such as Midland Dow.

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