Area schools comfortable with realignment draft
By David Williams
Published in Sports on April 22, 2004 2:02 PM
If a long series of sighs were heard in and around the area's high schools on Tuesday, it had to do with the N.C. High School Athletic Association's next step in the recurring ritual of realignment.
The NCHSAA's realignment committee released the second draft of the proposed realignment plan Tuesday, one that will reclassify and realign member schools into new conferences for the school years 2005 through 2009.
The changes in the plan -- expected since the regional meetings last month in Greenville -- created several six-team leagues that feature shorter travel distances and, hopefully, more competitive leagues.
One of the most contentious issues presented to the committee was the proposal creating a combination league in which New Bern and Greenville Rose would be 4-A members with 3-A schools D.H. Conley, South Central, West Craven, Havelock, Washington and West Carteret.
The committee decided to leave the combo league intact, but pulled D.H. Conley and South Central out of the group, Those schools were placed with the conference which already has Eastern Wayne, Southern Wayne, Charles B. Aycock and Kinston.
"That was a surprise, in that I did not think that Conley and South Central would be pulled from the other league," said Eastern Wayne athletic director Robert Peele. "I had assumed that since no general consensus was reached at the meeting, that there wouldn't be any major changes."
"South Central and Conley, it would have hurt them to be in that split," said Charles B. Aycock football coach Randy Pinkowski. "It would have been tough to compete there. and it might have set them back a lot."
Two other members of the proposed Wayne County conference -- West Johnston and Wilson Hunt -- were allowed to jump out of the league and into different leagues.
Wilson Hunt is back with Wilson Fike and Wilson Beddingfield in a conference with membership similar to the old Big Eight 3-A Conference. Southern Nash, Rocky Mount, Northern Nash, Nash Central and SouthWest Edgecombe are also in that group.
West Johnston received permission to play up at 4-A level, and was placed with Smithfield-Selma, Clayton, East Wake, Knightdale, Southeast Raleigh and Garner.
"I think a lot more than Rose got what they wanted," said Pinkowski. "West Johnston was anxious to stay with their own county schools -- they were not happy to travel to Greenville. The Wilson schools wanted to get together again."
The moves leave Wayne County's 3-A schools together in a group with limited travel and a lot of competition.
"This should be a very good league," said Wayne County Public Schools athletic director Dean Sauls. "Geographically, it's very tight, And the schools all have history. Conley played with the Wayne County schools in the old East Carolina League a few years back."
The area's 2-A conference changed members, as well. South Johnston, which was originally placed in the groups with Goldsboro, North Lenoir, Farmville Central, Greene Central and North Pitt, was moved to a 3-A group which has Union Pines, Triton, Overhills, Western Harnett, Harnett Central and Gray's Creek.
To pick up a sixth school, South Lenoir returned to the league after being originally moved south to a league with Clinton, East Duplin, Richlands. SouthWest Onslow, Northside, Swansboro and Croatan.
"I understand why Beddingfield and South Johnston are going," said Goldsboro High School athletic director Randy Jordan. "It makes much better sense for them, and I'm pleased that South Lenoir is in the conference. We're losing two quality schools, but we are replacing them with a quality school in South Lenoir. It's a competitive conference. There are no cake walks here."
The only concern cited by anyone was that the six-team leagues would create a greater need to schedule four or five non-conference games, especially in football.
"Six teams means you've got to find five or six football games and five other schools to play in a non-conference situation," said Peele.
Goldsboro will get a boost in scheduling non-conference games with the assurances from the other county 3-A schools and Kinston that they will continue to play Goldsboro.
"We already have three non-conference games set, and we should be getting a fourth soon," said Pinkowski. "It's not a problem if there are a lot of six-team conferences, because everyone is looking to get non-conference games.
"I think if you treat people fairly, you won't have trouble filling your schedule."
Jordan said he hoped to add a few most sports to the school's stable next school year, if the students wanted to support the new programs.
"Hopefully, within the next year, we can add cross country or golf," Jordan said. "We have some students that want to try swimming.
Jordan said he was in the process of preparing a student poll, to be issued before the end of the school year, to see what new sports they might be interested in.
In the 1-A ranks, the Carolina Conference drops to six schools - Rosewood, Princeton, North Johnston, North Duplin, Spring Creek and Ayden-Grifton. The Super Six Conference is unchanged -- with James Kenan, Midway, Lakewood, Wallace-Rose Hill, Hobbton and Union.
Sauls said that if the two proposed Wayne County high schools are built. they could enter the Carolina Conference.
Sauls also noted that if that was the case, the Super Six might pick up North Duplin to balance both leagues with seven members.
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