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Latest redistricting proposal would lessen travel, keep kids in classrooms more

The latest OSAA reclassification proposal would cause major changes in the Central Oregon sports landscape.

With Bend now having four high schools instead of three, the OSAA is looking at the possibility of dropping Bend, Mountain View, Summit and Caldera high schools from Class 6A to Class 5A, making a Central Oregon Class 5A league. That league would include the four Bend schools as well as Redmond, Ridgeview and Crook County.

There is a very real possibility that the proposal will become a reality. Class 5A has not had enough schools, while Class 6A has been a significantly larger classification. The change would make Class 5A league's more balanced, as well as addressing a long-term problem for the OSAA. For years teams from the Willamette Valley have been forced to play in Central Oregon despite being reluctant to travel across the Cascades. That reluctance has gone to the point of schools even filing suit to prevent the Bend schools from being in their leagues.

A new Central Oregon league would mean decreased travel for a number of teams, including all of the Bend and Redmond schools as well as Crook County.

That is the plus side of the proposal. However, that proposal would not be without some disadvantages.

For starters, it would dramatically change the balance of power in both Class 5A and 6A. In recent years, Summit High School has been one of the dominant sports powers in Class 6A. They have dominated girls track and cross country, done well in soccer, volleyball and golf as well as having success in boys track and cross country.

Moving Summit to Class 5A could potentially make Summit the dominant Class 5A school in virtually all sports. The other Bend schools could become powers as well. Bend High School is currently ranked second in class 6A in volleyball and both Bend and Mountain View have been successful in football in the recent past.

In fact, the new look Intermountain Conference could realistically become one of the toughest conferences in OSAA history. However, that is all speculative as no one knows for sure how much adding a fourth high school will Impact the success of the Bend schools.

One thing we do know for sure is that it would make it more difficult for Crook County teams to reach the state tournament.

The Intermountain Conference is already a difficult conference. Throw in the Bend schools and in some sports it might become difficult for Crook County schools to reach the post-season. Crook County already struggles in some sports, for example neither the boys or girls soccer teams have won a single match so far this year. Adding the Bend schools would make finding success even more difficult.

Crook County has been in a league with the Bend schools more than once in the past.

For more than 20 years, Crook County was unable to reach the state tournament in cross country. Drop to a lower classification than the Bend schools and it was just a couple of years before the Cowboys won a state championship in the sport.

There are sports where Crook County would still be successful. The Cowgirl volleyball team won their first three volleyball state championships while in Class 5A with the Bend schools. The Crook County High School wrestling team has also done well while competing with the Bend schools.

It's my observation that with good coaching and good competition, athletes often rise to the challenge, upping their game as the competition improves.

Playing in a league with the Bend schools could cause some teams to struggle, but it also is an opportunity for players and teams to get better and could provide additional opportunities for kids to play at the college level.

I'm sure that there are some in Crook County that would oppose the proposed new league. And, yes, it could make things tough for some Crook County teams. However, in my opinion, the lower travel costs, increased time in the classroom for athletes, and opportunities such a league could create more than outweigh any potential disadvantages from the proposal. I, for one, would support such a change, that is provided that the Bend schools actually meet the current classification size for Class 5A schools.

It's a little premature to plan on the Intermountain Conference being only a Central Oregon league as the redistricting committee still has two more meetings before any proposals are finalized. Still, this is an interesting proposal that I believe, on balance, has merit. Let's wait and see what happens.

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