By Ciara Mulcahy, Patrick Henry High School
Teen athletes around the Roanoke Valley will get a fresh look at their competition next school year when the Virginia High School League implements a redistricting plan for sports and activities.
The changes, which take effect July 1, have been adopted for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years. According to the VHSL, the re-alignment is an effort to reduce travel time, emphasize equity and remove partial advantages.
“Crowds will be bigger for events, as local competition will bring more people,” said Patti Sheedy, athletic director at Patrick Henry High School, which will be part of the new River Ridge District along with Hidden Valley, Cave Spring, Salem, Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Pulaski County and Carroll County high schools.
“It will be a stronger district than it has been in the past even though they are smaller schools,” Sheedy added.
“I think it will be interesting to see how it all plays out,” said Brody Hicks, a freshman on the Cave Spring boys’ varsity basketball team. “I am not opposed to the change. I don’t know the effects of the redistricting on our game schedule, but I think it will be fun if we have to play teams we haven’t played in the past.”
During the regular season, a win or loss, as well as the classification of the opposing team, will factor into a points system to decide postseason seeding.
For the playoffs, the VHSL’s current three-class system based on size (A, AA and AAA) will be replaced with a six-class system, developed by a VHSL committee and based on school size and competitive level. Each class will be divided into two regions, with each region divided into four conferences. A conference includes five to eight schools of comparable ability and geography. The eight teams in the River Ridge District will compete in four different conferences.
“The cons of the district change is traveling time, but only for some schools, as well as the playoff formats because we haven’t seen what it is going to be like yet,” said Chris Morris, athletic director at Hidden Valley High School.
A conference tournament in eight-team brackets will produce a champion and runner-up to advance to a regional tournament, also in eight-team brackets. The top-two finishers there will then go on to compete in the State Final Four of their respective class.
“Competition will definitely be harder next year because we don’t know the reputation of other teams and aren’t used to their style of playing,” said Cave Spring varsity softball player Caitlyn Williams, a junior. “But it will be a good learning experience, too.”
For more information about the redistricting, visit www.vhsl.org/classification.alignment-2013-15.