Realignment a real issue for Big RedAug 1, 2017 By Craig Blumenshine, Staff Writer
It was a nice surprise to read last Wednesday's Ranger front page and staff writer Dan Bendtsen's reporting about conferences and quadrant alignment for volleyball and basketball teams when the Riverton Wolverines move back to Class 4-A in the 2018-19 school year.
After the members of the Wyoming High School Activities Association decided to expand Class 4-A to 16 schools, Riverton, it was thought, would be in a conference quadrant with Natrona County High School, Kelly Walsh and Rock Springs -- projected to be Wyoming's three largest high schools based on enrollment after Gillette's new Thunder Basin High School opens its doors this fall (more on that in a moment).
But in June, the three new schools in Class 4-A and their activities directors including Reggie Miller (Riverton), Tony Hult (Cody) and Rob Erickson (Star Valley) were invited to a meeting of the existing Class 4-A activities directors, and a serious discussion about competitive balance ensued.
And the big schools listened.
It's been well-publicized that the expense of high school sports travel is a major concern to those charged with trying to make school budgets balance in a time of dwindling resources.
But it's also important for competitive balance to be considered in the expanded conferences.
Riverton, if all goes as now planned, will compete against Cody, Jackson and Star Valley twice each year (once home, and once away) during the regular season in volleyball and basketball and just once, it is hoped, against Rock Springs, Evanston, Green River and one of the two Casper schools, which would make up a Southwest quadrant.
Even though many locals agree a Riverton High School competing in Class 3-A -- as it will for one more season -- makes the most sense. The Wolverines in a redefined Northwest quadrant, however, seems like a solid compromise.
Don't rely on the WHSAA's website for Riverton's 2017 football schedule. Although it originally was thought the Wolverines would have to battle Douglas twice in the first four weeks (as the WHSAA site says), the Wolverines instead will play an Aug. 25 week-zero game at home against Evanston that will count in standings and statistics.
The Wolverines then will have a bye in what would have been their first regular-season week.
The good news? Finally, a week-zero game that means something.
Back to Gillette. In what WHSAA Commissioner Ron Laird says is a local issue, all returning football players with varsity experience are apparently abandoning Campbell County High School for the new Thunder Basin High School, which will open this fall.
For one year only, students can choose which Gillette high school to attend. The new Bolts, for football players, seem to be in vogue. The mass exodus from CCHS apparently led to the resignation of longtime Camels coach Vic Wilkerson who, in 13 seasons, compiled an overall record of 110-35 and led Gillette to Class 4-A state championships in 2006 and 2008.
The door is still open for players to return to CCHS, Laird said, but only until the first day of practice.
Odd that I now find myself rooting for the Camels.
Have a great sports week. Go Big Red!