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Proposed VHSL alignment features changes: Sherando may be headed to Group AAA

By Brian Eller -- beller@nvdaily.com

The Virginia High School League released a proposal Wednesday that could have some local high schools moving to different districts.

The proposal, which would be put into effect for 2011-13, has Central moving back to Group AA in the Northwestern District with Sherando moving to the Cedar Run District in Group AAA. Stonewall Jackson would remain in Group A, but move to the Bull Run District.

The move presents challenges for all three schools. At Central, the Falcons are just a year removed from the Northwestern District where they played for four years. This past season they competed in Shenandoah District, where they went 6-4 in football. In 2007 they went just 1-9 in Group AA.

"We're playing schools right now in single-A that are within 100 kids of us and the AA schools are twice as high," Central football coach Mike Yew said. "But we're gonna go out there and compete, and our kids are gonna compete. But safety is the biggest issue in my mind. And if safety is the priority and we're having to play schools with twice as many kids, that's not really a good avenue for our kids."

The move back to Group AA didn't come as a shock to Central basketball coach Roger Wilkins, however. As a coach at the high school for several years, he says it just seems to be the way it works with Central.

"I think it was expected," he said. "It seems like we go through that cycle where we're down for two years and then go back up for a while. It's almost to the point where I feel like you just say stay up because the kids, they really don't have a chance to get an identity. You establish the rivalries with the schools and then you change."

At Stonewall Jackson, the biggest repercussion of the switch to the Bull Run District would be the increased travel distances for sporting events. Stonewall would have to travel to Madison County High School, which is 65 miles away, as well as Manassas Park, located 85 miles from Quicksburg. Stonewall athletic director Todd Fannin said those trips are too long for students to have to make, particularly during the school week.

"We are not planning to move to the Bull Run District," Fannin said. "The idea of trips to George Mason, Madison County and Manassas Park on a Tuesday night during the school week would not be so ideal,"

Though the plan is not final, Fannin said as of now Stonewall is in the Bull Run District starting in 2011, but that the school plans to appeal the proposed switch. In order to do so, Stonewall must go through a three-step process.

First, it must appeal to the Shenandoah District to re-enter under a unanimous decision. If that is approved the school can then take the approval to Region B, where it would be voted on by a committee. Following that, the final step would be to take both approvals to the VHSL, a measure Fannin said he believes would likely be successful, as the VHSL generally accepts the verdict of the region.

Fannin also stressed that despite the plan to appeal, there are "no hard feelings or disparity" with the Bull Run District, and that the decision is simply based on the hassle of increased travel.

Arguably the biggest switch, however, would be Sherando High School moving to Group AAA, where the Warriors have not competed since 2001. Currently, Sherando is in the Group AA Northwestern District, along with Handley, Millbrook, Skyline and James Wood. At 1,571 students, Sherando is the most populated school in the Northwestern District, with almost 300 students more than James Wood. Should they move to the Cedar Run District, the Warriors would be the smallest of six schools, with two in the district hosting more than 2,300 students.

"Obviously, I think without knowing anything about it, our preference is to stay local," Sherando football coach Bill Hall said. "Just in terms of rivalries, playing local competition, being able to travel and the cost aspects of it, our fans being able to follow you. It's just so beneficial whenever you get to play in your own, local area. It'd be nice to stay local."


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