The local schools’ fight to restore old rivalries and limit travel in athletics took another step in the wrong direction on Friday, when the NCHSAA released its second draft for realignment in the 2017-2021 school years.
The NCHSAA essentially rejected the local schools’ proposal for a seven-team split 1A/2A conference including the schools from Surry and Stokes County.
Instead, North Surry and Surry Central remained in a seven-team 2A conference stocked with Winston-Salem schools, while Mount Airy and East Surry stayed in a six-team 1A conference with two schools each from Forsyth and Stokes County.
However, this latest decision from the NCHSAA didn’t come as a surprise to Surry Central athletic director Myles Wilmoth.
“We didn’t expect it to go exactly as we had hoped and proposed, but we were hoping (the NCHSAA) would make some changes,” Wilmoth said. “But obviously they didn’t see it the same way we did.”
The latest proposal from the NCHSAA is the final draft before an official realignment report is submitted the the Board of Directors on April 13. Until then, what are the next steps for the local schools in Surry County who are still hopeful for change?
First, the Surry County schools need to have a formal discussion with the schools from Forsyth County.
“We’re actually going to talk to all of the schools we put in the proposal,” Wilmoth said. “In order for the NCHSAA to actually make a change, they would need not only a majority, but all of the schools in Winston-Salem to be in agreement. We may actually try to meet with the Winston schools and Thomasville and Lexington to see if they would be willing to partner with us.”
The News reported earlier this month that Bishop McGuinness athletic director Jeff Stoller was open to the idea of moving into a more eastern conference, but he wants to remain in a 1A conference rather than jumping into a split league. Wilmoth acknowledged that it would be “very difficult” to create a split league in Surry County and avoid that same fate for the Forsyth County schools.
The next step for the Surry County schools is to select a representative to speak on behalf of their proposal at the Western Realignment Meeting on Feb. 10 in Lincolnton.
“We understand that they are in a hard position, just looking at the numbers,” East Surry athletic director Randy Marion said. “The NCHSAA sees schools in a certain area that have similar numbers and puts a conference together… But we just want to get in front of them at the regional meeting so they can hear our side of things.”
Aside from the well-known issues of rivalries and travel time, Marion believes that a conference with schools from Forsyth County negatively effects East Surry and other local schools’ athletic programs from top-to-bottom.
One issue is women’s sports, as Marion believes he’s seen a noted decline in athletic participation from East Surry’s girls. Marion thinks that playing schools his students aren’t familiar with dulls down the interest.
It’s also no secret that the 1A/2A schools from Forsyth County struggle to produce junior varsity teams across a variety of sports, hurting development and scheduling for the Surry County teams.
“The limited sports that Winston-Salem Prep offers and the limited number of JV teams all the schools offer make scheduling very difficult for us,” Marion said. “Sixty percent of our schedule would be non-conference.”
After the meeting in Lincolnton, Surry County schools will have one final chance to submit a written proposal to the NCHSAA by March 1. Then it will all be in the hands of the realignment committee.
“At this point, we’re just so disheartened with the process,” Wilmoth said. “But we have to keep trying, and that’s why we’re taking the necessary steps. Stepping back into some of our older conferences would just be the best thing for local sports.”
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