Too much advantage for Bishop, Prep

By Jeff Linville -

Last week, Tommy Morrison, WPAQ Radio, shared a column written by a sports parent from Andrews, N.C.

Tim Wood said many of the same things that I have heard for years about the issues with charter/magnet schools, but he added some nice insights that truly hammer the points home.

The main point of his lengthy column is that schools like Winston-Salem Prep and Bishop McGuinness shouldn’t be classified as public 1A schools because it isn’t fair to the regular schools in the state. That’s a sentiment heard often in Surry County.

Hey, if Tim Wood thinks it isn’t fair all the way from Andrews, he should try playing in the same conference like the Granite Bears.

True, East Surry also is in the Northwest Conference with these schools, but it just so happens that the sports where East has had great success are typically the ones where these schools don’t focus.

In the past five years, East Surry has competed for state titles in softball, baseball, volleyball and boys soccer. Winston-Salem Prep doesn’t field a team in those sports (well, the school sometimes has a volleyball team). Bishop does offer those sports, but doesn’t rack up state titles in those like they do in girls basketball, boys and girls tennis, cross country and boys golf.

So about the only Cardinal really affected by Bishop was standout golfer Jordan Vogler, who would have been conference player of the year in 2014 if it weren’t for two Bishop players finishing first and second.

However, Mount Airy has competed head to head for awards and state titles. The Lady Bears tennis team won three straight titles and would have had four if not for a loss to Bishop in the semifinals.

Kirsten Parries won a state cross country title as a sophomore, but then missed out her junior and senior years as runners from charter/magnet schools bested her times. Parries won two gold medals in one track and field championship, but certainly could have won a couple more if not for a beast of a runner from Community School of Davidson. Malia Ellington collected a whopping 17 gold medals in her career; but she didn’t just win titles, she set two state records (800 and 1600). Malia now runs for Harvard.

The Bears had some great boys tennis teams led by the Kessler brothers, but Bishop was so dominant one year that not only did all six starters make the all-conference team, a reserve who only played doubles was named honorable mention.

Basketball coach Howard Mayo has had great success with his girls teams, but imagine how much better the team could be without playing Prep, Bishop and Atkins twice each. That’s six tough games in the regular season, and a likely meeting in the playoffs thanks to the misguided “pod system” of playing area teams against each other in the early rounds.

How lopsided is it? Over the past four seasons, Mayo went a remarkable 73-15 against everyone not named Prep and Bishop. Against those two, Mount Airy went 4-17. The Bears’ average season would be 18-4 except for those two teams.

In his column, Wood wrote, “The NCHSAA, as well as those who defend the allowance of Charter/Magnet Schools into the 1A division of the North Carolina high school sports, tell us that there is no advantage for these schools.

“Every article, post, or comment that I have read says something to the effect of, ‘They/We have to abide by the same rules as traditional public schools when it comes to sports.’ And, “It shouldn’t be an issue since our enrollment numbers fall within the guidelines, and we cannot recruit.’”

As any local coach will tell you, that isn’t the truth. A school like Mount Airy or East Surry must pull its athletes from the existing pool of residents in their district.

Of course, East Surry fans can point out an example of a three-sport star whose family moved into the Mount Airy district just so their son could play ball. Then once he graduated, the parents moved back to their county home.

But that is an extreme example, requiring a family to move. Another example was a Mount Airy basketball player who switched to North Surry. His parents had separate houses, and he moved from his mother’s place to his dad’s home, so that was allowable.

For schools like Prep and Bishop, however, such measures aren’t necessary.

Tanner Owen was a courteous, pleasant young man who was a standout youth golfer in High Point back when I lived there myself.

He started out at a private school in High Point, but then moved to Bishop for the sports opportunity along with his sister Anna.

Tanner would go on to win back-to-back state championships and earn a golf scholarship to Wake Forest. Anna would win conference player of the year in tennis and helped the team win a state championship, breaking Mount Airy’s streak.

While I liked Tanner as a person and can understand why he chose Bishop, I couldn’t help but feel bad for players like Vogler who had to face off against him every week.

Of course, one could also argue that the weekly head-to-head battles with Bishop pushed North Surry’s Taylor Coalson to be the best 2A golfer in the state, winning back-to-back titles himself.

Then again, golf is unlike other sports that feature head-to-head competition. In baseball if a pitcher is doing well, the batters are struggling. In basketball if a player is scoring at will, then the defender can feel demoralized. Just because Tanner was playing well didn’t mean that Taylor’s game would directly suffer.

Wood, who lives near Hiwassee Dam, notes that HDHS has about the same number of students as Prep (about 220). However, Hiwassee Dam has a district of a little more than 9,000 people, while Forsyth County has 361,000 residents from which Prep can draw. That’s a ratio of about 40-to-1 in favor of Prep.

Imagine if the Carolina Panthers could only draft college players from the state of North Carolina, and the Atlanta Falcons could draft players from any university in the country. Think that would give someone an advantage? Of course it would.

Just look at the state titles won by the two Northwest teams in basketball alone.

This weekend, Prep will play for the 1A title in both the boys’ and girls’ championships. Prep won the state title for the girls last year and has won four titles for the boys.

In fact, as Wood pointed out, over the past decade, Bishop and Prep have combined to win 15 of the 20 championships for boys an girls. And that could jump up to 17 of 22 after this weekend.

A couple of years ago, I was in Cary to see Davi Barbour and Haley Thomas compete for the state doubles title. An official at the event was local retired coach James Hayes. He pointed out that seven of the eight entrants playing that day were from charter/magnet schools. Mount Airy was the exception.

Bishop’s argument for being in the Northwest is that there are no other 1A schools in Kernersville, and Winston-Salem and Greensboro have mostly bigger schools, too. Therefore it is fair to them to play in our local conference.

Fair? Those coaches want the advantage of playing in a small conference while drawing from a large pool of students like a big school. That’s not fair to the real public schools.

For the sake of travel, I can see Bishop and Prep playing our local 1A teams on a regular basis, but I don’t think they should be allowed to compete in the same playoffs.

Either the charter/magnet/parochial schools need their own playoffs, or the schools should be re-ranked into higher classifications that reflect their true talent pool.

There are far more public schools in this state than charter/magnet schools. It is time that these administrators took a stand and forced the NCHSAA to make some changes.

By Jeff Linville

Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

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