Final decision Oct. 16

By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

McNary student athletes, coaches and parents may soon become more familiar with the Bend area.

In its final recommendation, the Oregon School Activities Association Classification and Districting Committee placed Bend High School, Mountain View and Summit in the Greater Valley Conference with the Celtics, McKay, South Salem, Sprague and West Salem beginning with the 2018-19 school year.

The decision came after 12 meetings over the course of about a year. The committee looked at everything from dropping to five classifications, to putting the three Bend schools in the Southwestern Conference with southern Oregon and Eugene schools or with east Portland schools.

In the end, the committee stuck with six classifications and chose the GVC.

“Though it has become evident that no current league is interested in adding the three Bend schools, the group believes that choosing the shortest of the three travel options makes the most sense when applying the criteria (safety of athletes and spectators, minimizing loss of class time, minimizing expenses, and school enrollment,” the committee wrote in a release.

The committee also noted that a standalone three team Central Oregon league was not a viable option, nor was separating the three schools into different leagues.

Bend, Summit and Mountain View are all moving up from 5A. North Salem has been approved to play down and will join the 5A Mid-Willamette Conference along with West Albany. Forest Grove and McMinnville would remain in 6A but play in the Pacific Conference.

The proposal is for the 2018-22 four-year time block.

“The committee understands that not all of the moves made and placements of schools are going to be ideal for each individual school,” the release continued. “The committee recognizes that any decision regarding placement of a school has the potential to substantially impact a school and its community. Placement of schools within classifications and league are interrelated. In some cases travel increases for some while decreases for others. There is simply no scenario that exists to positively impact every school.”

The recommendation is not the final step in the public process. The ultimate decision will come from the OSAA Executive Board and Delegate Assembly on Monday, Oct. 16 at 9 a.m. at the Holiday Inn in Wilsonville.

Schools and the public will have the opportunity to respond to the committee’s recommendation in writing or in person at the meeting.

Whatever the board decides, athletic director Scott Gragg said McNary will adapt.

“We will make things work,” Gragg said. “That’s what athletes do and that’s what athletic directors need to do. We face adversity or we face a challenge and we make the most of it and we get better from it.

“You can look at it two ways. You can look at it as a problem or a negative or you can look at it as an opportunity. I’m surrounded by leadership in our district that will use it as an opportunity and we’ll make the best and make sure that our kids are engaged and safe and successful.”

Gragg came to McNary from Montana, where his daughter played volleyball and the closest game outside of town was 108 miles away. Teams played on the weekends and some of the smaller schools even went to a four-day school day to avoid missing class time.

“I don’t think we’re in the realm but there’s all kinds of ways and I feel fortunate to have experienced that model firsthand,” Gragg said. “I think I might have some ideas that maybe haven’t been tried in Oregon and maybe works for us, if we’re traveling long distances.”

McNary currently has block schedule on Friday, where student athletes would miss a lot of class time if they’re traveling on a regular basis.

Gragg is looking forward to the OSAA making its final decision. He estimated teams are two to three months behind scheduling next year’s fall sports waiting for classification.

“Whenever there’s a proposal made, you start brainstorming and right now that’s all we can do because we don’t know what the final say is going to be,” Gragg said. “Once that final says happens, then we will start and those brainstormings will have to formulate into real plans moving forward.”