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New VHSL plan addresses travel

By Henry Luzzatto

Correspondent

Area high school sports teams may no longer have to travel for hours to compete in regional playoffs.

A new regional alignment plan by the Virginia High School League is intended to make travel for regional games less arduous by dividing the size of the regions, officials said this week.

“We took the existing regions and divided them in half,” said Tom Dolan, VHSL Assistant Director for Compliance.

The VHSL alignment committee proposed a new 24-region plan for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years on June 15. This new plan would replace the current 12-region division.

Dolan said the new alignment would make transportation easier for schools and prevent them from having to travel too far for regional play

“Teams like King’s Fork won’t have to travel out to Fredericksburg,” he said. “The longest trip they’ll likely make is to the Williamsburg area.”

The VHSL divides schools into six classifications based on size. Each classification is then divided into two regions, either east and west or north and south, resulting in a total of 12 regions.

The proposed alignment would instead divide the classifications into four regions each. This would make each region smaller, making it easier to transport players to regional games.

“Many of the schools were concerned about travel and the cost of transportation,” Dolan said. “This cuts the regional size in half and makes travel easier for regional play.”

Dolan said schools met to discuss how to divide the regions. The main factor motivating the decision was proximity, he said.

Though the plan should prevent onerous travel across the state for regional games, there may be some unintended consequences.

Randy Jessee, the activities director at King’s Fork High School, said the regional reshuffling could complicate the road to state championships for sports teams.

Previously, the regional champions would play one another for the state title. Under the new alignment plan, teams would play an additional semi-final game, which Jessee believes is unnecessary.

“Some schools will have a harder time getting to state championships,” he said.

Jessee added that he thinks the VHSL’s attempt to improve travel problems may not work for everyone.

“As far as the amount of travel, some will benefit,” he said, “but some will have just as much if not more.”

Dolan disagreed, saying that the new regions will be a benefit to the schools.

“We wanted to create a plan that’s better for schools,” Dolan said. He said the central goal of the new alignment is to prevent students from missing excessive amounts of school due to travel for the regional tournament.

“Being an education-based organization, that’s the most important piece of the puzzle,” he said.

Though the plan was provisionally approved, there is still time for schools to air their grievances about the new plan. The deadline to request appeals is July 11. The alignment committee will meet on Aug. 4 to discuss the appeals and possibly adjust its plan accordingly.

The final plan will be submitted for approval by the VHSL executive committee on Sept. 23.