OSAA sends HRV packing

All the "what if's" surrounding a potential conference move for Hood River Valley High School have suddenly turned to "oh no's."

The Oregon School Activities Association Executive Board upheld the redistricting committee's Oct. 15 recommendation to move HRV from the Mt. Hood to the Intermountain Conference, by a vote of 8-1 at the Dec. 3 meeting in Wilsonville.

As a result of the decision, HRV will begin playing football, soccer, volleyball and cross-country next fall against Hermiston, Pendleton, Redmond, Crook County and three Bend-area schools -- Mountain View, Summit and Bend.

"We're not shocked, but we're certainly disappointed," HRV Athletic Director Glenn Elliott said. "We were hoping for an upset."

Elliott traveled to Wilsonville Monday with HRV principal Ben Kolb and Hood River school district superintendent Jerry Sessions to make one final appeal to the board. They also presented a student petition with more than 500 signatures, but were unable to sway the decision.

"The whole process moved rather quickly," Elliott said. "The board heard testimony for about two hours and returned with their verdict at 11:30 a.m.

"The only dissenter who sided with us felt like the economic hardship would be far too great for a school like ours to absorb, but unfortunately, he was in the minority."

Other 4A conference changes approved Monday were St. Mary's Academy moving from the Metro to the Mt. Hood Conference, and Lebanon leaving the Valley League for the Midwestern League.

"After listening to a great deal of input from all the schools affected by these proposed moves, the board reached a conclusion that these changes were in the best interest in the state as a whole," OSAA assistant executive director Mike Wallmark said.

"The concept of these sessions is to look at how to improve Oregon high school athletics every four years," he said. "The representatives will reconvene in 2005 and look at similar changes. How that will affect Hood River Valley in the future, I don't know," he said.

Similarly, Elliott does not yet know how the logistics of athlete travel, lodging and meals will work next fall.

"There will be a number of budget questions presented to the school district, but any decisions about next year won't happen right away," he said. "We can't speculate right now about how individual programs may be affected. All we can do is accept the ruling and try to move forward as planned."

HRV officials, coaches and athletes aren't the only ones affected by this decision. Hood River resident Kathy Nishimoto and her family are just one example of the many people whose lives will be altered by this ruling.

Her son, Bryan, is an HRV freshman involved in football, basketball and baseball, and his athletic future at the school is now in question.

"I just think this is really sad for the kids," said Nishimoto who, along with Fred Duckwall, helped organize a community-wide petition before the redistricting committee's final meeting Oct. 15.

"The freshmen on the basketball team have been playing together for three years and have been waiting all this time to play together at the high school level," she said. "Now there are kids who won't be able to play because of the travel issue. I just don't understand."

Elliott said there is very little he and the HRV administration can do to block the decision, and he accepts this ruling as the final word.

"Membership in the OSAA is voluntary," he said. "When you join, you agree to abide by the recommendations set forth by the board. You hope to have a chance to persuade them, but they have to consider what's best for all of Oregon high school athletics, not just one or two schools."

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