High School Sports

Could Canadian schools move to the Northwest Conference? The door is no longer locked

Blaine’s Cole Muder breaks a tackle by Joe Carter of Lord Tweedsmuir (B.C.) in a 2013 football game in Blaine. With the addition of Hermiston (Oregon) High School to the WIAA beginning in the fall of 2018, the WIAA set criteria for addressing such requests from out-of-state schools on a case-by-case basis, meaning Canadian schools could apply to join the Northwest Conference.
Blaine’s Cole Muder breaks a tackle by Joe Carter of Lord Tweedsmuir (B.C.) in a 2013 football game in Blaine. With the addition of Hermiston (Oregon) High School to the WIAA beginning in the fall of 2018, the WIAA set criteria for addressing such requests from out-of-state schools on a case-by-case basis, meaning Canadian schools could apply to join the Northwest Conference. The Bellingham Herald file

The number of member schools in the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association grew by one Monday, and no new high schools opened their doors in the state.

The WIAA Executive Board approved the application of Hermiston (Oregon) High School to join the association beginning in the 2018-19 school year. Hermiston will become the first out-of-state school to join the association as a full member and has been accepted into the Class 4A Mid-Columbia Conference.

With Hermiston setting the precedence, can we now expect nearby British Columbia schools to start lining up to join the the Northwest Conference?

This was a unique situation for both Hermiston and the WIAA.

WIAA executive director Mike Colbrese

It’s not out of the question, according to WIAA executive director Mike Colbrese, but the situation has to be perfect – or far from perfect, as the case may be.

“The Board spoke briefly to the issue of Canadian schools joining the WIAA and feels that the criteria (that was set during deliberations over Hermiston’s application) does address such situations, because each would be a case-by-case request,” Colbrese wrote in an email Tuesday morning.

Hermiston, which is located just miles south of the Columbia River in Central Oregon, would have faced a significant travel hardship based on the proposed changes to districts and classifications by the OSAA. Following Oregon reclassification, Hermiston would have had to average approximately 404 miles round trip per league contest, as it found itself on a virtual island within Oregon with no like-sized schools in its region.

1 School from outside the state of Washington – Hermiston, Oregon – that will be a member of the WIAA for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years.

By joining the Mid-Columbia Conference, that distance will drop to about 80 miles per contest to face schools mostly in the Tri-Cities and Walla Walla region, reducing missed class time and travel costs for Hermiston student-athletes.

After working with the state associations of Oregon and Idaho, according to a WIAA press release announcing Hermiston’s move, the Executive Board also formulated criteria to be used as an evaluation tool when weighing any future out-of-state applications.

“This was a unique situation for both Hermiston and the WIAA,” Colbrese said in the release. “The Executive Board worked closely with the OSAA (Oregon School Activities Association) and IHSAA (Idaho High School Activities Association) to put measures in place to evaluate the situation at hand, and set a standard going forward.”

This move to the WIAA is the right thing for our students.

Hermiston athletic director Larry Usher

Hermiston will be a full member of the WIAA for all sports and activities through at least the conclusion of the current four-year classification cycle in the spring of 2020.

“This move to the WIAA is the right thing for our students,” Hermiston athletic director Larry Usher said in the WIAA release. “Our situation will be much improved in regards to travel distance, lost instructional time and budgets.”

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