Eagles Slated To Move To JRD In 2013

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Virginia High School League has preliminarily granted the request by Prince Edward County High School to be reclassified in the Group A James River District in the next round of realignment.

The League released its Initial Proposed Alignment Plan for the 2013-14 season on Wednesday.

“When I opened the e-mail, I was pleasantly surprised,” said PECHS athletics director Rodney Kane. “We knew that we had fallen within the enrollment numbers for Group A, but we thought we might have to fight a little in order to be moved into the James River District.”

Prince Edward currently competes in the Group AA Southside District, which the Eagles have been members of since the 2007 season. In the last round of redistricting, the Southside lost three members (Powhatan to the Group AA Jefferson District and Bluestone and Nottoway to the James River). That left Prince Edward and four schools along the US Highway 58 corridor.

“When you look at the map, Prince Edward County touches all but one of the counties that make up the James River District,” said Kane. “That's what we were looking at. The excessive travel. Our nearest Southside District school is Park View. Students have to miss a lot of class time for road trips.”

“Our longest trip as a member of the James River District would be to Bluestone, which is around an hour-and-fifteen-minutes. Park View is around an hour-and-a-half, and there's no easy way to get there.”

An increase in attendance was also cited as a reason to move.

“We make most of our money from our non-district games against members of the James River District. Southside District fans don't travel up here, as a rule, and we really don't travel as well to their places as we do to the schools that are close-by. Parents and fans are facing the same tight budgets that we are, and it's understandable, given the distance.

“We do hope that by making those non-district games district contests, that we can increase their importance and get even more fans out. We figure that it will help both us and the members of the James River District.

Kane realizes that Prince Edward won't have an easier time winning in the JRD versus the Southside. In fact, he says it's probably going to be tougher.

“From a competitive standpoint, we realize that it could be better for us to remain in the Southside – if we were to just focus on winning District Championships. In the Southside we have to beat out four other teams, while in the James River, we would have to beat out seven.

“Plus, I think we've seen just in football this year, that the James River is one of the toughest districts in the state, regardless of classification. I don't expect that to change anytime soon.”

District championships may come easier if PE were to remain in the Southside, but it's proven to be quite difficult for most PE teams to make it past the first round in the Region I Tournaments. The only team to have some success at advancing is the boys basketball team.

“Of course, it becomes most difficult once we get into the Region playoffs, and we're going up against larger schools from Fredericksburg and Williamsburg. Other than having about 300 or 400 more students, their students tend to specialize in one particular sport. Ours play two or three.

Kane said that became most apparent at the recent Region I Volleyball Tournament.

“They were talking about winter volleyball starting up after the season. They play in a structured system all year around. Some of our girls won't pick up a volleyball until August, and it's not because they're being lazy, they're just playing other sports. And they need to play those sports in order for us to field teams.”

Goochland, which moved from the JRD to the Jefferson in 2009, but returned to the JRD in 2011 realignment, has been moved back into the Group AA Jefferson. As it stands presently, Prince Edward will more-or-less assume Goochland's spot.

The Virginia High School League released revised ADM numbers just before Thursday's press time that showed Goochland qualifying just under the Group A/AA cutoff.

It's close. Prince Edward reported an Average Daily Membership of 685 students, which puts it in the Group A category. Goochland's ADM was 722.

As of now, the VHSL says that the preliminary Redistricting and Reclassification plan will remain as is.

“I realize that this may not be over, but that we fall within the Group A enrollment numbers should work to our favor during the appeal process.”

Prince Edward was a longtime member of the JRD until being reclassified to the Southside in 1997. The Eagles moved back to the James River District in 1999, but were reclassified to the Group AA Dogwood District in 2001, before moving to the Southside in 2007.

“I'm glad the JRD teams seem open to us coming back into the league. We're on most of their non-district schedules in many sports. Now, they'll have to go out to find another non-district opponent, and sometimes that's easier said than done.”