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VHSL adopts 2015-17 conference realignment appeal plan for Fauquier County high schools

Tuesday, Aug. 12 | By Fred Hodge
Fauquier, Liberty and Kettle Run will join Freedom and John Champe in Conference 22 beginning in 2015. --Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
Administrators and athletic directors from Kettle Run, Liberty and Fauquier high schools breathed a deep sigh of relief Monday after winning an appeal before the Alignment Committee of the Virginia High School League.

No longer will Fauquier's three high schools have to worry about marathon road trips to the Lynchburg area during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years. They will instead travel north to Loudoun County.

A unanimous vote Monday allowed the three Fauquier schools to join John Champe and Freedom of South Riding in a five-team Conference 22 beginning in the fall of 2015. That will be one of five conferences in the new Class 4A West Region.

The committee's original draft would have grouped the Fauquier trio, Eastern View, Jefferson Forest (near Appomattox), Amherst County (just north of Lynchburg) and E.C. Glass (in Lynchburg) as a seven-team conference. That would have created astronomical travel expenses for the Fauquier and Lynchburg schools.

Kettle Run principal Major Warner and Cougars athletic director Paul Frye attended a presentation Monday at 9:45 a.m. by Jack Brewer of Dominion High School, representing the 29 schools in the 4A West Region. Both Kettle Run administrators left satisfied.

"I'm happy. It's all good," Frye said after the Alignment Committee voted 12-0 to approve the plan put together during a key July 17 meeting with all 29 schools in the West Region.

Warner said the alternative plan took hours to formulate, but most of the schools in the region agreed the committee's first draft was untenable due to the possible outlandish travel costs.

"It made zero sense from the beginning," Warner said. "People worked really hard to come up with this plan. Everyone came in wanting to take care of themselves, but there was a realization for the need to come up with something that was going to benefit the student-athletes in all the schools.

"It came down to if we could get the adults to check their egos at the door,” Warner said. “And they did. It took a lot of individuals in that room."

The appeal carried weight with the VHSL because it was the product of a unanimous vote by all 29 West Region schools. Instead of competing with each other over possible adjustments, the region representatives sat down and hammered out their own alternative that differed significantly from the plan the VHS approved in late June.

"This speaks to the depth of the relationships we have with these schools," Warner said, particularly pleased with the support from the Frederick County, Winchester and Loudoun schools.

"We could not have gotten this done” without them, Warner said, also pointing to the willingness of Eastern View and Charlottesville High to make concessions.

One aspect of the new proposal that worried local officials was the somewhat radical notion of having five conferences instead of four, which will be unique and potentially a little more complicated when it comes to postseason seeding and scheduling. Every other class in the state from 1A to 6A is composed of four team conferences.

But the meeting Monday went swimmingly in the end.

Warner said he received a text from Ron Petrella of Heritage High School in Loudoun County. Petrella is the committee representative of the current 4A North Region.

"He said the committee was extremely impressed with today's presentation," Warner said. "We did our homework. That kind of collaboration goes a long way.

"We even had letters from six schools in 4A East" Region, Warner said. "This is a win for everyone. For us, and it serves the Lynchburg schools and the rest of the region.”

With Kettle Run moving from 3A to 4A after this year, the new alignment figures to pair the three Fauquier schools together in some big games.

"Not to take anything away from Champe and Freedom, but you could see many sports where it's Kettle Run against Fauquier, or Liberty and Kettle Run playing for a conference title and for regional seeding," said Warner. "That could leave more of that conference money up this way."

The five-conference alignment will send 10 teams instead of eight to the playoffs in such sports as basketball, soccer and volleyball, and create an extra round.

"We went outside the box going to five conferences for the region, but suspect there will be interest in how this turns out," Warner said. "I wouldn't be surprise if there aren't more five-team conferences the next time around to help with travel. There might even be some six-team conferences.

"People will be watching us."

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2015-17 Class 4A West Region

(approved Monday by VHSL)

Conference 22: Fauquier, Liberty, Kettle Run, Freedom (South Riding), John Champe

Conference 21A: Handley, Harrisonburg, James Wood, Millbrook, Sherando, Woodgrove

Conference 21B: Dominion, Heritage, Loudoun County, Loudoun Valley, Park View, Rock Ridge

Conference 23: Amherst County, Charlottesville, E.C. Glass, George Washington (Danville), Jefferson Forest

Conference 24: Bassett, Carroll County, Pulaski, Salem, William Byrd, William Fleming

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