While Hermiston High School wasn’t able to claim victory in its quest to gain membership into the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA), the proposition will at least live to fight another day.
Representatives from the Hermiston School District met with the WIAA executive board Sunday in Renton to make their proposal to join the association and compete in the Mid-Columbia Conference. The appeal comes after the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) declared Hermiston would move up in classification for the 2018-19 school year, which will force it to compete against teams that are in east Portland.
The executive board decided to table the vote to give its members time to research what other states have done to resolve similar situations.
“It’s not the kind of decision you want an executive board shooting from the hip on,” Hermiston athletic director Larry Usher said. “The hurdle we have to get over is showing how this is different from any other Oregon or Idaho schools trying to come into the WIAA, or, for that matter, a Washington school trying to leave the state to go play somewhere else.”
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Usher seems to have a compelling case.
If Hermiston stays in the OSAA, it will likely have to compete in the same conference as schools like Oregon City (193 miles from Hermiston High), Clackamas (186) and Central Catholic (183). The closest school in the 6A or 5A (depending on what the highest Oregon classification becomes) Mt. Hood Conference would likely be Reynolds, which is 169 miles away.
The hardship Hermiston would have to face to stay in the OSAA, Usher said, makes it a much different case than other Oregon border schools like McLoughlin High School in Milton-Freewater, which has similar-sized schools to compete against nearby in the Class 4A Greater Oregon League.
“You can’t find another school in the northwest that’s going to have to face the same kind of adversity our kids will have to face,” Usher said. “They (the WIAA) are going to have to create a box that defines what hardship is, and allows the opportunities for students that are facing a hardship similar to ours to resolve that problem by driving across the imaginary line in the dirt and playing in another association.”
While the future prospects of Hermiston athletics remain unclear for the moment, Usher said he was encouraged with how his first meeting with the WIAA went.
“There were some board members who were sympathetic to our situation, but at the same time understand that they’re the WIAA, and we belong to the OSAA, and should the OSAA solve our problem,” Usher said. “But we did point out that clearly the OSAA does not have a solution to our problem.
“One thing I told the board is that, though this is a very difficult decision for the WIAA to make, it was not a difficult decision for us to decide if we should ask. It’s an easy decision, because there’s no question that is what’s best for our kids, that’s what’s best for our community and what’s best for our school district.”
The executive board did not a set a date on when it will vote.