West, South celebrate realignment victory

-A A +A
By Staff Brunswick Beacon

SHALLOTTE—One of the most important victories of the year for West Brunswick High School athletics didn’t happen on a court or field. It happened in a meeting room.

The school was notified last week it will no longer be a member of the Mideastern 3A/4A Conference when the next realignment takes effect at the start of the 2009-10 school year.

“I’m excited. I think it’s going to be great for our program. It’s good for our kids,” said West Brunswick athletics director Marcia Heady.

The N.C. High School Athletic Association Realignment Committee released the second draft of its plan last Friday.

In the first draft, West Brunswick and South Brunswick were included in a nine-team 3A/4A conference that stretched from Shallotte to New Bern.

Brunswick County Schools officials raised concerns about travel time and expenses, missed class time for students and the ability to be competitive against much larger schools.

They came up with an alternative, which was accepted by the realignment committee, to compete in a seven-member 2A/3A conference with schools from Columbus and Bladen counties.

The conference will be made up of 3A schools West Brunswick and South Brunswick and 2A schools North Brunswick, Whiteville, South Columbus, East Bladen and West Bladen.

“We’re very happy with it,” South Brunswick athletics director Chris Roehner said of the latest proposal. “We went out and traveled many a mile talking to members of the realignment committee and our efforts paid off. We are pleased with the results.”

The current proposal will bring Brunswick County’s three high schools into the same conference for the first time since the 1992-93 school year.

North Brunswick, which was initially placed in a 1A/2A league with schools from Pender and Columbus counties, is fine with the 2A/3A plan, according to athletics director Gary Baldwin.

“We were going to be all right either way,” Baldwin said. “This is going to be a good conference and a tough conference in every sport. I think it’s a really good conference across the board.”

The NCHSAA goes through the realignment process every four years. Schools are placed in athletic conferences based on their enrollment and proximity to each other.

When the committee released its preliminary proposal in November, it had West Brunswick and South Brunswick in a split conference with fellow 3A schools Jacksonville and White Oak and 4A schools Laney, Hoggard, Ashley, New Hanover and New Bern.

North Brunswick was placed in 1A/2A conference with 2A Topsail and 1A schools Pender, Trask, East Columbus and West Columbus.

After receiving the initial draft, Brunswick County officials met with two superintendents who are members of the realignment committee in advance of a Jan. 22 regional meeting in Greenville.

Heady said the fact that Brunswick County superintendent Katie McGee met with the realignment committee members made a difference.

“Dr. McGee was the backbone for us. I haven’t been here but eight years, but I’ve never known a superintendent to step up and fight for what was right for the kids in the county and she did. It made all the difference in the world with what she did and how she handled everything,” Heady said.

“We got in a van and went to visit the superintendents that were on the realignment committee and told them this is what’s best for us. I don’t know of another superintendent that did that in the whole state. That impresses you very much that she would do something like that.”

Heady said including superintendents on the realignment committee also helped West Brunswick’s cause.

“I think the superintendents look at a bigger picture and they are more about class time missed and they’re more about travel time and money. I think your AYP scores have a tremendous amount to do with it,” she said.

The realignment committee will finalize the conferences in March, and the NCHSAA Board of Directors will hear appeals and approve the realignment plan in May.

Heady said she was somewhat surprised the realignment plan was changed to accommodate West Brunswick and South Brunswick.

“Wilmington schools have always been the dominant schools in the conference, and it just seemed like things always seemed to go their way. Not in a bad way, but it just seemed like no matter what happened we always got voted 4-3. I just kind of felt they might have a little more pull.

“I think the reason we probably got it this time is because of South being down here. If it was still just West Brunswick, we’d still be in the same conference. We’d have nowhere to go. But the fact South moved up to 3A gave us the opportunity to get out. And it gave Jacksonville and White Oak their opportunity because they have been punished for years because of us. It was the best move for everybody.”

Heady said participating in the new conference should serve as a confidence boost for West Brunswick athletics.

“The kids are going to know they’ve got an opportunity to win when they walk in the game. To have that in the back of their mind rather than the fact that they’re probably going to get beat in a 4A game, which is what they have in their mind now, I think will make a lot of difference in how they perform,” she said.

“We’re just going to have to buckle down and bite the iron and play hard next year and do the best we can do and look forward to at least being a little more competitive in the future.”

Brad Lewis, the boys’ basketball coach at West Brunswick, said it’s important to remember the school still has more than a year left in the Mideastern Conference.

“To me, we’ve still got to play. Jacksonville’s 3A and White Oak’s 3A and they compete, and I don’t like to think that we can’t compete just because we’re 3A,” Lewis said.

“Is it hard? Yes. Would we ever win a conference championship? Maybe not, but you could compete. We still got another year in it, and I don’t want to be thinking about we shouldn’t be in it.”

Proposed 2A/3A Conference

School Class Enrollment

West Brunswick 3A 1374

South Brunswick 3A 1100

North Brunswick 2A 839

West Bladen 2A 825

East Bladen 2A 779

South Columbus 2A 765

Whiteville 2A 749

Doug Rutter is the sports editor at the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or at drutter@brunswickbeacon.com