It?s official: Hillsboro joins 10-team Central Kansas League

What was informally agreed upon in March became official last week: Hillsboro will be a member of a new league starting next school year.

Representatives from the 10 schools of the newly christened Central Kansas League said ?I do? to the start of a new union Aug. 24.

Joining Hillsboro in the CKL are seven other schools in the current Mid-Central Activities Association?Halstead, Haven, Hesston, Lyons, Nickerson, Smoky Valley and Sterling?as well as newcomers Kingman and Pratt.

An eight-team CKL middle school league will not include Kingman and Pratt.

Statewide realignment

The emergence of the new league reflects a statewide wave of realignment driven mostly by a desire to reduce driving distances.

It first affected the MCAA when the Mid-State Activities Association lost several member schools, leaving Larned and Pratt searching for a new league to join.

The idea of traveling 110 miles to Larned and 121 miles to Pratt for high school and middle school activities raised an immediate flag for USD 410 because of the increased time out of school, according to Max Heinrichs, HHS principal.

?We were not interested in more out-of-school time, not interested in putting our kids on a bus that long, not interested in spending the money it takes to go there when we?re looking at cuts in everything we do,? Heinrichs said at the time.

The other key factor was that the Kansas State High School Activities Association has the authority to assign unattached schools to an existing league for a minimum of three years.

In the ensuing discussion among MCAA schools, the idea to form a new league was embraced by seven of the eight schools that eventually joined the new CKL.

The exception, Sterling, applied for membership to the Heart of America league, but was not accepted. Marion applied to the HOA and was accepted.

Hoisington, Ellinwood and Wichita Collegiate were left without an affiliation.

The new, unofficial league was left with the challenge of finding at least one more school to make the total an even number.

?Our main concern originally was that we didn?t want to have to drive to Larned and Pratt,? said Robert Rempel, Hillsboro activities director. ?As we?ve been meeting in the last month, Pratt and Kingman have been big on the list.?

Two-division structure

Inviting Pratt and Kingman?which is just over 90 miles away?to join the new league became acceptable when it was agreed to adopt a two-division structure for football and basketball, according to Rempel.

?We don?t have a problem playing Pratt and we don?t have a problem playing Kingman?except for the driving time and distance,? Rempel said.

With those two schools being in the other, so far unnamed, division apart from Hillsboro, long-distance travel is at least minimized.

In football, Hillsboro will play the other members of its own division?Lyons, Smoky Valley, Sterling and Halstead?every year and then basically fill in the schedule with schools from the other division on a home-and-away basis.

That means Hillsboro players and fans won?t drive to Pratt or Kingman more than once every four years?and when they do it, the trip will be on a Friday night rather than a school night.

For basketball, division members will play each other twice each season, home and away, and play the schools in the other division only once. That means a road trip to Pratt and to King?man every other year.

?Eventually you may get stuck playing them on a Tuesday night, but the effort will be made to avoid that,? Rempel said.

Size matters

The decision to adopt a two-division structure also made it acceptable to Sterling to join the CKL, according to Rempel. For Sterling, the issue wasn?t travel so much as school size.

As in the MCAA, Sterling will be the smallest school in the CKL, vacillating between Class 2A and 3A, depending on the sport and year.

Pratt, Kingman, Hesston, Nickerson and Haven are all 4A schools while the schools with Sterling and Hillsboro are 3A schools, except 4A Smoky Valley.

Rempel said long road trips are nothing new to Pratt. In fact, Pratt?s shortest activities trip in its former league was to Ulysses, which is about 165 miles away.

?For Pratt, distance means nothing,? Rempel said. ?They?re traveling people. They just wanted to stop traveling so much.?

For Kingman, school size was a key factor in making a move out of the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail Division IV.

?(Kingman) was originally one of the schools we wanted to ask to be our eighth school (last spring),? Rempel said. ?It?s a school that we knew probably was not thrilled to death with its league because it (schools) was getting bigger and bigger and they were staying the same.?

Menu of activities

Rempel said the CKL will include all the activities?athletic and otherwise?that Hillsboro currently offers, but schools in the new league don?t offer a universal menu of activities. The same is true in the current MCAA.

?It?s kind of exciting,? Rempel said of the new league. ?I always like traveling to a new place, except in this situation we?re not going to travel much.?

A meeting of CKL representatives was planned for today (Wednesday) to work out additional details.

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