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St. Mary's gains nod to stay at 3A level

St. Mary's High didn't have an athletic team playing on Wednesday and yet the school picked up a substantial victory for its athletic programs.

The Oregon School Activities Association's classification and districting committee announced its final recommendation on Wednesday, and St. Mary's Athletic Director James Joy was pleased to find his school still among those at the Class 3A level.

"That's what we were hoping for and we're happy that it turned out that way," said Joy. "We've certainly got some 'Thank you' letters to write."

In a proposal released Sept. 25 for the four-year time block that starts in 2014-15, St. Mary's was moved to the 4A level and set to join the Skyline Conference due to an average daily membership total of 330 — six over the 3A/4A cutoff point.

The Crusaders sent written correspondence prior to the committee's meeting on Sept. 23 requesting that they remain at the 3A level because the 330 figure being used didn't adequately represent the school's typical membership.

In the two-week span since the proposed change to a 4A status, Joy contacted committee members and other members of the delegate assembly to supply the school's reasons for being allowed to remain at the 3A level. He was present during Monday's committee meeting and gave another five-minute testimony that, all told, appeared beneficial.

The classification and districting committee changed the 3A/4A cutoff point to 331, resulting in St. Mary's moving back down to the 3A level and providing a fifth team for the Southern Cascade League. Other proposed SCL schools include Cascade Christian, Illinois Valley, Rogue River and Lakeview.

It's important to note, however, that Wednesday's announcement does not conclude the reclassification process. The committee will present its final recommendation to the OSAA's Executive Board on Oct. 28, and the board will then chose whether to adopt the recommendation before taking it to the delegate assembly.

Still, further changes seem unlikely given the already lengthy nature during this process.

"It's going to be a better deal for our programs overall," said Joy. "In every sport it's a better situation than being up in the 4A and makes the most sense for us. We're really glad that the districting committee was able to, first, hear what our reasoning was for wanting to stay 3A and, second, had the ability to apply that. A lot of requests didn't happen so we're happy. It was a good day for St. Mary's."

In other noteworthy changes, Medford's Rogue Valley Adventist Academy was also returned to the Mountain Valley League at the 1A level after supplying written correspondence to the committee.

The final recommendation includes a 6A Southwest Conference with North Medford, South Medford, Grants Pass, Roseburg, Sheldon, South Eugene, Thurston and Willamette.

As expected, Crater will drop back down to the 5A level and join a Midwestern League that has Ashland, Eagle Point, Churchill, Marist, North Eugene and Springfield.

With St. Mary's returning to the 3A level, the 4A Skyline Conference remains unchanged with Phoenix, Hidden Valley, North Valley, Henley, Klamath Union and Mazama.

Another exciting part of remaining at the 3A level, according to Joy, is that the school's football program can now request to return in full to a league schedule. St. Mary's has been playing as an independent for the past three years due to low program numbers but Joy said head coach Jamie Young has asked for the green light to return to the SCL.

"The football team has been working for three years now in a process of having that as the big picture goal for them," said Joy. "We've already had discussions about football coming back into the league next year if we were to remain a 3A school. We feel like the timing is right and being a 3A school, if that goes through, makes it right for us."

Joy said no official request, however, will be made until after the OSAA's meeting on Oct. 28.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry