St. Croix Falls prepares for new home in Heart O’North Conference

Above The Fold Media | For the Leader

ST. CROIX FALLS – The formalities will be over on March 6 and the St. Croix Falls sports teams can prepare for their new home in the Heart O’North Conference.
The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association is likely to give final approval to St. Croix Falls application to vacate its teams from the Lakeland Conference and begin competition in the Heart O’North across the board for 2020-2021. It will mark the end of a process that started over a year ago for multiple reasons, including enrollment numbers.
“We had basically sized out of the Lakeland Conference,” St. Croix Falls athletic director Paul Randolph said. “The majority of (Lakeland) schools were getting smaller; we’ve been either staying at the same or getting bigger.”
St. Croix Falls application to change conferences was given “fast-track” status by WIAA because of approvals from all schools in both the Lakeland and Heart O’North conferences, meaning all schools in the former conference were fine with St. Croix Falls leaving and all schools in the latter were fine with them arriving.
“It’s almost a slam dunk,” Randolph said. “If one conference wants you out or doesn’t mind you leaving and the other conference wants you in, it’s less than a two-year process.”
Randolph said the process started with feedback from St. Croix Falls coaches and while not all were immediately on board, he said an overwhelming majority are behind the move at this point.
“Most were more than receptive to this,” he said. “There were some reservations with some to begin with; now all but one coach say they want to move. They want a conference a little closer.”
The idea was then proposed to the school board, which eventually approved it, while feedback was gathered from other athletic directors in the Lakeland and Heart O’North.
“None of this is done unless everyone is receptive,” Randolph said. “We have (athletic director) meetings once a month and at one meeting I said we’re thinking about doing this, then at the next meeting I said we are doing this.”
The decision wasn’t based solely on high school sports either, according to Randolph. He said a conference change also seemed the best option for pre-high school athletic teams in St. Croix Falls.
“We were having difficulty getting games for kids at the JV level and even middle school,” he said. “There were some seventh-grade games that ended up being a mixed group of seventh- and eighth-graders against our seventh-grade team. That’s one thing that triggered this.
“Let’s put ourselves in a conference with schools of like size.”
Randolph added that the Heart O’North was so receptive to the idea that it already has implemented St. Croix Falls into schedule planning for the 2020-2021 school year. Their arrival will get the Heart O’North out of a schedule conundrum.
“That’s been a nine-team conference, which means they always have a bye,” he said. “Odd numbers are bad in a conference and in football particularly, all they needed to do was slot us into each school’s bye week.”
The WIAA Board of Control meets on March 6 and is expected to give final approval of St. Croix Falls’ proposal.
Members of the Heart O’North Conference are Cameron, Cumberland, Northwestern, Bloomer, Chetek-Weyerhaeuser, Ladysmith, Hayward, Barron and Spooner.

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