Is switching conferences a solution for Marion’s athletic fortunes?

June 26, 2014

Mike Wilcox

Mike Wilcox

The man or woman stepping in to the Marion High School principal hot seat has a lot of quick decisions to make. It appears it will be John Russell from Holton High School. Beth Robb, who resigned the position a few months ago was not only high school principal, but junior high principal and athletic director as well.

Russell, or if the Board decides to not follow Superintendent Meier’s recommendation, someone else,  will have the same duties, but with a decidedly new set of coaches and a group of parents that would like to see Marion leave the tough Highland Conference for a league more suited to Marion’s small enrollment.

It’s no secret, Marion is one of the smallest schools in the Highland Conference. It’s also no secret that it is difficult for the school to compete against the likes of McBain and Pine River. When we have fifteen guys on the field and the opponent has forty, it is difficult to maintain any kind of momentum, Meier said. But he also said, even though we might not be in the same conference, we will always have those two schools on our schedule. They are our big rivals he said.

I asked our sportswriter Ben Murphy, if there was a conference of smaller schools within an easy driving distance of Marion. He indicated the Mid-State Conference that includes Coleman and Baldwin might be a good fit.

Certainly one of the larger considerations is travel, and a different conference means greater travel time. Still I would rather see our guys and girls travel further than constantly get whipped at football and softball.

Then again, maybe new coaches and an emphasis on summer camps might make Marion more competitive. They do have a rich history- at least 20 years ago and beyond, of dominating athletics in the Highland. And if you look at this year’s baseball and track and field squads, they performed pretty darn well.

Interestingly enough, there has been talk that Clare High School should leave the Jackpine Conference for the opposite reason. Whether it be football, track or basketball or another sport, Clare regularly wins the league title. However, when they get to the end of year state tournaments, they don’t do so well. Yeah they breeze through the districts typically, but usually find trouble in the regionals. The thought is if they played stiffer competition during the regular season, that they would be better prepared for the tournaments.

As always there is two sides to every coin.  Marion can try to improve internally with a greater emphasis on youth sports. It’s not fun to get your posterior kicked, I know. Heavens, I went to a small high school and our first two years we didn’t win a football game. By the time I was a junior, however, we were winning more than losing, and as a senior we were league champs.

On the other hand, if the emphasis on sports is not ingrained, then switching conferences might be right. Maybe Marion can clean-up on Coleman and Baldwin on a regular basis without a lot of effort.  Maybe winning  a few games will give the entire community something to cheer about.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

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