It's been a long time coming, but the Oregon School Activities Association's move to six athletic classifications is finally a done deal.

The change, from the long-standing four classification system to the new six-tiered model that will go into effect for the coming fall season, had to overcome legal challenges from schools in the Salem-Keizer, Eugene and Medford school districts, but those challenges were thrown out Friday in a final order from State Schools Superintendent Susan Castillo.

In brief, Castillo said, 'I have no basis to rule against the OSAA classification and redistricting on the facts of the case. My hands are tied.

'Given the evidence presented in the appeal by Eugene, Salem-Keizer and Medford, it is clear that there are real concerns for student safety and loss of educational time. To me, these issues outweigh benefits gained from competitive balance. However, the law does not see it that way. The law - as currently written - does not distinguish between the relative weights of the criteria.'

Those three school districts all voiced concern about student safety and loss of educational time based on the new Class 6A alignment, which added Redmond to the Salem-dominated District 7, and sent Eugene's Sheldon and South Eugene high schools into the new District 6, which includes Roseburg, Grants Pass and Medford high school schools.

But for the Beaverton-area's six Metro League high schools, Castillo's ruling provided, mainly, relief, and at long last, certainty, about their future for 2006-07 and beyond.

The new Metro League - with its five Beaverton School District high schools plus Jesuit - is already racing forward with plans for its future. While most of the league will look the same as in the past - just without the four Hillsboro schools that have dropped to the new Class 5A level - there are some changes ahead.

During the Fall Season, Metro League football teams will schedule four non-league games, then roar into battle against each other for five weeks to determine the Metro's four state playoff berths. In cross country, Metro teams will all face each other in dual meet action (with the exception of one date where two meets will host three teams each) to determine the league's top two teams and any other individuals that will head to state.

Metro soccer teams will also take a new tack next fall, playing two rounds (home and away) to determine the league's four playoff seeds.

Volleyball teams will continue with two rounds (home and away) in league play, while water polo (a non-OSAA sport) will continue with one round of competition under its previous league alignment that includes Hillsboro and Lincoln.

In Winter Season, Metro basketball teams will continue with their two-round (home and away) series to determine the league's four seeds to the playoffs, with the boys and girls state tournaments set the same weekend (March 7-10) at McArthur Court and the Chiles Center respectively.

Swimming and wrestling will, as they have in the past, both work their way through one round of league competition and district championships to determine their state representatives. State for both sports will be March 15-17, with swimming at Mt. Hood Community College and wrestling at the Pavilion at the Oregon State Fairgrounds.

During the 2007 Spring Season, Metro baseball coaches have made the biggest change in scheduling, setting up three-game series against each other, with games set for Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays to determine the league's four state playoff berths.

Likewise, Metro softball coaches have opted for three rounds of competition, but will rotate through their league foes one at a time in a home-away-home format. In tennis, teams will now battle through a home-and-away format during the dual season, then head into district to decide its representatives to state.

Metro golf teams will continue to play all-school league tournaments to determine their two seeds to state, and Metro track teams will now face each of their league foes in dual meet competition leading up to district championships.

It should make for an exciting and extremely competitive new era.

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