The times they are a-changin'.

That sentiment was true when Bob Dylan wrote it 42 years ago and it's never been truer at Valley Catholic. Valley Catholic's athletic teams, as much as those at any other school in the state, face a very different future in 2006-07 than they did in 2005-06. In fact, it may be the biggest change since the school began accepting male students back in 1991-92.

Valley Catholic, long one of the smallest Class 3A schools in the state as a member of the Tri-Valley League, will now switch gears and - thanks to the Oregon School Activities Association's decision to expand the state's athletic leagues from four to six levels - enjoy life as one of the state's biggest 3A schools.

'We think it's great,' said Valley Catholic Athletic Director Jeff Gallag-her. 'At the rate a lot of the schools we were playing were growing, it was going to be tough for some of our teams to compete.

'Now … I think we'll have a chance for most of our teams to compete every year.'

Valley Catholic, though still at the Class 3A level, will move into the new PacWest Conference, joined in regular season competition by Amity, Colton, Dayton, Gervais, Horizon Christian, Sheridan, Westside Christian and Willamina. VC, with its 353 students, will be the biggest school in the league (and third largest in the state behind only Toledo [399] and Coquille [358]), while its new PacWest foes average a little less than 300 students per school.

Their new status as the big kid on the block will undoubtedly help make the Valiants' already-competitive programs even stronger in postseason play, especially in sports where its teams have already shown the ability to battle much larger schools, including boys tennis, boys and girls soccer, girls basketball and volleyball.

There are, however, a few mitigating factors that will keep Valley Catholic on its toes.

Their names? Catlin Gabel and Oregon Episcopal School.

Catlin Gabel and OES, both private schools located on the periphery of Beaverton (OES in Southwest Portland and Catlin Gabel just north of Beaverton on Barnes Road), have long provided Valley Catholic with tough tests in soccer and tennis as members of the same special districts despite the fact that Catlin and OES were classified at the old Class 2A level. The OSAA creates special athletic districts - blending schools from two or more leagues - when individual leagues don't have enough schools participating in a given sport.

While the three private schools matched up regularly in soccer and tennis in previous years, they'll be seeing even more of each other starting next fall. Valley Catholic, Catlin Gabel and OES will square off regularly in boys and girls cross country, boys and girls golf, boys and girls soccer, and boys and girls tennis.

Where Catlin Gabel and OES - both members of the new Class 3A Lewis and Clark League (along with Clatskanie, Neah-Kah-Nie, Portland Adventist, Rainier, Riverdale, Vernonia and Warrenton) - won't see the Valiants will be in volleyball, basketball, baseball, softball and track and field. Valley Catholic also fields a swim team, which Catlin and OES do not.

While the OSAA's new league alignments would have served these three schools best by putting them in the same league - the distance between the three averages less than five miles - you can bet that they will quickly brew up a strong set of compelling rivalries regardless of league affiliation.

It ought to be a lot of fun.

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