5A powerhouse Sherwood makes its move up, while Hillsboro and LaSalle come into the NWOC

The OSAA Classification and Districting Committee put out its final recommendation for realignment last week, and if accepted, the athletic programs at Sandy High will have some new foes to go up against next season. Beginning with the 2014-15 school year, the Northwest Oregon Conference will welcome Hillsboro and La Salle Prep to the league, according to this final proposal.

Hillsboro is currently part of 6A’s Pacific Conference, but decreasing enrollment lets the school drop down the 5A ranks. On the other side of the spectrum, La Salle Prep moves up from 4A to 5A, despite having an enrollment of less than 700 students. La Salle will be the smallest 5A school in the state, with the exception of Marist who is choosing to compete above its assigned classification.

The other change to the NWOC is the departure of Sherwood. The Bowmen will join the Three Rivers League in the 6A classification when the changes take effect.

"The reclassification process is always a difficult one for a number of different reasons. The OSAA is trying to account for a number of different factors throughout this process," Sandy Athletic Director Wade Lockett said. "Some of these factors are student population, geography (as it relates to travel expenses), tradition, and equality of competitiveness within leagues. These are difficult to balance and turns out to be frustrating for some and uplifting for others."

For Sandy and the other schools staying in the league, these changes aim to level the playing field and make play competitive across the board. At least on paper, it looks like the Committee accomplished that goal. Hillsboro has struggled to hang with 6A’s top teams in many sports, but should be more capable against 5A schools. La Salle Prep has done well for itself and should handle the jump up, despite its smaller size.

"Oftentimes these reactions are not even school specific, but program specific within each school. What may be great for a baseball program due to the reclassification, may be very difficult for a volleyball program in the same school," Lockett said. "Obviously, with Sherwood moving up to the 6A ranks, we lose a powerhouse of a football program from our league and classification. By picking up LaSalle we gain a powerhouse tennis program."

With Sherwood leaving, things will open up to the rest of the league in several sports. Sherwood has been a dominant force in some of the bigger sports and will continue to be successful in the 6A ranks.

The other big development came late in the summer when the Portland School District chose to band together and return its schools to the 6A level, meaning that the 5A version of the PIL will no longer exist. That means seven schools, Roosevelt, Benson, Jefferson, Wilson, Franklin, Madison and Cleveland will be moving up.

“Making that move is allowed under our rules, but it came a little late in the process and through people for a loop,” said Peter Weber with the OSAA. “Anytime a school chooses to play above its designation it’s a concern, but that was a school district decision. We made it clear that it would be a four-year commitment.”

In a statement released by the OSAA, it was pointed out that this recommendation is not the last step before changes become official. The final recommendations of the Classification and Districting Committee will be considered by the OSAA Executive Board and Delegate Assembly on Oct. 28. Final decisions will be made following that meeting.

The new leagues will be in place for the 2014-18 time block.

"At the end of the day, this all balances out and our opportunities to be challenged and grow will continue to exist," Lockett said. "Our programs will make adjustments in order to account for the changes reflected in the reclassification and to do what is best for our kids in the spirit of growth and competition."

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