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Redistricting drastically alters Three Rivers League

Last week the Oregon School Activities Association unanimously approved its redistricting plan beginning next season and running through 2017-18, causing a significant shake-up in the Three Rivers League.

The TRL will expand from six teams to eight (nine in girls sports), leaving six large conferences at the 6A level. Gone from the Three Rivers League are Clackamas and Oregon City, while Newberg, Sherwood, Tualatin, Tigard and St. Mary's will all be brought in.

As I've mentioned before, I don't envy the OSAA as debates over redistricting are always contentious and undoubtedly leave multiple schools unhappy at some level.

The redistricting for this period is drastic and multiple options were considered. The board tinkered with going back to five classifications or even back to the longstanding 4A system and came up with multiple proposals for realignment.

A wrench was then thrown into the mix at the 11th hour when the PIL announced that it wanted all of its teams to play together again in the same league, meaning six of those teams that did not meet the 6A enrollment requirements would be playing up.

In the end, the OSAA settled for a 6A system with 51 teams and just 33 left in 5A. And, again, it's not a perfect solution.

As expected, the Three Rivers League just got significantly tougher and deeper in practically every sport. Much has been made about the league now looking like a football super-conference. That appears to be true, particularly with the addition of Tigard (the No. 2 ranked team in the state this season) and Sherwood (the 5A juggernaut that has a case of being the state's top overall team this season.)

But Tualatin has a long history of producing solid soccer, swimming, basketball and golf teams and Newberg is a wrestling and swimming powerhouse.

Geographically, the plan makes sense. The Three Rivers League is now essentially the southwest suburbs league, with Canby the only team in the conference situated east of the Willamette River.

But the shake-up also does away with longstanding rivalries, most notably one of the state's oldest rivalries between West Linn and Oregon City.

The Lions and Pioneers boast the longest standing continuous football rivalry west of the Mississippi, and while that game will still likely be played in the preseason, the schools have a long and storied history that has been severed for the foreseeable future.

The details of how the postseason will be handled have yet to be entirely hammered out, but the power ranking and play-in system appears to now be a thing of the past.

More emphasis has been placed on league games, something that has been sorely lacking in recent years.

However, there is an undeniable imbalance in the quality of the leagues in the state and if an equal number of playoff berths are divvied out, it opens the door for deserving playoff teams to be left at home.

Also, one of the things the power ranking system solved to some extent was separating the top teams out in the brackets, avoiding early round match-ups between state title contenders.

There is still much to be determined and the quality of the Three Rivers League across the board should provide for some very exciting battles in every sport and new rivalries will be formed.

But the league will be markedly different and, undoubtedly in four years' time, the OSAA will be faced with another redistricting dilemma.



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