Realignment impacts Chester County schools

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Travis Jenkins

 CHESTER – When the new South Carolina High School League realignment plan takes affect in 2014, the athletic schedules of the Chester Cyclones will look radically different, while Great Falls and Lewisville will hardly realize realignment has taken place at all.

Every two years, the SCHSL undergoes realignment, a process of grouping schools into athletic classifications and regions based on size and proximity.

The first step involves taking 135-day enrollment numbers and dividing South Carolina’s high schools into four classifications.

The 52 largest schools, in terms of student enrollment, make up AAAA. The AAA classification is comprised of the next 52 largest schools, the next 52 make up AA and all the schools left over (about 50) comprise Class A.

Once those numbers are set, a plan is devised to divide up each classification into regions, with driving distance and traditional rivalries being two of the factors considered.

Currently, Chester is a member of Region III-AAA, which includes neighboring Union County High, Clinton High School (in Laurens County) and a trio of Spartanburg County schools (Chapman, Woodruff and Broome). The distance between Chester and those three schools is more than an hour.

According to the proposed realignment, which would take affect at the start of the 2014-15 school year, Region III-AAA will still include Chester, Union County, Clinton and Broome, but Woodruff is slated to drop to the AA classification and Chapman is apparently being shipped to Region II-AAA where it will be grouped with six Greenville County schools and one from Greenwood County (Emerald High).

Moving in to fill out Region III will be South Pointe in York County, and Lancaster High.  Both schools are considerably closer to Chester than departing Woodruff and Chapman.

Chester and South Pointe were region mates as recently as 2011-12, but South Pointe moved to AAAA for the current realignment. Chester and Lancaster were in the same region off-and-on through the 1980s, but Chester’s drop to AAA in 1996 kept the two separated until now. Lancaster has been a AAAA team since the inception of the four classification system in 1968.

Ricky Campbell, Chester High’s athletic director, said he was a fan of the realignment proposal.

“Transportation is not bad and (the) competition level is good,” Campbell said. “Each team has a good fan base as well.”

If the new realignment proposal goes through as submitted, nothing at all will change for Great Falls and Lewisville. That’s not necessarily great news, though, since Region III-A is spread out over four, far-flung counties and a great deal of travel is required for games for all the team involved.

The proposal calls for Great Falls and Lewisville to again be grouped with C.A. Johnson (in Richland County), McBee High (in Chesterfield County) and Lamar (in Darlington).

The Governor’s School for Math and Science is also included, but has, thus far, opted to play an independent schedule in the sports it offers in lieu of participating in Region III. That means the closest region game for Chester County’s Class A schools (other than when they play one another) is more than 45 minutes away. There isn’t much that can be done, because there just aren’t many Class A schools in this part of the state anymore.

Former Class A schools Buford, Indian Land, North Central Chesterfield and others have all moved up to the AA ranks.

Whitmire, located in neighboring Newberry County, is  one option, but that school is badly needed to fill out Region II-A, which would not have five football-playing schools without Whitmire.

The SCHSL will meet in September to hear any appeals schools may have. Any appeals must include an alternate realignment plan.