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Lathrop remains on track for WAC in 2018-2022
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LATHROP — The Sac-Joaquin Section’s recommendation of moving Lathrop High out of the Valley Oak League and into a new-look Western Athletic Conference held up after the fourth realignment meeting Thursday at the Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton.

Lathrop athletic director Nicole Burrows has expressed the school’s desire to remain in the VOL during previous meetings. She came up with a new proposal Thursday, suggesting that the Trans-Valley League — which already includes the likes of Ripon and Escalon — would be a good match in terms of competitive equity despite Lathrop’s larger enrollment. A transfer to the TVL would drop Lathrop from a Division III league to Division V. Burrows also cited the shorter travel distances to some TVL schools compared to those in the WAC. Her bid was rejected by the section.

The latest revision to the WAC lineup has Modesto Metro Conference schools Beyer, Grace Davis and Johansen, Mountain House of the TVL along with Lathrop moving in with current members Ceres, Los Banos and Pacheco. 

The new alignment cycle begins in the fall of 2018 and ends in 2022-03.

 “We pitched today to go into the TVL but (the section’s realignment committee) continues to say that the WAC is a better fit for us,” Burrows said. “I love the VOL; I’ve been involved with the VOL for 22 years. Ultimately we would love to stay, that’s been put up three times, but we just haven’t quite gotten there.”

The section originally had both Lathrop and Weston Ranch penciled in for the WAC in the first meeting back on Dec. 14, but Lathrop’s “Battle of I-5” rival has since been determined to be competitive enough to stay put in the VOL where traditional heavyweights such as Manteca, Oakdale and Central Catholic rule. 

Kimball is also staying in the VOL after the committee previously recommended that the Tracy school join either the Stockton-based San Joaquin Athletic Association or Tri-County Athletic League.

The VOL has been a popular destination for several schools. Mountain House made its case for a move into the VOL Thursday, while Modesto Christian continued its attempt to wedge its powerhouse boys and girls basketball in. Both proposals were shot down, and it’s looking like Modesto Christian will be taking its talented hoops teams to the TCAL.

As for Lathrop, Burrows agrees with the committee that the Spartans would be more evenly matched from sport to sport in the new WAC. Although they’ve been more competitive in the big-money sports, namely football and basketball, she points to the lack of league championships showing on the Lathrop gym walls.

Her main concerns with switching leagues are lengthier travel times and financial implications. Lathrop benefits from large visiting crowds when it welcomes other VOL schools, especially its Manteca Unified rivals.

“It’s a tough situation because we’re kind of in our own island,” Burrows said. “But you know what? Being on your own island isn’t always a bad thing. It gives you a chance to establish your own identity that was clouded previously by other schools. Maybe it’s our time to shine.”

She also noted that “this is just a four-year thing.” With the city of Lathrop’s growing population, she anticipates the school to be back in the VOL if it does end up in the WAC. 

“Whether they keep us in the WAC or in the last minute they decide to move us back into the VOL, we’re going to be as competitive as we can be,” she said. “That’s the most important thing, is that the kids continue to have a chance to play.”