STOCKTON — If all goes as planned, the Valley Oak League will remain an eight-team league with all five Manteca Unified schools still in the mix.
Other area schools might not fare so well.
During the Sac-Joaquin Section’s public realignment meeting Wednesday at the Elkhorn Country Club, the preliminary outline of the VOL includes Manteca, East Union, Sierra, Weston Ranch, Oakdale, and Sonora as regulars, while Lathrop and Tracy’s new Kimball could join the ranks.
Current VOL schools Central Valley and Ceres would depart for conferences closer to home. Central Catholic of Modesto, Patterson, Livingston, Los Banos and new Los Banos school Pacheco would make up the rest of the Western Athletic Conference.
In the Trans Valley League, Ripon would remain. WAC schools Hilmar, which used to compete in the TVL and Orestimba could join.
Ripon Christian would leave for the Southern League, lining up with other small schools such Denair and Delhi.
But in an age when budgets are stretched as thin as possible, any change that involves additional driving causes severe impacts.
The new alignment of leagues will start on 2010-11.
“We were happy to learn that we were going to be a part of the Southern League because we think that we’ll be very competitive in it, but that also means that we’re going to be driving to places like Mariposa,” said RC athletic director Joe Daretta. “When you’re already a smaller school, making additional trips like that can be costly, and it’s something that everybody is having to face.”
While Wednesday’s release was only preliminary and can change before the final realignment is cast in stone, the news was good for Manteca Unified athletic directors like Greg Leland.
One possibility was to have the VOL’s rivals split up. In the last realignment, the San Joaquin Athletic Association was broken up, with one set schools staying put and their rivals forming the Tri-City Athletic League.
Being able to face four other local schools, Leland says, means that there are four less long-distance trips that he has to budget and prepare for, which is just as important as keeping the tradition of playing fellow Manteca Unified schools alive.
“With Sonora and Oakdale, we already have two games on the road, and Tracy is going to add another,” he said.
“Knowing that those other games are going to be close to home is a very good thing, and it’s important with the budget scenario that all of the schools are facing right now.”
Manteca High athletic director Ron Inderbitzen echoed Leland’s sentiments.
“I haven’t heard the official word yet, but if we get the chance to keep the VOL as it is and welcome in the new Tracy school and Lathrop High, it’s logistically something that’s going to be benefit us a lot,” he said. “Hopefully that is something that stays the way it is right now.”
To see the preliminary bracket that outlines all of the tentative leagues, visit the SJS website at www.cifsjs.org.
The section’s realignment committee will meet again Jan. 28, Feb. 18, March 11 and, if necessary, April 1. The Board of Managers will meet to approve the final realignment draft at the April 29 meeting.