Rock Creek has announced that it will leave the Mid-East League after 30 years of competition
It will be joining the North Central Kansas League starting Fall of the 2022 school year on the middle school side and then high school will officially switch over Fall 2024. The current members of the NCKL — Abilene, Chapman, Clay Center, Concordia, Marysville and Wamego — unanimously accepted Rock Creek to the league.
According to an article from The Manhattan Mercury, Rock Creek’s athletic director Darwyn Thomlinson stated that the move is motivated by growth. “One of the things that we run into at the middle school level is that most Mid-East League schools have just three teams (for middle school basketball): a combined B-Team and a 7A and 8A team,” Thomlinson said. “Our school has enough kids on the middle school girls’ side of things to be able to do 7A, 8A, 7B and 8B on a consistent basis. So what we run into is we have a large number of girls who miss out on competition. So one of the things that we’re trying to do is expand opportunities for all of our programs by doing this.”
Rock Creek’s decision is a justified one and we personally hold no animosity towards them. Unlike college league realignment in leagues such as the Big 12, where fans are currently in uproar over the situation with Texas and Oklahoma, there are different concerns for high schools when it comes to partnering with other schools. It is completely understandable for Rock Creek to seek similar schools to create the best situation for their players. We wish them the best, and we hope we still get to face them occasionally in non-league play.
However, we are concerned about what may happen to the Mid-East League as a result of moving down to five schools.
Wabaunsee’s athletic director Jeron Weisshaar said “At this time, the MEL is working to find one or more schools to replace Rock Creek in an effort to maintain the existence of the league. Staying at five schools is do-able short term, but probably does not bode well for long-term stainability.”
The right school would put the MEL in a good position going forward, although there are other options as well.
Principal Jan Hutley said that being in a league “provides games with consistent schools and good competition, which the Mid-East League has always provided for us.” The League also provides competition for activities like scholars bowl and forensics, as well as collaborations like league band and art.
Hopefully in the end, every school will be able to find a suitable situation that best fits their needs and competition will remain at the highest quality possible.
Options for the Mid-East League’s Future
The MEL has several ways to move forward. Here’s our take on a few scenarios.
Add another team
To replace Rock Creek, there are several teams in the area the MEL could invite. We would put the priority on finding a school that fits in both geographically and in size. We also prefer to add a public school if possible. Replacing Rock Creek with a 4A school or adding a long road trip wouldn’t benefit our teams.
Continue with five teams
The MEL is already small compared to other leagues, but a 5-team league would be OK. We would need a couple more non-league games in some sports to fill out schedules. League tournaments for some sports and activities are already pretty small though. And shrinking that even more isn’t ideal.
Dissolve the league
MEL schools could each find a home elsewhere. WHS was invited to the Flint Hills League several years ago, and other schools are near leagues where they would also fit geographically (Riley County to the NCKL or Wheat State, other schools to the Big Seven or Northeast Kansas). Although WHS would find a home in this scenario, we prefer to continue the rivalries we’ve built over generations in the MEL.
Adding our five teams to another league would still create a manageable number of teams, although there is no way to avoid adding a few longer road trips. Our opinion of this situation would really depend on the league.
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