Hayes

Oak Hill High School (soccer player Jackson Hayes is pictured in a 2018 match) will once again compete in the Coalfield Conference in the 2019-20 school year. The Coalfield will be largely a Class AA league, as some of the Class A member schools have either been shut down or moved on to re-form the New River Valley Conference.

The times, indeed, are a-changing.

With a new school year rapidly approaching, the local athletic scene will begin experiencing somewhat of a transformation.

And that will continue in the following school year after the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission conducts reclassification of its member schools this fall.

Oak Hill High School is among those facing changes athletically, since it is peering at a potential move from Class AA to Class AAA down the road.

As numerous schools await the changes that will result from the WVSSAC's reclassification period, which will take effect for the 2020-21 school year, sports conferences, too, are looking at alterations.

Locally, the Coalfield Conference will see a big shift beginning this fall, as it adapts to the departure of a handful of Class A schools and makes the move to a largely Class AA league. And, some of those smaller schools which at least partially have severed their affiliation with the Coalfield since the last school year have teamed up to breathe new life into the New River Valley Conference, which was a popular conference in the area back in the day. Besides those schools which have departed the Coalfield, which includes Greenbrier West and Pocahontas County, two more of the Coalfield Class A schools, Valley and Fayetteville, closed at the end of the last school year.

Chad Quesenberry, who took over the reins as commissioner of the Coalfield Conference last year, admits it's a time of transition. Things are in a "state of flux," he said earlier this summer. "You have schools closing; you have reclassification looming."

"This year, we're in an odd predicament," Quesenberry said of the Coalfield. "Coming up this year, we're not going to have a full single-A slate.

"Unfortunately, single-A schools are kind of a dying breed."

Acknowledging the teams splitting off to the NRVC, he added, "You're going to have a new old conference (New River Valley). We're going to have a relationship with those guys; I get along with those principals and those ADs really well. They're going to work with us."

Class A schools will still compete with the Coalfield teams in some tournaments, said Quesenberry.

In addition to Greenbrier West and Pocahontas County, Midland Trail, Meadow Bridge, Summers County and Richwood all intend to participate in the NRVC reboot, according to league representative Jared Robertson, who is the West athletic director and boys head basketball coach. At the same time, some of them will maintain some of their Coalfield ties, at least in the short term.

"We're going to be a 10-strong double-A (Oak Hill, Liberty, Independence, Shady Spring, Wyoming East, Westside, River View, James Monroe, Nicholas County and PikeView) as of right now," Quesenberry said of the Coalfield. "We could potentially have a couple more double-As get in, and I've also had some talk with some of the triples-As that are within a couple of hours of us.

"It's hard to say definitively, but my guess is that (eventually) you'll probably see a double-A and a triple-A version of the Coalfield Conference."

But that's not happening this year. What will be occurring is the addition of some other activities to bolster the tournaments and other events the Coalfield traditionally offers its schools.

According to Quesenberry, plans call for having new events such as a Coalfield cheerleading competition in the weeks leading up to region tournament competition "so teams will have an opportunity to run through their routines" ahead of region action. The Fayette County Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building has been reserved for that, and veteran local cheer coach Angela Keffer has agreed to supervise it, Quesenberry said. New River Valley squads are welcome to take part.

Other new offerings are expected to be a Coalfield band festival, as well as a volleyball tournament. "And next year we'll bring back the Iron Horse weightlifting competition."

While continuing to honor all-conference and impact players as it has in the past, Quesenberry says a big positive for the league is the healthy competition it offers for member schools.

"The whole idea of being in a conference is those are games you can count on every year in every sport, and it's also competition," he said. "We're bringing back some of the small rivalries.

"We want to embrace the ones we already have built in, and we want to develop some new ones."

Through it all, it will be "a feeling-out process."

• • •

Jared Robertson says the NRVC will be on a big "learning curve" in its first year.

"One of our main goals is everyone agreeing to compete against each other" in the various sports, he noted.

Most of the teams have already been able to work that into their basketball schedules with home-and-home series, but football adjustments "may take two years due to contracts."

Some of the schools "felt like six is a great number, and we'll go that route for a couple years until we get stability," said Robertson. "One of the big things a lot of the coaches in these six schools feel like is you play each other. And, being single-A only, we can focus on our schools.

"Rural schools face a lot of challenges and we all face the same challenges. It's a good fit."

Sherman is among the other schools that have expressed interest in possibly joining in the future, Robertson said.

In addition to staging conference championships in many sports, Robertson said there has been some talk of seeking out another Class A conference with which to possibly compete in a league-versus-league format.

Meadow Bridge head boys basketball coach Mark Gladwell says the Wildcats are anticipating being in the New River Valley Conference. The matchups should "add a little bit more intensity to ball games," he said.

"As we move forward, (these) are very similar schools, and it's a natural fit," Gladwell said. "You need to play the similar schools in your area (primarily because of the chance of increased financial gates and reduced travel to games)."

The league will also provide a solid method to honor players on postseason teams, Gladwell said.

Email: skeenan@register-herald.com or follow on Twitter @gb_scribe

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