This article is commentary by junior Caleb Elliott, who plays football, basketball and baseball. The opinion expressed in this article is not necessarily the opinion of Delta High School or the Eagle’s Eye magazine.
By Caleb Elliott
Eight schools. Twenty sports. Over 2,000 student athletes. These are the numbers that make up the Hoosier Heritage Conference (HHC). It has been our home for 25 years, but now it is time for a change.
Many of the schools in our conference have had a gradual rise in enrollment numbers since they joined the conference. This and many other factors have made it increasingly difficult for us to find success in our conference.
Since we joined the conference in 1996 we have found plentiful success through the years, including three state championships in volleyball (2001, 2002 and 2009) and a state championship in boys’ basketball (2002). But when winning state championships seem as the pinnacle of the year, winning the conference can almost be just as challenging.
After being in the conference for 25 years we have become conference champions 100 times. These numbers sound positive for how tough our conference is, but 43 of these titles were won by the boys’ and girls’ tennis teams. We have three teams that are yet to win a conference championship (boys’ soccer, girls’ golf and softball).
And here’s the most powerful stat: In the last 10 years, we have only been able to win our conference in three other sports besides tennis (boys’ basketball twice, wrestling once, and boys’ golf once). No Eagle girls’ sport other than tennis has won conference in the past 10 years.
With Greenfield-Central (1,544 students), Pendleton (1,427 students), and Mt. Vernon (1,382 students) all growing at a rapid rate, they are on the verge of doubling the size of Delta (785 students).
Another factor of having these teams in our conference is the traveling. If the basketball team is playing on a Thursday night at Shelbyville, they will most likely not be arriving home until 10:45-11:00 at night, whereas if they were playing at Yorktown on a school night they will be able to get back home by 10:00 at the latest.
Student-athletes already have a hard time managing school and sports, but one thing that might be just as important as both of those is the ability to rest their bodies to help them perform more effectively. If these athletes are on a bus for almost three hours to and from New Palestine High School, then it can be tiring and affect students’ ability in the classroom the next day.
So why haven’t we left or moved conferences at this point? The biggest factor in this is time. If we were to announce we were leaving the conference that would take an entire year or more to go into effect. Then comes the question where would we go?
If we were to leave we could possibly look into creating a conference with many local teams that also have to travel and play against competition that is growing faster than they can handle. Muncie Central High School has to travel almost two hours to play their conference opponent Lafayette Jefferson High School, for example.
One option for a change in our conference would be the creation of a new conference. One with teams that have reasonable travel times, similar enrollment sizes, and teams that we have competed with for many years.
We have many surrounding schools that have challenged us in the last few years and can help us grow and prepare for our playoffs at the end of the season. Yorktown, New Castle, Rushville, Mississinewa, Winchester, Lapel, Marion and Bellmont are among the teams that we have had success against in the past and have also challenged us. They are all similar in size and have reasonable travel times.
It’s time for us to seriously start looking into the formation of a new conference that will help bring success to our programs for years to come.