By John L. Braese
Hermiston High School will become the first out-of-state school to join the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association and will be a member of the Mid-Columbia Conference.
The decision to go out of state was supported by the in face of travel costs and lost class time when competing in Oregon. Hermiston’s closest conference game was a round trip of 404 miles. By joining Washington schools, that mileage has been reduced to an average of 80 miles.
“Our situation will be much improved in regards to travel distance, lost instructional time, and budgets.” said Hermiston High School Athletic Director Larry Usher.
“Hermiston is also tied culturally and geographically to the Tri-Cities of Washington,” said Fred Maiocco, Hermiston superintendent. “Our communities have a shared heritage dating back to the Lewis and Clark expeditions.”
With the precedent set, will Malheur County schools look at joining the Idaho ranks?
Ontario currently travels 146 miles round trip to Baker, the team’s closest league game. The Tigers make a round trip of 376 miles to Milton-Freewater to take on McLoughlin.
Nyssa and Vale also endure long bus trips. Aside from meeting each other, the two teams travel 450 miles round trip to meet up with the Irrigon Knights. The Bulldogs are just a 17-mile round trip ride to Idaho’s Parma Panthers. For the Viks, a round trip bus ride of 74 miles would place Vale in Homedale and home again.
Many in the area recall the days when a rivalry game was Payette coming to town or traveling to Weiser as all were members of the Snake River Conference, a two-state conference. Fans could make the trip and home again with a 45-minute drive. Many who grew up on the local area make their home just across the river in Idaho, but still have strong ties to the Malheur County area.
Is that door now worth looking into after the Hermiston move?