Mount Ayr Community sports fans should be prepared for major changes in the make-up of the Pride of Iowa conference in the near future.
In an announcement made recently to Pride of Iowa member athletic directors, Pleasantville and Interstate 35 have given notice they will join the West Central Activities conference beginning in the 2018-2019 school year.
The West Central conference currently includes Earlham, Guthrie Center, Madrid, Ogden, Panorama, West Central Valley (Stuart) and Woodward-Granger.
"What I'm hearing from them [Pleasantville and I-35] a lot has to do with travel, not so much for the school but for the parents," said MAC athletic director Delwyn Showalter.
Showalter explained that many parents in both districts work in Des Moines, and many find it difficult to arrive by start time at game sites at the distant edges end of the Pride of Iowa conference, such as Bedford, Mount Ayr and Wayne of Corydon.
In its current configuration, the Pride of Iowa conference stretches from Pleasantville on the northeast to Bedford on the southwest, a distance of 117 [miles], and from Greenfield on the northwest to Corydon on the southeast, a distance of 97 miles.
Couples with the distance factor, Showalter added both Pleasantville and I-35 are growing in student population and could eventually out-grow the Pride of Iowa.
Showalter said he understands both districts' motivations to make the change, but he was sorry to see them leave the conference.
"I-35 was a charter member of the Pride of Iowa," he said, "and the later addition of Pleasantville was a good fit."
Showalter said he didn't favor rushing into trying to replace I-35 or Pleasantville at this time. He declined to speculate on where those replacements would be located, adding size, number of [Page 9] activities and culture would be important factors in any eventual search for replacements.
He said the lose of the two schools will reduce the number of Pride of Iowa member schools to 10, a number that still made sense to him from a scheduling standpoint.
"With 10 schools, everyone can play everyone else twice," he said, "and you end up with a single conference champion."
To complicate matters, however, Showalter said current POI conference members Martendale-St. Marys and Southeast Warren are "exploring options," but Showalter said he wasn't confident they would find any better fit than what they have with Pride of Iowa.
More troubling, however, is the fact that the Western Iowa conference has made overtures to Bedford, Lenox and Southwest Valley (Corning/Villisca) to join their conference, and according to Showalter, "they're listening."
The Western Iowa conference currently includes AHSTA (Avoca), Audubon, Griswold, IKM (Manning), Logan-Magnolia, Riverside (Oakland), Treynor, Tri-Center (Neola). Without getting into specifics, Showalter also said the Corner Conference consisting of Clarinda Academy, East Mills (Malvern), Essex, Fremont-Mills (Tabor), Heartland Christian (Council Bluffs), Sidney, South Page (College Springs and Stanton) as well as other conferences to the west are "looking at several ideas."
While no changes will be made to activity schedules for the 2017-2018 school year, Showalter said the Pride of Iowa athletic directors will need to know soon if other schools are planning to break away. He explained schedules are usually developed two years in advance so work on 2018-2019 scheduling should be taking place this year.
The current Pride of Iowa conference consists of Bedford, Central Decatur (Leon), East Union (Afton), Interstate-35 (Truro/New Virginia), Martensdale-St. Marys, Mount Ayr, Nodaway Valley (Greenfield), Pleasantville, Southeast Warren (Liberty Center/Lacona), Southwest Valley (Corning/Villisca) and Wayne (Corydon)>
Stay tuned ... that list may look considerably different within the next few years.
Photographs courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, August of 2017