Western Slope changes keep Hayden, Soroco away from rivals | SteamboatToday.com

Western Slope changes keep Hayden, Soroco away from rivals

— Success in Class 2A Western Slope League girls basketball has been defined by two teams in recent seasons: Paonia and Meeker.

Matchups with those squads, both state qualifiers a year ago and sure to be solid again this season, are the “circle the date on the calendar” kind of games for a team like Soroco, which has its own big-season ambitions it’s been nursing through the summer and fall.

The Rams will have to wait, however, as a new split in the Western Slope will keep its eastern teams like Hayden and Soroco from playing league matchups against its western teams like Meeker and Paonia until the postseason.

The change first went into effect for the just-finished volleyball season, and if nothing else, it brings big change to the names on the schedule for Hayden and Soroco.

“We just have go with what the schedule is and try to prepare the best we can for the teams we have on our side,” Soroco girls basketball coach David Bruner said.

There were a number of factors in the change, which will be for both boys and girls divisions.

For one, the league has expanded in recent seasons, from nine teams in 2008 to 13 this year. The league is larger, so it’s more difficult to play everyone.

It’s also more spread out.

Trips to Rangely, 280 miles roundtrip, De Beque, 300, and Paonia, 330, already were enough to leave athletic directors squeamish. Adding in a 400-mile jaunt to the league’s newest team, Cedaredge, which just dropped down from 3A, helped force the decision on the league’s athletic directors.

The league was split into two, western (Grand Mesa) and eastern (Gore) divisions, allowing teams to play twice but eliminating some juicy, age-old matchups.

Hayden and Soroco are joined by Vail Christian, Vail Mountain, North Park, West Grand and De Beque.

Paonia, Cedaredge, Meeker, Rangely, Plateau Valley, Hotchkiss and Caprock Academy make up the other side.

It certainly makes financial sense.

Soroco Athletic Director Josef Keller said the volleyball team could travel 1,100 fewer miles in a given year and it saved big this season. When a school bus has 6 miles per gallon, that’s not insignificant, around $700. (For what it’s worth, the addition of Norwood to Soroco’s football schedule helped increase that team’s travel by 1,700 miles.)

De Beque is now the longest league trip, but it’s the only long one. All the rest are 140 miles or less. Hayden’s are slightly longer, maxing out with a 200-mile roundtrip trek to Vail.

“With those long trips that’s an additional four or five hours, if not longer, on the road in the winter,” Keller said. “It just made sense to divide into divisions.”

The change ushers in some new postseason circumstances, as well.

The top two teams from each division will play each other in the district tournament to determine the seeds for those teams, all of which will advance to the regional tournament. Then, the third and fourth place teams from each division also will play and the winner of that foursome will get the district’s fifth and final regional slot.

Local high school basketball teams are less than a week into their new season, having just started with practice. The first games still are three weeks away in most cases.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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