Lemont Jones has shared a simple message with Polk County’s boys basketball players this season.
“It’s a short season,” Jones said after Wednesday’s overtime win over East Rutherford. “Let’s make the most of it.”
Polk County’s volleyball program certainly knows the meaning of that statement all too well. The Wolverines lost four scheduled games during the season due to COVID-related issues, either internally or at other schools, then suffered the cruelest blow of all in missing the state 1A playoffs due to a positive test within the program.
Multiple sources indicated there were a dozen or more schools across the state that would have qualified for the postseason, but were forced to sit out due to COVID. A glance at the brackets and final regular-season standings indicate that the Wolverines are the only potential top seed from a conference not competing this week.
It’s a difficult ending for a talented senior class. Polk County won 74 games and four conference championships in the past four seasons. Four of this year’s seniors – Marilyn Castillo, Marissa Twitty, Kristen Hall and Belen Akers – were in uniform for the Wolverines’ 2018 state championship match against Falls Lake Academy. The Wolverines won at least one playoff match in each of the past three seasons.
With teams seeded by random draw this year, there’s no way to know where Polk County would have been placed or whom the Wolverines would have faced in the first round. One thing’s for certain – it’s the last time Polk County will be concerned with 1A pairings for at least the next four years as the school is set to move up to the 2A ranks next season.
REALIGNMENT UPDATE: Speaking of realignment, the second draft of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s plan for the 2021-2025 seasons will be released Thursday.
If history’s any guide, and it may not be this year, this is the one part of the process where there may be some movement of schools. In realignments past, there typically has been very little shuffling after the second draft. We’ll see if that holds true this year.
One of the schools initially placed in Polk County’s new conference hopes to see a new home on Thursday. Rosman has already asked the NCHSAA to consider moving the school to the new conference that includes Avery, Mitchell and Mountain Heritage, among others, or to leave the school in the Smoky Mountain Conference.
“We were very disappointed with the initial proposal of conference 41,” Rosman athletic director Derrick Huggins told the Times-News. “That conference is composed of six 2A schools and a charter school (Thomas Jefferson). As a school of less than 300 students, that conference would put us at a distinct disadvantage.”
The problem Rosman faces is that the NCHSAA is unlikely to leave Thomas Jefferson as the sole 1A school in the new conference. If so motivated, the Association could move TJCA into Conference 40, a 2A/1A league that includes schools in Cleveland and Gaston Counties, or even into Conference 39, a 2A/1A group that includes nothing but charter schools.
But most observers feel Thomas Jefferson would prefer to stay in the new group, which includes Chase, East Rutherford, R-S Central, Hendersonville, Brevard, Rosman and Polk County. If that indeed is the case, it could mean Rosman remains stuck in the group.
One other note – a member of the Realignment Committee, Cumberland County Director of Student Actitivies Vernon Aldridge, said that travel concerns played a key role in how the first realignment draft came together.
“But I know within the Realignment Committee itself there was a lot of discussion among the people on the committee that being in a split conference was not as big of a deal to them as it was proximity and transportation, especially with some of the budgets hurting because of COVID-19,” Aldridge told the Fayetteville Observer.
Without a doubt, the proposed conference, if left intact, would help travel budgets for all eight schools involved. For Polk County, only Brevard and Rosman will be trips of 30 miles or longer. Compare that to the current Western Highlands Conference, when Owen is the closest school and that’s a trip that usually takes 54 miles.
We’ll find out Thursday if Rosman’s pleas find willing ears at the NCHSAA.
SOCCER TIME: Polk County’s boys soccer teams will be the next to return to action as teams can officially begin practice on Monday.
The Wolverines are currently scheduled to open the season on Jan. 25, hosting Pisgah.
Next on the sports list? Football, for which practice will begin on Feb. 8.
READY TO RUN: The 1A West Regional cross country meet is set for Saturday at Kituwah Mound in Bryson City.
Both the boys and girls field will be split into two heats. The boys races will run at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., with the girls races set for 11:45 a.m. and 1:15 p.m.