ARCANUM — Four Preble County schools are embarking on a new athletic journey with the creation of the Western Ohio Athletic Conference (WOAC).
The newly formed conference, which is made up of 12 schools from the Southwestern Buckeye League and now-defunct Cross County Conference, held its first official event last week.
National Trail, Tri-County North and Twin Valley South from the CCC, along with Preble Shawnee from the SWBL, join Ansonia, Arcanum, Bradford, Dixie, Franklin-Monroe, Mississinawa Valley, Newton and Tri-Village to make up the conference.
“As a vital part of any journey, the beginning, it’s probably perhaps the most important part,” WOAC Sports Information Director Dale Barger said. “The journey of the WOAC began two years ago as the direct result of many hard working school administrators, athletic directors, coaches, and the input for many others to set a foundation and a goal, providing all members an opportunity to be successful.”
Barger said its an opportunity to promote a positive atmosphere among conference schools.
“Creating a competitive conference is without question important, but it’s also important we all promote a positive spirit that uplifts all our athletes and schools regardless of wins and losses,” he said. “We have an opportunity now to set the bar and establish mutual respect for all our athletes and member schools by setting the tone in a positive spirit within the WOAC.”
Preble Shawnee, a 35-plus year member of the SWBL, felt now was the right time to switch conferences and form new rivalries, while hoping to keep some of their old rivalries in tact. Shawnee will be one of the larger schools in the WOAC.
“We’re really excited about joining schools that are like us. We had a great time the SWBL,” Preble Shawnee Athletic Director Dane Sadowski said. “We can’t complain about anything from those great relationships that we built and hopefully we can keep those relationships going. But we saw this as an opportunity to join some schools that had similar, more rural backgrounds, smaller school size.
“The opportunity to compete against three of the five county schools was big to us as well,” he continued. “We’re just really excited about joining something new, kind of being able to put our stamp on some things.
“All schools that we have here are just incredible schools, great tradition behind them, a lot of state champions. It’s not going to be a cakewalk for us in anything. We’re just go going to compete in everything.”
For Trail, North and South, many of the former CCC schools are familiar, but now they can forge a couple new rivalries with the addition of Shawnee and Dixie.
“I think it’s good for us,” Trail Athletic Director Troy Ferguson said. “Obviously you add teams like Shawnee and Dixie. It gives you those familiar schools that we play a lot. Now, gives you a chance to kind of make another rivalry or two.”
Ferguson said he believes the conference will be more competitive and cut down on travel.
“I think it helps us competitiveness wise,” he said. “Our goal is to be competitive in every sport and I think this gives us a chance to do that as well and helps us to transportation wise honestly. We’re now pretty centralized. So I think it’ll be good for it for us and for everyone.”
Twin Valley South Athletic Director Ryan Innis said his school district is excited about moving forward.
“We’re super excited for this new conference and to start our new journey here and welcome Shawnee and Dixie,” he said. ” I think they’re gonna be a very valuable asset to the conference, not only athletically, but you know, logistically, and we’re looking forward to build that new rivalry with them too. I think we’re on a great path here, we got some great schools, great administrators, great coaches, so just excited, ready to get going.”
Tri-County North Athletic Director Tony Augspurger believes its a natural fit for all 12 schools.
“I think this conference is a really logical fit for, honestly, all 12 teams in the conference,” he said. “We have four county rivals in this conference and we have the closer schools of our old conference in terms of proximity. There’s a lot of size of school similarities, and I think it’s something that’s really exciting for those reasons.”
Augspurger believes the conference will produce some quality champions.
“We are not and never will be the MAC, as a conference, in terms of things, but I think in terms of saying, if you’re going to win this conference in various sports, I believe you’re going to [have to] be pretty good to do it in both boys and girls sports kind of across the spectrum,” he said. “We have some schools in each gender that excel, and so if you’re going to compete on that level you’ve got to be pretty good. And I keep talking to our coaches about the fact that we’ve got to keep working to get better, we got to keep working to get more athletic, gotta keep working to work harder.”