HIGHWOOD – The Geraldine-Highwood high school sports co-op will be renewed for another three years, MTN Sports confirmed on Thursday.
The new development comes after the Highwood school board voted to reverse a decision made in July which would have ended the co-op between the two schools, citing difficulties in travel times and distance for students and parents. The news is a relief to coaches and athletes who faced an uncertain future and the prospect of not being able to field teams due to declining enrollment and participation numbers in both communities.
“It’s been a long fall, it’s been up and down and an emotional roller coaster,” said Highwood football coach Brandon Gondeiro. “You hear this, you hear that. People ask you what’s going on with your program, it’s been pretty humbling. So to have some resolution makes us breathe a little bit easier and we can start to make plans.”
The two schools first paired for football back in 2011, followed by volleyball in 2014 and basketball in 2015. The communities are 46 miles apart and the Highwood school board originally voted to end the co-op at a meeting on July 12 to ease the burden of travel.
But the numbers didn’t add up for either school. Geraldine High School is expecting an enrollment of 15-16 students in the fall of 2019, and while Highwood is projecting an uptick in students to near 30, fielding competitive teams would have been difficult.
“I think the Highwood school board looked at the numbers and came to the conclusion that the numbers weren’t quite there to be a team on our own,” Gondeiro said. “So they looked at options and revisited the decision they made in the summer. The school boards were able to get together and find some common ground to go ahead and put us back together for another contract length (of three years).
“The realization that we weren’t going to be able to field teams, not just in football but also volleyball on the girls’ side, was a spot they were concerned about. The realization that the numbers weren’t as good as the sides originally pictured prompted the decision.”
But there will be concessions for the schools going forward. Instead of one school busing to another for alternating practices, students from Geraldine will travel to Highwood for two days a week to work as a full team and then practice separately at their respective schools the rest of the week.
“We’re going to try and limit the travel and that’s the major concession,” Gondeiro said. “We maybe won’t have our full teams together throughout the week, but as coaches we realize we have an opportunity on those days to get more reps for each kid at each spot in those practices and find ways to get better on an individual basis.
“So there’s going to have to be a few changes that we’ll have to work through that will present their own challenges, but to know that the kids we have now will be the kids that are coming back next year is definitely a good feeling to have.”
Other than altering travel and practice schedules, it will be business as usual for the highly successful Rivals. For Gondeiro, that means continuing to work in tandem with longtime Geraldine coach Rod Tweet to coordinate practice and game schedules.
“The fact the coaching staffs and administration are staying consistent, that’s another big positive of getting a deal done,” Gondeiro said. “Now we have a few more years to continue the Rivals tradition. 6-Man football would have looked a lot different without a Geraldine or a Highwood on the schedule.”