On Sunday, June 4, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) Executive Board took action to approve Hermiston High School’s application for membership in the Association beginning with the 2018-19 school year.  The Oregon school becomes the first out of state school to join the Washington based Association as a full member.  Hermiston will join the Mid-Columbia Conference (MCC) with Washington high schools in Richland, Kennewick, Pasco and Walla Walla.

The WIAA Executive Board formulated set criteria to be used as an evaluation tool for out of state applications, working jointly with bordering state associations in Oregon and Idaho. The process, which began with the request by Hermiston in January, included gathering input from affected leagues and districts in Oregon and Washington as well as written support from OSAA.  “This was a unique situation for both Hermiston and the WIAA,” said WIAA Executive Director Mike Colbrese. “The Executive Board worked closely with the OSAA and IHSAA to put measures in place to evaluate the situation at hand, and set a standard going forward.”   With the WIAA currently on a four-year classification schedule, Hermiston’s commitment will span through the end of the current cycle through spring of 2020.

Hermiston’s application for membership in the WIAA was based upon the extraordinary growth of the school, its geographic isolation in Oregon, close proximity and cultural ties to the Tri-Cities of Washington.  “This move to the WIAA is the right thing for our students,” said HHS athletic director Larry Usher.  “Our situation will be much improved in regards to travel distance, lost instructional time, and budgets.”

The move comes as Hermiston faced extreme hardship under proposed redistricting efforts as a member of the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA).  Absent action by the WIAA, under the current OSAA classification and districting committee proposal, Hermiston was slated to join an Oregon conference with Sandy, Reynolds, Gresham, Barlow, Bend, Summit and Mountain View.  In this scenario, Hermiston’s remote Oregon location would have resulted in average travel for each contest in conference play at 404 miles, round trip; resulting in 12-14 days of lost instruction per season for each athlete.  By way of contrast, Hermiston is only 57 miles away from its furthest regular competitor (Walla Walla high school) in the Mid-Columbia Conference.  Average round trip travel in the MCC will be approximately 80 miles and lost instructional time reduced to several hours each season.

“Hermiston is also tied culturally and geographically to the Tri-Cities of Washington.  Our communities have a shared heritage dating back to the Lewis and Clark expeditions,” said Hermiston Schools Superintendent Dr. Fred Maiocco.  “This action by the WIAA permits us to strengthen and deepen the cross-border community partnerships which naturally exist between Hermiston, the Tri-Cities, and Walla Walla, WA.”

Hermiston will be a full member of the WIAA for all sports and activities programs and will qualify for postseason play as a member of WIAA District 8. Action was passed Monday which approved the request of Mid-Columbia Conference Schools Chiawana, Hanford, Kamiakin, Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, Southridge and Walla Walla to move to District 8.

Over the next year, several transition activities will be required to move Hermiston from the OSAA to the WIAA.  HHS principal Tom Spoo is already attending regular meetings with MCC principals.  “I greatly appreciate the warm reception I’ve received from the MCC principals,” said Spoo.  “I look forward to working collaboratively with the MCC to ensure HHS seamlessly integrates into the WIAA next year.”

According to Usher, “We expect to publish guidance about schedules, transfer rules and eligibility very soon.”