Highland Wins Region Realignment Appeal

Eli Adams, Feature Editor

The battle for city supremacy is on.
Starting in the fall of 2019, Highland is joining a new region for athletics – a region that will pit the majority of Salt Lake County schools in direct competition. The move is being embraced by the Highland administration and coaches, but it didn’t come without controversy.
Every two years, the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) changes the sports region for all of Utah. This is done to try and create an even playing field, as some schools increase or decrease in enrollment from year to year. But changes in region affiliation could mean changing travel distance, school rivalries, and transportation costs.
Highland is currently in region six, a region that is made up of almost entirely schools of the area in and around Salt Lake City. This region is very beneficial to Highland because it allows for a very short travel time for each of the sporting events that Highland participates in. This means less time out of school.
“For cross country I already miss so much school for meets. If I had to miss more I would be spending all my time catching up on assignments I missed,” Highland cross country runner Ethan Blume said.
But four years ago, Highland was placed in the northern region, forcing the Rams to travel to Bonneville, and Ogden, for example. Highland coaches and teachers were relieved when this was changed for the fall of 2017, but it didn’t last long. Originally, the UHSAA had proposed that Highland would move from its current region to region five – the northern region – once again.
If this had happened, then there would be extreme consequences. The average distance Highland travels in the city region is eight miles for each sporting event; in region five, athletes would have to travel an average of 27 miles for each sporting event. This would mean that student athletes would miss much more school, and it would cost the school more money to travel.
“It would really hurt the student-half of ‘student athlete’ if we were to move into region six. It would not be a positive change,” track and field head coach Gary Rowles said.
The average student may not think they would be affected by these changes, but what many don’t realize is that Highland would also lose out on established rivalries, such as Olympus and Skyline. Also, it would be much harder to go to sporting events that are not at home. Teams would suffer from the lack of support that would be shown at their away games, while also not making as much money from visiting fans during Highland home games.
“We have a lot of people who have a hard time making it to those destinations so we are so lucky to be in a local city region,” Highland principal Jenson said.
Jenson wasn’t going to let this happen without a fight.
On Wednesday, Dec. 5, the USHAA held a hearing for schools officials to argue their particular placements in the new regions. Jenson was a key member of this hearing. Not only did he argue on behalf of Highland for staying in the current city region, but he was in a smaller session with only principals from three other schools.
Just one day after Jenson argued his appeal for Highland to remain in the city region, the UHSAA approved it. This means that they voted in favor of Highland staying where it is. Jenson’s main argument as to why Highland should stay in its current region was not just the issue of travel time, but also the massive increase in participation in girls sports that has been recorded since Highland moved to the city region. If Highland was forced into a region with drastically increased travel times, Jenson believed the school would lose the growth in girls sports.
Even after the victory, things could still be changed, but Jenson does not believe that is likely.
“They really listened to us down there, I think we will stay where we are at. It will be really big for athletes if we are given this region,” Jenson said.
Jenson was certainly relieved at the ruling…and now he has two years to train before he may have to fight again as the regions will be realigned once again for the fall of 2021.