Every four years, the N.C. High School Athletic Association realigns its conferences. Beginning with the 2013-14 school year next month, those changes will affect nearly all Lake Norman-area high schools.
Some will join conferences that are vastly different from their previous conferences. Others will move up or down in classification (based on enrollment). Some will travel more. Others less.
Many rivalries that have developed over the years will maintain, although some of the meetings won’t necessarily be conference games. The NCHSAA bases its conference alignment on enrollment and geography.
Mooresville, Lake Norman and Lake Norman Charter high schools no longer will have a connection to Mecklenburg County.
Mooresville and Lake Norman were reassigned from the former I-MECK 4A conference that included six Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools members (North Mecklenburg, Hopewell, Hough, Vance, Mallard Creek and West Charlotte). The new North Piedmont 3A/4A conference will include Mooresville, Lake Norman, four Iredell County high schools (North Iredell, South Iredell, Statesville and West Iredell), Alexander Central and North Lincoln.
Mooresville athletics director Barclay Marsh said he favored the plan because “every school in Iredell County is in the league.”
That closeness will make for good rivalries and crowds in various sports, Marsh said. It also will reduce travel time to most athletic events.
Hopewell, Hough and North Mecklenburg will compete in the new MECKA 4A conference, after being together in I-MECK 4A the past four years. They’ll be joined by I-MECK carryovers Mallard Creek, West Charlotte and Vance. Concord Robinson and Kannapolis Brown are new to the conference.
Lake Norman Charter was bounced around during the 18-month realignment process. In early 2012, the Knights were originally assigned to a 2A conference with seven schools from Catawba and Lincoln counties. That plan was scrapped when the NCHSAA altered its plan a few months later. Lake Norman Charter, with the enrollment of a Class 2A school, was assigned to the Big South 2A/3A conference.
That means Lake Norman Charter teams will be competing against five conference opponents with larger, 3A-size enrollments (Gastonia Ashbrook, East Gaston, Gastonia Forestview, North Gaston and Belmont South Point). It also will increase travel for Lake Norman Charter, which is in Huntersville. The other two 2A schools in Lake Norman Charter’s conference are Gastonia Huss and Belmont Cramer (a new school).
Lake Norman Charter officials weren’t pleased with the change, since it will be the smallest school in the conference. But Lake Norman Charter athletics director Matt Schlegel, knowing his school is a 2A school in a 4A-heavy area (North Mecklenburg, Hough and Hopewell are nearby), said he anticipated more travel to reach 2A opponents. There aren’t any other 2A schools in Mecklenburg County. But being lumped with 3A schools could make it difficult for some Knights teams. Lake Norman’s charter status limits its enrollment, while its conference opponents could grow in enrollment the next year or two.
East Lincoln will see plenty of new faces at its new address. The Mustangs were assigned to the Southern District 7 2A conference, along with carryovers Lincolnton and West Lincoln from the former Southern Piedmont 1A/2A conference. The new conference will include Catawba Bandys, Claremont Bunker Hill, Maiden, Newton-Conover and West Caldwell.
Three lake-area schools – Community School of Davidson, Lincoln Charter and Pine Lake Prep – will make their NCHSAA debut in the same conference. The trio will compete in the Southern Piedmont 1A conference, with Bessemer City, Cherryville, Gastonia Highland and Thomas Jefferson Academy.