The Metro West Conference Executive Committee voted June 10 to add three new members -- New Prague, Orono and Waconia -- for the 2021-22 school year.
All three schools come from the Wright County Conference where they participated in the East Division along with Delano, Holy Family Catholic and Hutchinson.
The vote of acceptance was 5-2 for all three schools, with Bloomington Kennedy and Robbinsdale Cooper the dissenting votes, according to a release by conference chairperson Andy Ewald of St. Louis Park. A 75 percent "yes" vote was required.
"We are so excited they accepted our application," Jill Johnson, Athletic Director at Waconia High School since 2013, said. "We continue to grow. We are adding boys and girls lacrosse, boys and girls tennis, we've had tremendous facility growth and fine arts opportunities growth. We felt the Metro West Conference was a perfect fit for us."
Jon Summer, Athletic Director at Chaska High School, said New Prague is already in the top class in terms of all sports minus football, while he figures Waconia to be there in the next reclassification cycle in terms of basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer, softball, and swimming and diving.
Enrollments for the 2019-20/2020-21 cycle provided by the Minnesota State High School League for the conference are:
- Chanhassen: 1,585
- Bloomington Jefferson: 1,521
- Chaska: 1,370
- Robbinsdale Cooper: 1,290
- NEW PRAGUE: 1,260
- St. Louis Park 1,255
- WACONIA: 1,228
- Bloomington Kennedy: 1,184
- ORONO: 936
- Benilde-St. Margaret 901
The Metro West Conference began play with eight schools in 2014. Bloomington Jefferson and Kennedy, Chanhassen, Chaska, Richfield, Robbinsdale Cooper, and St. Louis Park were original members with the Minnesota State High School League placing Benilde-St. Margaret in the league six months later in fall of 2013.
Richfield left the Metro West Conference in 2019, joining the Tri-Metro Conference, leaving the league with seven members.
New Prague was previous conference members with Chanhassen and Chaska in the Missota Conference, while Chaska, Waconia and Orono are old members of the Suburban West Conference.
"New Prague was extremely excited to hear the news of our acceptance into the Metro West Conference earlier today," Brad Skogerboe, Activities Director at New Prague High School, said. "New Prague felt the Metro West was our best option based on size of the existing schools, competition levels, and travel distance. We already compete against some of the Metro West Conference schools as non-conference opponents in numerous sports and have always enjoyed the competition. We are excited and look forward to making positive contributions to an already great conference. We are looking forward to helping make the transition a smooth one for the 2021-22 seasons."
Johnson said a key driving point for Waconia was levels of play (ninth grade, B-squad, JV, varsity) offered by most Metro West Conference schools.
"We had more levels than half of our conference. We found ourselves having to try to find extra games for many of our teams each season, and many times we were matching up with schools from the Metro West Conference," Johnson said. "A lot of our kids are participating against (athletes from Chaska and Chanhassen high schools) already in summer leagues, so it should be a lot of fun."
Johnson also suggested the flexibility that comes with a 10-team conference, and certain scheduling techniques that occur to best fit the mix of schools.
"This isn't a decision that was made one day. It was something that was explored over years of talking with our coaches, hearing our students' thoughts, about what does our community want. The consensus was this was something we wanted to explore," Johnson, who previously was an assistant athletic director at Eden Prairie High School. "We were very fortunate to be a part of the Wright County Conference for 32 years. We always had such great competition. Made great relationships. We've seen major growth in that time and as we continue to grow we just felt this was a better fit."
Johnson and Bucky Mieras, activities director at Orono High School, both agreed, the Metro West Conference gave their schools the best opportunity going forward for activity and athletic competition.
"We are excited and look forward to all the new transition," Mieras said.