When New Prague, Orono and Waconia announced plans to join the Metro West Conference beginning in the fall of 2021, the big question was what would become of the Wright County Conference?
Would larger East Division teams Hutchinson, Holy Family Catholic, Delano, and newly-joined Jordan play smaller West Division teams such as Dassel-Cokato, Watertown-Mayer or Litchfield?
The answer finalized Aug. 10 was "nope."
By a 13-0 vote, Southwest Christian High School of Chaska was formally introduced as a new member of the Wright County Conference beginning in the fall of 2021.
SWCHS, which joined the Minnesota River Conference in 2018 after a long stay in the Minnesota Christian Athletic Association, was looking for a permanent home with growth at the forefront.
That league is the Wright County Conference.
"The schools don't match up well with us right now," said Darin Keizer, Southwest Christian Athletic Director, of the Minnesota River Conference. "With soccer, there isn't a boys conference. We've continued to play in the MCAA with girls soccer. We're independents in hockey, boys and girls lacrosse. With the Wright County, we'll have more recognition for our athletes across the board. When our teams play in the Wright County, our kids will go up against some of the best athletes in the state."
Keizer made a point to recognize the many "very talented programs" across schools in the Minnesota River Conference. A sport such as volleyball has provided multiple quality opponents for the Stars. Additionally, basketball, baseball, softball, and tennis were strong match-ups as well.
For Keizer and SWCHS, what prompted the change after just two years was the want for a conference with similar growing populations and "visionary leading" rather than districts looking to sustain current numbers and programs.
"We're a school that is growing. We have two, sometimes three and four levels in some sports. We wanted to look at a conference that had similar offerings. The standard we hold for our athletic programs, our school wants to compete at a high level, and we will get that in the Wright County," Keizer said.
If you win a Wright County title, you beat a lot of good teams," he added.
Keizer said SWCHS has had a vision of moving eventually, the first thought was a private school conference such as the IMAC, but when the opportunity came about to fill out the East Division in the Wright County Conference along with Mound-Westonka, which shifted from the smaller schools in the West Division, it was the perfect fit.
"It's schools that matched what we have for sports. It seems natural. These are schools we have already been playing. When I have conversations with Nick (Tibesar at Holy Family), Jeff (Peterson at Mound-Westonka), it's nothing new. We've already been working together before this," Keizer said.
The decision to add Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity to the Minnesota River Conference was a step backward as well for SWCHS.
"It was a decision that was made based on whether it was a good fit for each school, not a good fit for the conference. I know some schools just wanted to be able to fill out their schedules with more conference teams. I just didn't think it fit with the growth of our school," the SWCHS AD said.
SWCHS will compete in Minnesota River Conference sports in 2020-21. They are: girls tennis, cross country, volleyball, baseball, softball, boys and girls basketball, and track and field.
- Keizer announced longtime head volleyball coach Greg Sayuk resigned Aug. 7. Sayuk led Southwest Christian to a state championship in 2013 and multiple state tournament appearances. He won 334 matches in 17 years with the Stars. Recently hired varsity assistant coach Jessy Jones Tow-Arnett has been named interim coach for the 2021 season next spring.