Alignment changes proposed for cross-country in Vancouver could be a backdoor attempt to change zoning in the more politically fraught sport of basketball, said the president of the city’s public school sports association.
Mike Allina, who leads the Vancouver Secondary School Athletic Association, met with fellow public school athletic directors and said their concern is that a zoning change in one sport will open the door for similar changes in other sports, specifically basketball and also rugby.
“We all agreed — why all this is happening is because of basically two schools and basically basketball. We feel they are trying to go through other sports and say, look, they’re doing it in cross-country. Why can’t we do it in basketball.”
Rezoning was also proposed in the spring for badminton and track and field. Both proposals were defeated, said Allina.
He does not believe the cross-country amalgamation proposal will pass at the sport’s annual general meeting Nov. 1. The proposal is to merge three different zones into a larger Lower Mainland zone. Vancouver public and private schools compete in separate leagues. They would join a zone including Richmond, Burnaby and New Westminster.
Each zone holds its own regional championship and each sends a number of its fastest athletes reflective of the overall zone population. An amalgamated zone would send 30 athletes — 25 fewer individual racers than the total number sent now by the separate zones.
Zones are aligned differently depending on the sport, but Allina said all berthing is based on numbers and this mandate underpins high school sports in the province.
B.C. School Sports is putting additional emphasis on geographic representation and the cross-country commissioner, who is from a public Surrey school, is urging all Vancouver schools to merge.
Allina said the prominence of geographical alignment arrived with the new BCSS executive director Christine Bradstock.
He resists any pressure for the VSSAA to change its seasonal leagues and asserted that merging with private schools is not an option because they are ultimately businesses that operate differently than public schools.
“They run under different rules than we do and we cannot accept [merging],” he said in a phone interview. “They run half-page adds recruiting athletes, they run on their own budgets, they’re not limited by elected trustees.”
Sean Dawson, a teacher at West Point Grey Academy and the independent zone commissioner for cross-country, said public and private school coaches in the sport have the fundamentals in common. “That’s the beautiful thing about running,” he said.
Whereas a football team may be dependent on more resources, cross-country requires relatively little infrastructure beyond time, transportation and leadership.
He does not think cross-country amalgamation would unduly favour independent schools but does support a larger Lower Mainland zone because it would elevate the level of competition and reward performance.
He could not say if issues affecting other sports were influencing the amalgamation proposal. “I think cross-country has to do what’s right for its sport,” he said.
“I’d like to see it go through because it’s good for this sport and it’s good for the kids having bigger, more competitive meets. More coaches involved can only be a good thing with an organization. Who knows, it could be the spark that could bring public and private together.”
The independent cross-country final is Tuesday at Jericho. The public final is Wednesday at Fraserview.
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