It’s the dawn of a new era for high school sports.
Richmond schools and athletes are no longer competing for Lower Mainland and Vancouver and District Championships. Instead, they are part of the South Fraser Zone — joining the Surrey and Delta districts. It’s part of the new look approved by B.C. School Sports that sees Greater Vancouver increased from two to four zones.
It all starts with the launch of the fall sports season — volleyball, boys soccer, field hockey, cross-country and aquatics.
The old Fraser Valley Zone featured schools from Agassiz to Tsawwassen and had simply become too big with a dramatic shift in population to the eastern suburbs in the last 25 years. It is now divided in three.
“From the old Fraser Valley perspective this has been in discussion for about 10 years,” explained B.C. School Sports first vice-president Brent Sweeney. “It took a change at the B.C. School Sports executive level to make it happen.
“Definitely not everyone was happy about it but they have also seen how things have developed since. They see the new structure in place and realize they are part of it now.”
There will be little change in regular season play for Richmond schools that will still play against each other, regardless of enrolment size.
The one exception is girls field hockey where the city’s lone program — McMath — will shift from the Vancouver League to play exclusively South Fraser Zone opponents instead. Richmond will also continue to host its own cross-country meets.
Where it does change is come playoff time when provincial berths are on the line. City teams and athletes will move onto the South Fraser Championships looking to secure B.C. senior and junior berths.
The new zone could be good news for Richmond senior girls volleyball teams - at least in the AAA tier that always had to deal with Vancouver provincial school powerhouses Little Flower Academy and Crofton House in the post-season.
Now defending city champion McRoberts, along with usual contenders McMath and Steveston-London only have 10 schools in Surrey and Delta combined to deal with and seven are destined to play tier two this season.
The South Fraser Premier League features six AAAA schools and three at the AA size. Richmond does not have a school at the largest tier size.
McMath has long dominated Richmond Senior Boys Soccer and Sweeney, who is also the co-commissioner for South Fraser Soccer — thinks the Wildcats would be better served by being part of the district league.
“It comes down to convenience,” he said. “But not being part of the district league makes it tricky when it comes to berths for the playoffs,” he said.