Lincoln Trail Conference votes to leave WPT

Marty Touchette

 Principals in the Lincoln Trail Conference voted Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2009, to secede from the West Prairie Trail effective in the fall of 2010.

In addition, the conference voted to offer full membership to West Prairie High School and football only membership to Varna (Midland) High School. The actions need to be approved by local school boards in votes that will take place in the coming weeks.

"We are extremely excited about it," said United athletic director Tony Kozelichki. "West Prairie is one of the closest schools to the south of us, it offers us some better travel opportunities."

For all intents and purposes, the move by the LTC is the final death blow for the West Prairie Trail mega-conference.

The West Prairie Trail was formed several years ago with a maximum of 28 teams in four divisions in an effort to ease scheduling problems for area schools.

Eariler this year the Prairie Land Conference, one of the four divisions, split with the West Prairie Trail. The move by the Lincoln Trail Conference marks the second of the four divisions to leave.

The WPT was done in by scheduling conflicts and challenges posed by school consolidations and sport co-ops.

"The West Prairie Trail was a great idea, but with the size and area involved and all the changes it was very hard to manage," said West Central athletic director Jay Blender. "Hopefully with the smaller area and with the schools involved there won't be a lot of change for a few years."

Kozelichki agreed.

"This gives us 10 teams in football for a full schedule of conference games beginning in 2010," Kozelichki said. "Anytime you can have a set schedule in advance it is an advantage. It is a good move for us. It solidifies the conference and the schedule."

While there will be big changes in 2010-11, next school year looks to be unaffected.

"Unless something weird happens we will have the same (football) schedule as last year," Kozelichki said.

The United athletic director went on to say Mendon-Unity has also expressed an interest in joining the LTC, but the conference would only look at adding teams in pairs to maintain an even number.

Varna (Midland) athletic director Joe Mintus was happy with the news.

"Obviously we are pleased. This is a good fit for us with natural rivalries (Princeville and Stark County). Everybody knows about it and we are looking forward to it," Mintus said.

He went on to say Varna has had trouble competing in the Big Rivers Conference in football in recent years.

This is my fifth year and we have won one game in that time," Mintus said. "We felt we had to find a conference that was a better fit. We are glad it paid off. The LTC is a tradition rich conference, just like the Big Rivers, but with smaller schools."

Blender said the new alignment had some advantages in terms of rivalries.

"It gives us a lot of what we used to have. A little like the old Bi-County. Southern and Union had some good rivalry games with Northwestern. I like that, we can develop a bit of a rivalry."

Northwestern is part of the West Prairie district while Southern and Union combined to form West Central.

"It will all work out and make the LTC a stronger conference," Blender said.

West Prairie officials are looking not only to athletics, but conference participation in other activities.

"We are looking forward to working with the (LTC) schools in Scholastic Bowl, arts and music as well as athletics," said West Prairie athletic director Nancy Calvert. "We are doing this to give students an opportunity to compete and for the best interest of all of the students."