The record says 5A

Sometimes in the often merciless world of high school sports, there's nothing like a good thrashing to help you see straight. When it comes to the reclassification debate in Ashland, one in particular comes to mind that reminds me every time I have second thoughts why going 5A was the right move for AHS.

It was Jan. 9, 2004, and the Ashland boys basketball team was at South Medford facing the powerhouse Panthers. Knowing his team was severely overmatched, Ashland's head coach at the time, Rick Cornelius, implemented a strategy that no innocent hoops fan should ever be subjected to: the stall. It worked for a while. The score at the end of the first quarter was 8-4 (woohoo!). South eventually beat Ashland by 33 points anyway, but not before the Grizzlies ran off the last 90 seconds of the third quarter without taking a shot, this despite staring down the barrel of a 52-14 deficit.

The game plan left Cornelius open to criticism in the days that followed, but the truth is that moral victories were often the only kind that Ashland's weaker programs could muster in the old Southern Oregon Conference. Facing schools with average daily memberships that dwarfed Ashland's, the Grizzlies had a 29 percent (18-45) success rate against eventual 6A schools during the 2004-05 school year. And that number, while low, still doesn't do justice to some of the demoralizing beatings taken by the Grizzlies.

Thankfully, those days are over. Since the reclassification took effect at the start of this school year, Ashland has predictably thrived. The girls soccer, softball and baseball teams all made the playoffs for the first time in years, the boys basketball team advanced to the state quarterfinals and the girls cross country team brought home a state championship.

Opponents of the reclassification point out that it has increased travel time and diluted the competition. Those are valid arguments, but long bus rides will always be a part of high school sports, and the goal here isn't to manufacture Division I athletes, it's to prepare young people for the world.

Yes, Ashland could have "played up" as a 6A for a few years to test the waters, as some suggested. But why delay the inevitable?

Why stall?

Joe Zavala is the sports editor at the Ashland Daily Tidings. To comment on these articles go to

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