BY MAX MCDONALD
GLADWIN COUNTY – The end of the spring sports season can be a time of reflection, but for me it’s never too early to look forward to next year. Weight training and summer camps have started, and football, volleyball, soccer and cross country are right around the corner. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the Jack Pine’s newest members. Pinconning and Shepherd are coming aboard to replace leaving members Houghton Lake and Roscommon.
Pinconning and Shepherd were both members of the Tri-Valley Conference. The Tri-Valley, one of the largest in Mid-Michigan, had 24 members prior to the defection of both schools. Other notable members included Freeland, Frankenmuth, Ithaca and Standish-Sterling. Pinconning had an enrollment of 402 and was classified as Class B. Shepherd had 458 students and was also considered Class B. For comparison the two largest members of the Jack Pine, Gladwin and Clare, had 575 and 449 respectively. Beaverton had 362 students last year.
Pinconning’s sports teams are known as the Spartans and use green and white as their primary colors. Shepherd is the Blue Jays and uses blue and gold as their primary colors. Both schools offer a full complement of athletics including football, basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball, wrestling, track, cross country, golf and bowling.
With the departure of the two northern most members, the conference is migrating to the south. Harrison will now be the most northerly school, Shepherd will the farthest south. Shepherd will now be the longest trip for both schools. According to google maps, Shepherd High School is 52 miles and 51 minutes from Gladwin High School. Beaverton is 35 miles and 42 minutes away.
It is dangerous to compare year-over-year results in high school sports, but neither school appears to be a juggernaut. Neither school qualified for the football playoffs last year. Pinconning was 3-6 Shepherd 1-8. Shepherd lost in the district finals in volleyball, Pinconning went out early. Both boys basketball teams lost early in district play last year. The Pinconning girls lost in the district finals to Houghton Lake and the Shepherd girls went out early in district play. In baseball Shepherd lost in the district finals, Pinconning lost early in the district. Shepherd was the district champion in softball, Pinconning lost in the first round.
Multiple schools applied to fill the positions vacated by Houghton Lake and Roscommon. According to Conference Secretary Jack Kramer the remaining schools looked hard at each application. The new members had to be cultural fits both athletically and academically. He said that the principals and athletic directors did a great job during the process.