*This story first appeared in The Budget’s July 4, 2018, Local Edition.
By Stacey Carmany
With another successful year of sports in the books, Athletic Director Art Yoder reflected on the recent successes of the Hiland Athletic program during the June meeting of the East Holmes Board of Education.
This past fall, the middle school golf team took home the championship title out of the 14 teams in their division. In basketball, the Varsity Boys Basketball team made it to the Division IV State Final Four, and the Middle School Girls basketball team won their league championship. The Varsity Girls ended their season at the Division III Regional Finals, and Head Coach Dave Schlabach marked his 600th win.
During the spring sports season, Braden Gray Jr. qualified for the State meet in the 300-meter hurdles, and the Hiland baseball team ended their season as District Runner-up.
Participation rates also remained high with a total of 350 Hiland students, or roughly 75 percent of the school’s total enrollment taking part in at least one sport. Of those students, 62 of those students participated in multiple sports.
“[That] percent to me seems very high but, in reality, I don’t have the metrics to compare it to,” Yoder shared. “It’s not a scientific analysis, but I think that speaks well of our participation, not only in the athletic part but in the other activities – choir, band, things like that.”
Hiland is currently home to a total of 25 different teams including boys and girls cross country, soccer, basketball and track teams; boys golf and baseball teams; and girls volleyball, tennis and softball teams.
Yoder noted that all fall and winter athletic teams will be playing in the same divisions next school year. Spring sports placements won’t be announced until August.
Several new head coaches also came on board this past year including Conner Lee, who was hired as head coach for the high school girls soccer team, and former longtime JV Baseball Coach Chris Dages, who just wrapped up his first season as the head varsity baseball coach.
“I think he did very well and is a good member of the community,” Yoder said of Dages, whose team finished 25 – 4. “We’re looking forward to Chris and what his coaching staff can do here in the future.”
The 2017-2018 school year also saw the continuation of the OHSAA tournament format of having sectional games at the highest seed locations. “We’ve been very fortunate. We hosted several boys and girls basketball tournaments, baseball tournaments,” Yoder said. “It worked out very well.”
Last year, district teams also competed in their first IVC league showcase games for volleyball and boys and girls basketball, with the Hawks pitted against teams of the
same rank from other divisions. “It was very successful. It was a good way of keeping unity, so to speak, within the league,” Yoder said.
For the first time in the 15 years, an impending winter storm threatened the success of the Classic in the Country girls basketball showcase, but thanks to the quick thinking of organizers and the flexibility of participants, the event went on without a hitch.
During the 2017-2018 school year, the district began a new pro- gram to educate students, parents and coaches on the risk factors, signs and symptoms of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) in accordance with a new state law that went into effect in March. “Each year now, students, parents and coaches have to go through the same course, so to speak, to become certified in recognition of cardiac arrest,” Yoder explained. “This is separate from CPR and those other type of medical requirements that we all have to go through.”
Looking ahead to next year’s programs, Yoder pointed out a new OHSAA bylaw approved by member schools that will limit athletic participation for transfer students to the first half of the regular season schedule. The transfer bylaw, also known as the “50 percent rule”, applies to all students transferring after the fifth day of their ninth grade year. Under the new rule, those students will be eligible to participate in only the first 50 percent of the maximum allowable regular season contests in any sport in which they participated within the last 12 months.
“This is actually opposite of what the original rule was. The original rule was you sit out the first half and you played the second half and played in the tournaments,” Yoder explained. “The reason that the schools have voted on this and approved this is it’s an effort on every- body’s behalf to start minimizing or limiting transfers. We all hear stories of numbers of kids moving into a school district or transferring into a school district, and the level of competitiveness increases significantly.”
Facility improvements are also underway as the district prepares for the upcoming fall season. The floors at the Perry Reese Community Center and the tennis courts were refinished in June, and new LED lighting has also been purchased and installed at the high school gym thanks to generous donations from community supporters. The district is also looking to replace the lights at the community center at a later date.
Yoder noted that the Athletic Department and Athletic Booster Club are also in the second year of a two- year contract with Front & Center Turf, who have been doing a great job of maintaining the Hiland Soccer field. “If you’ve driven by or had the opportunity to go down and look, our field is almost small college level conditions now with the attention that’s given to it,” he said.