Princeton joining Mississippi 10

Hello, Mississippi 10 Conference.

The Princeton Board of Education accepted an invitation to join the reformatted Mississippi 10 high school activities conference last Tuesday, April 24.

The move, effective with the 2013-14 school year, comes just eight months after Princeton left the Mississippi 8 Conference to become an inaugural member of the Granite Ridge Conference in September 2011. (See meeting coverage online at www.unioneagle.com.)

The move also comes on the heels of the North Branch and St. Francis school boards taking action to leave the North Suburban Conference in favor of the new Mississippi 10. The school board in Chisago Lakes, another school being courted for the new conference, did not take an expected vote on the measure on Thursday, April 19. When the dust all settles, the schools will join Big Lake, Buffalo, Cambridge-Isanti, Monticello, Rogers and St. Michael-Albertville in a two-division conference. In 2012, Elk River, Duluth East and Duluth Denfeld will compete in the conference in football.

Princeton’s move comes after the school district’s activities committee and administration debated long and hard on the matter, Superintendent Richard Lahn said. The District also took into account community input, Lahn said.

On Tuesday, the activities committee, comprised of school board members Eric Minks, Jim Gibbs and Craig Johnson, recommended to the full school board that a change in conferences be made.

“We have heard from the committee and the coaches and have looked at all the different factors, including scheduling,” Lahn said.

“Right now, we think it would be good for Princeton to move to the Mississippi 10 Conference,” he said.

The school board and administrators are always looking to act in the best interest of the students, Lahn said. A move from the Granite Ridge Conference to the Mississippi 10 creates the most opportunity for students participating in school activities, he said.

The Mississippi 10 offers Princeton student athletes more opportunities to compete because the conference has more activities than in the Granite Ridge that Princeton participates in. Because the Mississippi 10 schools are larger than the Granite Ridge schools, many sports offer more levels of play — ninth grade, 10th grade, and junior varsity, for example — meaning more athletes will see playing time.

Lahn understands that Princeton may take some criticism from the Granite Ridge schools for taking the M10’s relocation offer before the book is closed on the Granite Ridge’s first season.

The proposed division alignment of the M10 is similar to one Princeton sought prior to leaving the conference for the Granite Ridge Conference and would have kept Princeton from leaving for the Granite Ridge all together, Lahn said.

“We tried to put this together before we left,” Lahn said. “We didn’t want to leave.”

But when school officials watched Becker and Zimmerman leave for the Granite Ridge — schools similar to Princeton in size — Princeton followed suit.

“Three years later, they’re putting together what we wanted,” Lahn said.

The school board in St. Francis approved moving to the Mississippi 10 on March 27. North Branch followed suit on April 12. Chisago Lakes’ board passed on an opportunity to vote on Thursday, April 19.

Chisago Lakes Superintendent Mike McLoughlin told the Union-Eagle on Friday, April 20 that some members of the audience at the school board meeting were critical that not enough information about a change in conferences had been shared with the community.

In response, the Chisago Lakes school board set a community meeting for May 10 at Chisago Lakes High School. The board will tentatively have a discussion on the matter at its May 24 meeting, McLoughlin said.

After coaches meetings and surveys, parent and booster club meetings and a student athlete meeting, the North Branch administrative team concluded the Mississippi 10 would be a good move for the Vikings, according to a report in the Union-Eagle’s sister paper, The Post Review in North Branch. Benefits of a move cited by the administration included play against natural rivalries and a competitive balance, the newspaper stated. The same goes for St. Francis, where the Union-Eagle’s sister paper, The Anoka County Union, stated that the move was made in order to renew traditional rivalries and to allow the Saints to compete against more-equal schools.

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