There was no denying the emotion in Mitch Fiegel's voice Wednesday when he said that, yes, Wichita Collegiate had been assigned to the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League by the Kansas State High School Activities Association.
"I will tell you this, we are ecstatic," said Fiegel, Collegiate's athletic director and boys basketball coach. "It's going to be a great home for us, and we will do everything in our power to be an exemplary member of that league.
"It's one of those things that we mentioned today that it's always been considered a premier league in the state. To be a part of that, we are excited."
Until Wednesday's ruling, Collegiate faced the possibility of competing as an independent, which it had done in the mid-1990s when the Mid-Kansas League disbanded.
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This time, Collegiate was left with the possibility of not being in a league in 2010-11 because eight members of the Mid-Central Activities Association, the Spartans' current league, decided in February to leave.
Seven of those eight members — Halstead, Haven, Hesston, Hillsboro, Smoky Valley, Lyons, Nickerson — will likely form a new league, tentatively called the Central Kansas League. Sterling, currently in the MCAA, will also likely join he CKL.
The league, according to Hesston athletic director Brian Becker, also will include Pratt and Kingman. Pratt was left without a league when the Mid-State disbanded, while Kingman decided to leave the 24-school AV-CTL after this school year.
Collegiate initially made requests to the AV-CTL and the Central Plains League to join. They were denied.
In June, Collegiate requested to be assigned to a league by the KSHSAA, but was denied a hearing by the executive board.
Collegiate contacted the executive board again last week to see about getting a hearing, and that was granted, school headmaster Tom Davis said.
On Wednesday, the AV-CTL, CKL and CPL made presentations to the KSHSAA's executive board, and a vote was taken.
After a vote, Collegiate was assigned to the AV-CTL. The KSHSAA does not have to assign schools to leagues.
"I give a lot of credit to Gary Musselman, the executive director, and the executive board that realized that it had a member school, Wichita Collegiate, that needed help and they stepped up to their responsibility and scheduled the meeting and expedited it to help us," Collegiate's Davis said. "I'm very appreciative to all of them."
Musselman said that the AV-CTL is the best fit for Collegiate of the three possible leagues.
"Geographically, it's a great fit," Musselman said. "It's the smallest in the league, but the rate of participation is high. With an 85 percent participation, that true number would be comparable to a 4A school. And it's essentially a suburban school, which the AV-CTL has quite a few."
Collegiate, which last year was in Class 3A — new classifications will be announced next week —would likely be placed in Division IV with Andale, Circle, Clearwater, Rose Hill and Wellington. They are 4A schools.
Since its formation, the league has been comprised of four six-school divisions based on school size. It will grow to 25 next year with the loss of Kingman but the addition of Collegiate and Maize South, which is open this year but not playing a league schedule.
AV-CTL president Myron Regier, the principal at Campus, said that Division I would be the division with seven teams — likely adding his school, the only 6A school now in Division II. Goddard's Eisenhower High will open in 2011-12.
Regier doesn't think the league is getting too bulky.
"Not at this point," he said. "The original reason for forming this league was to allow for community growth and control travel. It's met those requirements so far."
As for the CKL, now that the decision regarding Collegiate has been made, the league should be able to finalize its structure.
"After today I think we'll be able to go ahead and get everything formalized and together and proceed from there," Becker said.
Marion is expected to join the Heart of America League.