Robinson High girls’ soccer player Sabrina Bologna enjoyed some of the highly competitive teams the Bulldogs faced as members of the MECKA 8 4A Conference.
It’s the travel time to many of the conference’s schools that Bologna could do without.
Next year, distances between conference rivals will not be much of an issue for Robinson’s teams: the Bulldogs’ two-year residence in the state’s 4A classification ends with this school year.
In 2015-16, Robinson will be a member of the South Piedmont 3A Conference, home to five fellow Cabarrus County schools.
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In December, the state high school athletic association granted Robinson’s request to drop to 3A because the school’s enrollment had dropped significantly since the last realignment, prior to the 2013-14 school year.
“I’m really excited,” said Bologna, an all-region junior forward. “I’m ready to be back in 3A and play schools we know. I think it will be a nice way to end our high school career, to be back in 3A.”
It is unusual for schools to change classifications between the four-year realignment periods; however, the state association considers appeals after the second year of a four-year classification period. The next realignment is scheduled for the 2017-18 school year.
This will be the fourth time Robinson has changed classification since it opened in 2001. From 2001-05 and 2009-13, Robinson was a member of the South Piedmont 3A. In 2005-09, it was part of the MECA 7 4A Conference, with Central Cabarrus and five Mecklenburg County schools.
Glen Cook, Robinson’s athletic director, who is retiring at the end of June, said Robinson’s enrollment has been affected by the districting of students living in the Laurel Park subdivision off George W. Liles Parkway. Laurel Park students originally attended Robinson but since have been redistricted to Northwest Cabarrus.
“We’re glad to be back in the Cabarrus County conference,” said Cook. “There will be better rivals, better gates. The MECKA just didn’t seem to bring big crowds.
“And when you have schools with 2,800 students playing a school with 1,300, that’s a little lopsided. That was also in our appeal.”
Depending upon the sport, Robinson has natural geographic rivalries with most of the Cabarrus County schools; the Bulldogs softball team has had a strong rivalry with Central Cabarrus, for example. The boys’ basketball games between Robinson and Concord have been hotly contested in recent years.
Coach Todd Spinell and his girls’ soccer team are looking forward to rekindling rivalries with Hickory Ridge and Cox Mill. Robinson is traditionally strong in the sport, and Cox Mill, which hasn’t lost a conference game in two years, may be especially affected by the Bulldogs’ return to the South Piedmont 3A.
“Cox Mill was always a rival for us,” said Marie Spokas, an all-conference junior defensive midfielder. “There’s a good turnout and it’s good for the rivalry. It will be exciting to play teams that will be closer to us. It ups the ceiling of the competition.”
One rivalry that may suffer by Robinson’s reclassification is the one the Bulldog wrestling team has with A.L. Brown, a MECKA 8 member. Both schools, along with Cornelius Hough, have vied for league supremacy the last two years.
In some sports, such as baseball, softball, and soccer, the MECKA 8 was top-heavy in talented teams; such was not the case in boys’ basketball.
Robinson coach Lavar Batts Sr. said he will miss the depth provided by the MECKA 8, considered one of the best conferences for boys’ basketball in the state.
“Playing in that 4A conference, you had a tough opponent every night,” said Batts Sr. “I don’t want to say that 3A is a bad conference, but there will be nights where it’s not a 4A MECKA night.
“I just hope my guys are ready to respond. I want to keep everyone humble, hungry and working hard.”
The Robinson teams that play conference teams twice in the regular season won’t have many nonconference games to schedule in the SPC, which will have 10 teams, including West Rowan, South Rowan, East Rowan and China Grove Carson. But the athletic department is counting on close rivalries to bring more fans to games.
Joe Habina is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at email@example.com.