The desires of many involved with, and supportive of, Perry High School athletics have finally been granted, as the Perry School Board on Monday gave unanimous approval to join the Heart of Iowa Conference.
The HOIC includes Greene County, Nevada, PCM, Roland-Story, Saydel, South Hamilton, and West Marshall. Those respective boards all recently voted to approve Perry’s application to join the league.
All extra-curricular activities in the new league will begin with the start of the 2021-2022 school year in August.
Perry leaves the Raccoon River Conference after being a member since 1991. They will continue all RRC-related activities until the end of the upcoming baseball and softball seasons.
PHS Athletic Director Scott Pierce had said in the past he appreciated the support he had received from RRC schools, noting all had been understanding of Perry’s desire to depart. The RRC might have required Perry — chiefly for scheduling purposes — to remain in the league for 2021-2022, but chose not to enforce the stipulation.
“What this means is that we now continue our drive to get better, to increase our participation numbers and to reach a level — at least — of being competitive in every sport,” Pierce said in a recent interview with ThePerryNews.com. “This doesn’t mean our push forward slows, it means it speeds up even more.”
Perry already competes in many non-conference games and events with HOIC members and hopes to continue interacting with RRC schools as often as possible in the future.
As far as travel is concerned, Perry fans wishing to follow their teams will have seven conference road trips per season as opposed to nine. However, the RRC schools, as a whole, are somewhat closer geographically. The nine trips in the RRC are 323 one-way, with the seven HOIC journeys 347 miles one-way.
Greene County, at 26 miles, is the shortest trip, with PCM (Monroe, 68 miles) and West Marshall (State Center, 62 miles) the furthest HOIC drives.
Perry’s enrollment (BEDS) of 627 is equal with Carlisle for second-largest in the current RRC, trailing only Boone. Nevada (358) and Saydel (338) are the two largest of the HOIC schools, with South Hamilton (182) the smallest.
A lack of being able to field competitive teams in most sports has been a driving factor in Perry seeking a new conference home.
The following combined RRC records from the past six seasons (including the current boys and girls basketball campaigns) drive home the argument.
Perry volleyball is (0-44), girls basketball (14-68), boys basketball (19-62), wrestling (14-29), baseball (18-44), and softball (18-44). Perry is 24-4 in boys soccer and 18-10 in girls soccer, but only three HOIC schools — Greene County, Nevada, and PCM currently offer soccer.
Volleyball serves as an example of Perry’s struggles.
Like all the other sports, the Jayette netters do not suffer from lack of spirit. The very fact that players and coaches are willing to expend time and energy in the face of such stiff challenges is a testament to their devotion. But the numbers remain the numbers, and they show the Jayettes have not won in the RRC since Oct. 27, 2014 and have not won on the road in the conference since sweeping Winterset Oct. 2, 2012.
Wrestling can, like most of the other sports, make a case for a new conference home. While the Bluejays have had success individually at the state tourney level, team losses in RRC duals are more than double the number of wins in recent years.
The consistent struggle to fill out full rosters is, no doubt, in part hampered by an expectation that successes will few and far between.
Part of Perry’s argument in switching leagues is that the number of free and reduced lunch students in the district (73.4%, the fifth highest rate in Iowa) unduly hampers the athletic programs in comparison to other RRC schools. Economic stress reduces the opportunity to participate in camps or on club teams, as students at many districts can, and limits the possibilities of paid, personal instruction many better-off athletes have access to.
Postville (100%) has the top free/reduced rate in the state, with Corwith-Wesley-LuVerne second at 80%, Storm Lake third at 77.2% and Des Moines Public Schools fourth at 73.8%. Denison-Schleswig (71.7%), Hamburg Schools (71%), Orient-Macksburg (70.4%), and Waterloo Public Schools (70.2%) are the only other districts over 70%; the statewide average is 42.4%.
Second-highest in the RRC is Boone (42.6%), with Carroll (35.7%) third behind Perry. Other schools and their rates include Winterset (30.6%), Carlisle (30.2%), Bondurant-Farrar (21.5%), ADM (19.1%), and Ballard (16.4%). North Polk (10%) and Gilbert (9.1%) are the second-lowest and lowest in all of Iowa.
In the HOIC only Saydel (58.8%) and Greene County (48.1%) are above the state average, with Nevada (34%), South Hamilton (33.6%), West Marshall (30.3%), PCM (24.7%), and Roland-Story (23.8%) completing the list.
“This will help us have competitive and winning programs, and that should bring in more kids, which is something we are determined to see improve each year,” Pierce said. “It also makes it easier to attract, and retain, quality coaches, and that will help tremendously.”