By Raenelle Kwock
The athletic landscape is shifting for Union and Wallowa county high school teams beginning this season.
Imbler, Joseph and Pine Eagle drop from the Class 2A Wapiti League to the 1A Old Oregon League. Vale, a member of the 3A Greater Oregon League, moves down to the Wapiti League.
The changes do not stop there. There will be two special districts in 1A football. Joseph, Imbler, Pine Eagle, Wallowa, Cove, Powder Valley and Adrian become Special District 4.
Crane and Prairie City, previous members of the Old Oregon League, join Special District 6. The district is made up of Burnt River, Dayville, Harper, Hun-tington, Jordan Valley, Mitchell, Monument, Spray and Wheeler.
Joseph High School's new athletic director Larry Johnson said the Eagles are moving into a "outstanding" league.
"We are not moving down in competition," Johnson said.
Johnson said safety in football was a concern at the 2A level.
He said for schools at the bottom of the 2A level classification, such as Joseph, varsity football coaches played freshmen and sophomores against juniors and seniors.
Johnson is enthused about the change.
"Our coaches are looking forward to the challenge," Johnson said. "One challenge is not knowing the other school."
Imbler athletic director Steve Anthony said it is a positive change.
"With declining enrollment, we were competitive," Anthony said. "It was harder to do because of numbers."
Anthony said it is an honor representing the Old Oregon League.
"We're dropping a classification," Anthony said. "The competition is still good."
Powder Valley athletic director Blake Jones is excited about having a "geographical league."
He said the Badgers welcome the trade of driving 200 miles to Crane with a 40-mile trip to Imbler.
Jones said it will be a "tough, competitive league."
On the other hand, there are other issues.
Old Oregon League volleyball will not be divided and it is unfair because football has two special districts, Wallowa athletic director Warren Wilson said.
Wilson said it will be tougher for the volleyball teams to get into the postseason.
Those schools remaining in the Wapiti League also have concerns.
Enterprise athletic director Mike Crawford is disappointed that the Wapiti League has six teams.
He said it has been a real bind for scheduling purposes.
"With only six teams, if you win that's great," he said. "Every game is worth more."
There is not much to make up if a team loses a league match, Crawford said.
Furthermore, Union athletic director Teresa Stratton said there should be five state classifications instead of four.
The OSAA meets in October to discuss classification issues.
Greater Oregon League
* new member
Special District 4
Old Oregon League football
* new member
Old Oregon League volleyball
* new member