The Class 4A Conference executive board's decision to split into two divisions appears to have created what would have been the perfect regional alignment for Payson High School.
Newly formed 4A Region 3 would have been ideal mostly because the geographical location of the member schools would have cut down on travel, there would be no winter bus trips over snowy mountain roads and spring sports play would have taken place in the warm Valley climate.
Members of the region include the East Valley schools of Apache Junction, Arcadia, Coronado, Higley, Tempe and Queen Creek.
The longest trip would have been about an hour and a half..
Payson, however, was not considered for the new region because the school's appeal to drop down to the 3A conference, from 4A, for the next two-year block of scheduling was granted last week by the Arizona Interscholastic Association.
Payson High is now a 3A school awaiting a regional assignment.
As appealing as 4A Region 3 is to local coaches, administrators and students, there was no guarantee that if Payson had remained a 4A school it would have been placed there. The East Valley 4A Region 3 has six schools in it and the North No. 5 has only five schools. The 4A executive board could have sent Payson to the north region to round out its membership to six teams.
The past two years that Payson has been a 4A school, it has been aligned in the Grand Canyon region along with Page, Mingus, Flagstaff, Coconino, Sinagua and Chinle.
That placement has not been perfect for Payson. It requires lengthy team trips to faraway Page and Chinle that are expensive and often result in students missing class time.
During the wrestling and basketball seasons, Payson often has to travel over dangerous high country roads to games in Flagstaff. Because snowy conditions mean slower driving speeds, those trips can become even more time consuming.
Former Lady Longhorn soccer coach Randy Wilcox was among those displeased with life in the Grand Canyon region. He bemoaned that 4A soccer was played in the winter rather than the fall as it is done in 3A. He argued that it was not conducive to play an outdoor sport, like soccer, in freezing cold temperatures on sometimes snow-packed fields.
For decades, Payson High has been a vagabond bouncing from the East, West and Central regions of the 3A conference. When PHS was a 2A or Class B school, it also was a member of several different regions.
Check the banners hanging in Wilson Dome and you'll get an idea of just how many regions and conferences PHS has been a member of.
Now that Payson will be a 3A member for the next two years, coaches are scratching their noggins wondering which region the school will be placed when the AIA executive board meets Nov. 18. Although there are no guarantees, Payson could return to the East where it was before moving to the 4A ranks.
This school year, there are 33 schools in five 3A regions -- East, North, South No. 1, South No. 2 and West.
Next year, because there are several 3A schools who could move up to 4A or down to 2A, the regional alignments could be much different.
Because Payson is geographically located in the center of the state, logic says the high school could find a home in a number of conferences and regions.
Not so, PHS has long been and continues to be an orphan.