One of my first big assignments as an aspiring sports writer way back in the late 1990s was to cover what amounted as the District 9-3A basketball championship game between Gainesville and Decatur.
I was warned ahead of time by the Gainesville Daily Register about some bad blood between the two teams. I quickly realized what he was talking about in the old, packed Gainesville High School gym.
The loaded Leopards, who played for a state title with many of the same players two years later, won the game handily. But the environment quickly showed me the budding rivarly between the two neighboring county seats only 40 miles apart on Farm Road 51.
In the last two years, I’ve seen that rivarly renewed on the hardwood and grid iron in non-district contests and appreciated every minute of the spirited campaigns.
So when Decatur and Gainesville landed in 9-3A together Thursday, I admit that I did let out a little cheer to see the two back together to compete in every sport.
And a bit of full disclosure: I greatly appreciated the relatively close distance between all the teams in the new league rather than making late-night trips back from Mineral Wells or Vernon.
BYE BYE LUBBOCK
Over the past two years of traveling out to Lubbock for the Class 3A and 5A regional track meets, I learned to appreciate Mack Davis’ “Lubbock in the Rearview Mirror.”
The trip back from Lubbock, day or night, is long and exhausting. I’ll be glad to see Decatur and Bridgeport competing in Commerce instead for the next few years.
After years of Decatur cross country teams running on the hilly course in Lubbock, it will be fun to see their times on the flat Vandergriff Park trek in Arlington.
MINI REGIONAL TRACK MEET
Starting in the spring of 2013, every classification will have area track meets between district and regional.
The pairing of District 9 and 10 for an area meet should be stout with Decatur, Bridgeport, Sanger, Gainesville, Krum, Argyle, Aubrey, Celina, Carrollton Ranchview and Frisco Lonestar.
The Alvord, Boyd and Paradise boys basketball teams have been in tough districts the past two years, but their new leagues are about to be ramped up significantly.
The three Wise County schools must navigate a district that includes past state champions Brock, Peaster and Ponder.
3A GETS TOUGHER
Of all the classifications, realignment changed the landscape of Class 3A more than any other with state powers in 4A moving down.
In football, tradition-rich Stephenville is now in Class 3A along with LaMarque. For basketball, the top-ranked team in 4A, Houston Yates, is dropping to 3A.
My early bet is they bring home state crowns next year.
FANS ARE THE WINNERS
It’s hard to pick out a winner from the changes brought by realignment Thursday. I like most of the Wise County teams’ chances to make the postseason next year in their new leagues.
Boyd, even without J.G. Cartwright on the sidelines for the first time in 35 years, should be in contention for a district title in their new league.
But the biggest winner from Thursday are fans, who will see their driving time for out-of-town games cut significantly for district games.