New Conference for Athletics Beginning this Fall
SARATOGA SPRINGS – After a long process, all of the Saratoga Central Catholic athletic teams will be moving to the Wasaren (which stands for Washington/Saratoga/Rensselaer) League from the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). This move will take effect with the Fall 2016 sports season.
“This is something we have been trying to get done for a long time,” noted Spa Catholic Athletic Director “Phonsey” Lambert, who was in his office preparing to take the school’s baseball team, which he coaches, on their annual training trip to Florida (see page 42). Lambert noted that the way teams switch Conferences or Leagues is by an application process, in which teams have to vote unanimously to accept a new member, which is not an easy thing.
But the need to move was apparent, and it can be summarized in two words: travel times. While many schools develop rivalries with nearby schools, Spa Catholic had limited opportunities to do that in the WAC. Their nearest WAC rivals were in Galway and Schenectady. More to the point, Lambert said, “in the case of our league, nine of the 13 teams we might face in league competition were an hour travel time one-way.”
Indeed, it was often more. Spa Catholic would regularly be sending school buses to places like Northville, Middleburgh, Mayfield, Canajoharie and Berne-Knox. “It got to the point that in 2007, our Principal, Chris Signor, adjusted the start time of our school’s first period out of concern for the time our student/athletes were getting home from games,” Lambert noted.
The Wasaren League has a lineup that is much more “close to home.” Spa Catholic will be joining Waterford/Halfmoon in the Wasaren this fall, joining members Mechanicville, Stillwater, Cambridge and Greenwich, among others. “It is going to be a very manageable travel schedule now,” A.D. Lambert said.
It also stands to have a major favorable impact on Spa Catholic’s many sports teams’ travel costs, and therefore, a considerable savings for the athletic budget and the school’s budget overall. Less easy to calculate is the impact shorter travel times and therefore, more rested teams, will have on the Saints’ athletic performance, but suffice to say: It couldn’t hurt!
The road to join the Wasaren took awhile for the Saints. They had applied for entry in 2014, when Schuylerville left to join the Foothills Council. Spa Catholic lost out to Mechanicville, but many Wasaren member schools encouraged Lambert by noting that they were keeping the door open to expanding the league.
The key event occurred last April, when Granville, then a Wasaren member, applied and received entry into the Adirondack League. By October, the expansion-minded Wasaren was reaching out to both Spa Catholic and Waterford/Halfmoon; and Spa Catholic received unanimous approval to join, effective next fall.
While the shorter travel will certainly make competition for the Saint’s logistically easier, how do their rivals in the new league stand up? We asked Damian Fantauzzi, one of Spa Catholic’s Track Coaches (and our sports columnist) for his analysis.
“I see the move as a major challenge for the athletic programs of Saratoga Catholic,” Fantauzzi said. “The Wasaren League is made up of comparatively larger schools, with solid sports programs. The Wasaren schools have a rich history of successful teams, over decades, throughout Section 2 history.”
He continued, “Since I'm a basketball coach/junkie, I see basketball as possibly the biggest challenge for the Saints, for both boys and girls. It might take two to five years for Saratoga Catholic to become competitive with all sports. The Saints do have an excellent history in baseball, and will have formidable competition with some of the Wasaren schools that have had great success with the game.”
Overall, Fantauzzi concluded, “I believe it's a good move for Saratoga Catholic and a good fit for the Broadway school, it will be fun and challenging for the students, as the Saints develop new rivalries.”