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Dedham to join Tri-Valley League

DEDHAM, Mass. -- Dedham High School will be leaving the Bay State Conference for the Tri-Valley League beginning in the 2017-18 school year, athletic director Stephen Traister confirmed Wednesday morning.

“There was no application process, they just voted us in yesterday,” Traister said, ending weeks of speculation that the Marauders were leaving the league they’ve called home since 1958.

“We got word around 4 p.m. yesterday. They called our principal. We will be in the Tri-Valley League starting in the fall of 2017.”

Dedham was unanimously voted into the league by both the athletic directors and principals of TVL schools, 10-0. The Dedham School Committee had voted to pursue a move out of the Bay State Conference in April, also in a unanimous vote.

The move to the TVL for the Marauders is spurred by size and competitive advantage, both of which have befallen many of Dedham’s athletic teams in recent years. Based on enrollments for the 2015-16 school year per the Massachusetts Department of Education, Dedham High School currently has 718 students – by far the smallest total in the Bay State Conference- with Norwood High School the next-smallest at 967.

“It’s a good fit for us,” Traister said of the TVL, a league which Dedham previously expressed an interest in defecting for in 2009. “For our size, for our competitive level of what we’ve done in the Bay State…we’re just so small, we needed to find a league with schools of teams our size.”

Dedham will be the third smallest school in the TVL, ahead of Dover-Sherborn (662) and Millis (382), although the gap will be much smaller between the Marauders and other schools in the league. Medway, Norton, Ashland and Bellingham High Schools are all under 800 students.

Hopkinton is the largest school in the TVL at 1,113 students. Compare that with the giants of the Bay State Conference, where Newton North, Framingham and Weymouth all have enrollments over 2,000.

“We had our sports banquet last night, and our principal announced [the move] at the very beginning,” Traister said. “It won’t really affect the juniors or this year’s seniors, but they know the process we’ve been through. Our coaches are excited and a lot of the parents of current students and a lot of the parents of younger kids are very excited. The school committee is excited, the administration is excited.”

Geographically, the move is a bit of a shift for Dedham. The school is smack dab in the middle of the Bay State Conference, 19 miles from Framingham High School out west and 17 miles from Weymouth High School to the east. It will be the new eastern edge of the Tri-Valley League, roughly 23 miles away from Hopkinton High to the west and 25 miles away from Norton High to the south, the league’s only true geographic outlier.

Traister acknowledged Dedham was leaving a great league in the Bay State Conference, of which it is an original member. But he also cited the recent success of many Tri-Valley League teams, which are predominantly on the same level as the Marauders in terms of divisional alignment.

Dedham plays a division down from its Bay State competitors in almost every sport, sometimes multiple divisions lower.

In boys basketball, for example, eight BSC teams compete in Division 1, three in Division 2, while Dedham is the lone Division 3 team.

Boys basketball in the TVL has five teams in Division 2, four in Division 3 and one Division 4 team.

“We’re leaving a great conference, the Bay State Conference, and going to another great conference,” Traister said. “The Bay State is one of the best in the state and does a great job in the state tournament and has won many state titles.”

Something to keep an eye on is the new size of both the Bay State and Tri-Valley. Both leagues now have odd numbered membership, with 11 teams each.

Medway High School athletic director Rob Pearl, president of TVL athletic directors, said that his league isn’t actively looking for a 12th member, but wouldn’t rule out the possibility of an addition, either.

“We’re just leaving the door open to see if anyone else is interested,” Pearl said. “We’re not pursuing anyone, we’re just waiting to see if anyone wants to come to us and we’ll have a conversation about it.

“We weren’t really concerned about going to the odd number. We’ll see what happens over the next couple of months.”

“We’re in, that’s all I concern myself with now,” Traister said on the issue of 11 teams.

Norwood High School athletic director Jon Longley said after news first broke of Dedham’s interest in joining the TVL that the Bay State wanted to maintain a 12-team alignment.

Upon hearing that Dedham was officially gone, Longley said that the Mustangs-Marauders rivalry will continue “In as many athletic competitions as possible, including football on Thanksgiving Day.”