First season in new conference will begin in 2018-19

After the 2017-18 school year, the Boonville Pirates and Lady Pirates will have played their final game, match and set in the North Central Missouri Conference.
By a unanimous vote Tuesday night during the Boonville R-I School Board meeting, the board voted to leave the NCMC in favor of the Tri-County Conference for the 2018-19 school year.
Boonville Athletic Director Chris Shikles said the Boonville R-I School District received a letter of invitation to the Tri-County Conference after Warsaw had informed the conference they were leaving to join the Ozark Highlands Conference.
Shikles said a committee was then convened and investigation and discussion ensued. Shikles said the committee was comprised of community members, administrators, coaches and board members.
Although the switch won’t take place until 2018-19, Shikles said it was a tough decision for everybody because of the relationship with the NCMC.
“We appreciate the years that we spent with them and the relationships that we build and the rivalries that we developed, Shikles said. “It was a tough decision. We had a lot to weigh and a lot of pros and cons, but at the end of the day we have to make the best decision for Boonville High School.”
Boonville Superintendent Mark Ficken said if this offer had been available the first time, the district would have certainly chose this conference.
“It’s where we always wanted to be in the first place because of multiple reasons,” Ficken said. “It’s a conference likeness from top to bottom. We are more like the schools in the Tri-County for multiple reasons: proximity, size and competitiveness. They are a really super competitive conference. They have many positive things going on such as academically, choir, band, speech and debate,  drama, principals, professional development from the teachers of the conference so it’s much deeper than just having the name on the front saying we are a conference.”
Ficken went on to say the Tri-County backs it up and does it on a year by year basis and they have been doing it for many, many years.
“Looking 2-3 years down the road I can tell you what I know is that there are other members of the NCMC that have been looking and still looking for a fit that is better for them, so if given the chance to leave I think they would do so so where does that leave us,” Ficken said. “We are moving to the safest most stable situation that we can put our kids, parents, extracurricular activities programs and curricular programs in.”
Prior to joining the NCMC in 2007, Boonville competed in the Missouri River Valley Conference for 36 seasons with Odessa, Oak Grove, Lexington, Richmond, Higginsville, Carrollton and Knob Noster.  However when the MRVC decided to split in to two divisions, Boonville felt the time was right to join the NCMC along with Hannibal, Moberly, Mexico, Fulton, Marshall and Kirksville.
The only difference is that Boonville went from being the third largest in the MRVC to the smallest school in the NCMC at 512. Hannibal was the largest at 1,024, followed by Marshall at 818, Kirksville at 756, Moberly at 735, Mexico at 675 and Fulton at 655.
Whereas in the Tri-County Conference, Boonville will be the third largest school behind only Eldon at 605 and Osage at 551. Southern Boone’s enrollment is currently listed at 501, followed by Blair Oaks at 430, California at 415 and Versailles at 384.
Traveling was also a factor in the decision to switch conferences. In the NCMC, Boonville would have to travel to both Hannibal and Kirksville since the conference plays a home and away schedule. In the Tri-County Conference, teams just play each other once.
Although the trips to Fulton, Marshall, Mexico and Moberly were manageable, the long bus rides to Hannibal and Kirksville, which were both almost two hours long, were tedious for both the student-athletes and coaches.
In the Tri-County conference, Boonville’s furthest drive will be Osage at 69.9 miles, followed by Blair Oaks at 63.7 miles, Eldon at 57.4, Versailles at 42.6, Southern Boone at 40.8, Hallsville at 38.4 and California at 30.
Shikles said the term a better fit kept coming up.
“I think the committee and the school board were comparing sizes of the schools,” Shikles said. “Obviously geography came into play. The sports that were offered also came into play so a lot of details and a lot of laying out what was best came into the decision.”
Shikles commented further that it was really tough to find a lot of cons for joining the Tri-County Conference.
“Obviously is the Tri-County not offering soccer and tennis as a conference affiliation so that was probably the No. 1 con of the decision,” Shikles said. “Now we will be an independent in soccer and tennis but both of those programs are so strong right now that we will be just fine. It will also give us the flexibility to schedule who we want and when we want to play them.”
As of right now, Southern Boone and Osage are the only schools in the Tri-County that offer soccer along with Boonville. As for tennis, Boonville and Osage are currently the only schools to play that sport.
Another issue that will have to be addressed before joining the new conference is scheduling.
Shikles said a lot of work has to be done between now and then.
“I schedule two years out anyway but right now I am looking at a blank slate for 2018-19 at this point so the work begins as far as scheduling two years out now. I’ve got games scheduled already so it’s fitting in a new conference schedule in to that schedule.”
Shikles said scheduling should be a problem, though. He said Boonville will continue to play the Rock Bridges and Battles along with several schools in the NCMC.
“I think we are good competition for the bigger schools and our location allows us to pretty much schedule within a 100 mile radius,” Shikles said. “I am pretty confident we will get it filled. The nice thing is that I have a year or two to develop and work on it and get the pieces of the puzzle to fit.”
At the current time, the Tri-County Conference offers sports or extracurricular activities in baseball, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls cross-country, boys and girls track, boys and girls golf, football, softball, volleyball, wrestling, cheer, dance, music, scholar bowl, bass fishing, speech and debate and target shooting.
Osage currently competes in 23 sports, followed by Boonville with 22, Southern Boone 21, Eldon 18, Versailles 17, Blair Oaks and California 16 and Hallsville with 15.
The total enrollment for schools in the Tri-County Conference currently are:  Osage, 1,947; Eldon, 1,919; Southern Boone, 1,670; Boonville, 1,598; Versailles, 1,381; Hallsville, 1,378; California, 1,327; and Blair Oaks, 1,196.
The Tri-County Conference was also founded in 1932. The founding members were California, Eldon, Tipton and Versailles.
Shikles said the size of the communities in the Tri-County Conference were also comparable to Boonville.
“I would have to agree with the committee that I think it’s a great fit for the community,” Shikles said. “I think the communities are comparable to the community of Boonville and I think we want to really cater to our community and our fans and give them opportunities to go to road games and to become a part of Boonville High School athletics.”