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posted: 2/15/2010 12:01 AM

West Chicago hoping to find home in smaller conference

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  • West Chicago Community High School is considering switching athletic conferences to become more competitive. Right now, West Chicago is the smallest school in the DuPage Valley Conference, which includes Wheaton North High School.

       West Chicago Community High School is considering switching athletic conferences to become more competitive. Right now, West Chicago is the smallest school in the DuPage Valley Conference, which includes Wheaton North High School.
    Daily Herald file photo

 
 

As a football mom, Cathie Sanzeri has watched more than her share of other high school's homecoming games.

That's because the team she cheers for - the West Chicago Wildcats - is a popular choice when DuPage Valley Conference members are scheduling their big games.

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"They know if they play West Chicago, they're going to have a homecoming win," Sanzeri said.

She's among the parents who want West Chicago's Community High School out of the DVC - arguably the toughest high school athletic conference in the state.

West Chicago is the smallest school in the conference, unable to field teams with the numbers and depth to compete with such athletic powerhouses as Wheaton Warrenville South, the Napervilles and Glenbard North, parents say.

"If we're playing out of conference, we're competitive," Sanzeri said. "In conference games, we're getting killed."

But some West Chicago teams have struggled at all levels recently. The boys basketball team, for instance, is 3-19 overall and 1-9 in the DVC. In the fall, the football team was 0-9, including 0-7 in the DVC.

But now, members of the school's conference advisory subcommittee think they've found a better fit. The 4-year-old Metro Suburban Conference includes Fenton High School in Bensenville; Elmwood Park; Riverside-Brookfield; Ridgewood High School in Norridge and Christian schools in Elmhurst and Lansing. Glenbard South High School in Glen Ellyn joins the conference next year.

The committee report will be presented to the District 94 school board on Tuesday, Feb. 16. The meeting is at 7 p.m. at the school, 326 Joliet St.

Principal Moses Cheng said administrators haven't decided whether to just have a discussion or to recommend the board take action on leaving or staying in the DVC.

"Our No. 1 goal is to provide an overall competitive and positive experience for our students," Cheng said. "This is not solely based on a win-loss record, but we want them to have an opportunity to be successful."

To be considered, a new conference must provide close to the same activities and levels West Chicago offers, he said. That includes non-sports competitions such as the Scholastic Bowl.

Location of schools in the conference is important, too, Cheng said. "Obviously, our concern is, 'Can students get to matches on time and not leave the school day too early, and come home at a reasonable time?'"

Previous attempts to pull out of the DVC have fizzled, and not all parents or teams want to leave the prestigious conference. Girls' softball, for example, is one team that wants to continue to compete against Naperville schools.

Committee members believe the Metro Suburban Conference offers a more level playing field for West Chicago student athletes. The schools are more similar to West Chicago in size, demographics and socioeconomic factors than the DVC schools are, Sanzeri said. For example, a significant number of West Chicago High School students need to work and don't have time for sports, reducing the talent pool.

A more evenly matched competition will encourage more West Chicago students to try out for sports - and keep playing, Sanzeri said.

"Out of 60 football players at the freshman level, only 30 are coming back," she said. "Last year at the sophomore level, 16 boys came out for football.

"We want to be competitive, but we also want to attract as many kids as we can, and we just can't do that in this conference."

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