Gopher Conference adds four new schools
The Gopher Conference will have a new look in 2021 when the fall sports season opens next week.
Members schools, including Blooming Prairie, Medford and New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale- Geneva (NRHEG), are preparing for some new competition.
During the previous academic year, the Gopher Conference announced that Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton (JWP), Kenyon-Wanamingo (KW), Randolph and Triton high schools would join conference at the beginning of the 2021-2022 season.
“We were kind of exploring adding two to four more teams. We’ve been looking at this the past few years,” said Medford high school Activities Director Kevin Werk.
The addition is an upgrade for the conference, which previously consisted of eight teams.
Now, some teams will have to prepare for an additional four games on their schedule.
However, with last year’s fall sports season shortened or even canceled, a longer schedule has been met with open arms by many student-athletes, coaches and administrators alike.
“I think everybody is really ready to go,” said Matt Kellen, the assistant activities director and community ed coordinator at Medford High School. “My daughter’s a senior right now, and they are ready to go play volleyball and have fans in the stands.”
Despite being added into the mix in the 2021-2022 seasons, two expansion high schools are no strangers to the Gopher Conference.
“JWP (Valley Conference) and Randolph (Southeast Conference) used to be in the conference a few years ago and now they’re coming back, so there’s some familiarity there,” said Kellen.
One school looking forward to the expansion is NRHEG because the return of JWP means the return of their annual Golden Brick rivalry game.
On top of pitting old foes against one another again, the new additions will undoubtedly bring some strong competition into an already talented conference.
The KW wrestling program has seen continued success since winning the Section 2A state title in 2016, returning to the state playoffs and advancing to the quarterfinals in 2021.
As for Randolph High School, the Rockets softball team earned themselves a Class A state champions plaque in 2021, completing their season with a perfect 27-0 record.
One of the first teams to get a new look at the expansion schools is Medford, who plays JWP in a scrimmage at 9 a.m. on Saturday.