When Nathan DeBaillie was a teacher at Erie High School, he created the design for the gym floor.
Since Erie is a member of the Three Rivers Conference, the school considered putting TRAC-8 on the floor.
But they decided not to, and it was a good thing, too.
The conference has added Kewanee, and, starting in 2013, will add Orion and five other schools. These additions give the former TRAC-8 a total of 15 members.
The West Central Conference wanted one year’s notice before Orion, Sherrard and Rockridge left.
DeBaillie, now the principal of Orion High School, helped lead his alma mater into the Three Rivers.
“They’re excited,” DeBaillie said. “The new schools are excited. We’ll get to see some schools we haven’t played, Spring Valley Hall and Peru St. Bede, in a lot of things.
“I appreciate the effort you put into it,” Orion school board president Doug Nelson said shortly before the board unanimously approved the move on Wednesday, Jan. 18.
“It’s a great conference with some very nice traditions in all sports,” DeBaillie said. He had not wanted to comment on the move until the Orion board gave its approval.
All of the OHS?coaches supported the move into Three Rivers, the principal told the board. They believe Orion will have great competition.
“It is better for our kids,” board member Larry Atkinson said.
After the collapse of the Olympic Conference, Orion, Sherrard, Rockridge, Monmouth-Roseville and Macomb joined the West Central Conference.
Atkinson said he had not been in favor of going to the WCC, but at the time Orion had no other options.
Orion, Sherrard and Rockridge were the northernmost members, and their teams traveled three hours or more to conference competition in some sports.
Competing in the West Central North division for most sports, Orion round trips to Sherrard were 20 miles; to Rockridge, 50 miles; to Monmouth, 88 miles; and to Macomb, 154 miles.
Playing Illini West in Carthage meant a round trip of 208 miles, often on a school night.
Among the North Division schools, Orion was far and away the smallest.
Orion had about 320 students, while Rockridge had 442; Carthage Illini West, 475; Sherrard, 503; Monmouth-Roseville, 540; and Illini Macomb, 607. The average enrollment of Orion’s conference opponents was 513.
The Three Rivers Conference will split into North and South divisions for football, with Orion, Sherrard, Rockridge, Kewanee, Princeton, Spring Valley Hall and Peru St. Bede in the South Division.
Erie, Prophetstown, Fulton, Riverdale, Morrison, Sterling Newman, Amboy and Bureau Valley will be in the North Division.
Schools will fill out their football schedules with teams from the other division, DeBaillie said.
Three Rivers schools had joined other schools in the Big Rivers Conference for football only, and DeBaillie said the Big Rivers name will be dropped.
Page 2 of 3 - In the South Division, the average enrollment of Orion opponents will be 474, about 40 less than in the West Central North.
St. Bede has 295 students; Hall, 401; Kewanee, 525; and Princeton, 675.
Round trips are shorter, too. Instead 104 miles for an average road trip in the West Central North, the Orion Chargers will have 92 miles on average in the Three Rivers South.
It’s 60 miles for a round trip to Kewanee, 120 miles to Princeton, 150 miles to Hall and 154 miles to St. Bede.
“It will be easier to get the community to go to away games,” board member Peter Nedved said.
So far, the Three Rivers’ North and South divisions are only for football, DeBaillie told the school board.
Officials are not sure what will happen with other sports. The Three Rivers will have either 14 or 15 schools depending on the activity, since Erie and Prophetstown co-op in some sports and field separate teams in other sports.
Soccer will not be a conference sport, DeBaillie said. Only three WCC?schools (Orion-Sherrard, Monmouth-Roseville and Macomb) offered soccer.
The same number of Three Rivers schools — Orion-Sherrard, Hall and Princeton — will offer it.
Sherrard and Rockridge school boards received the same recommendation in favor of joining the Three Rivers, DeBaillie said.
Going to the Three Rivers Conference was proposed four years ago, DeBaillie said, but the conference was not ready to accept so many new schools.
“I can’t say why,” DeBaillie said. “Probably the timing. It’s a process they had to work through.”
Meanwhile, the WCC was ready to take all five of the former Olympic Conference schools. At the time, Orion, Sherrard and Rockridge wanted to stay with Monmouth-Roseville and Macomb.
Orion began competing in the WCC in the fall of 2010, and the Chargers are halfway through what will be a three-year membership in the conference.
The only negative of the move to Three Rivers is losing conference competition with Monmouth-Roseville and Macomb, DeBaillie said.
Often conference championships were on the line in those games.
Orion will continue scheduling games with Macomb and Monmouth-Roseville, DeBaillie said.
Comparing the Three Rivers to the West Central, DeBaillie told the board, “The values that our school and their school share are a little more in common.”
That’s attributable to the location of Orion and the Three Rivers schools in northern Illinois, while the West Central schools are farther south in western Illinois.
Traditions shared with Three Rivers schools include playing Homecoming football games on Friday night, with pep rallies the night before.
Three Rivers has conference band and choir concerts, and the schools are interested in a conference art show.
“They see this as a way to strengthen their conference, by adding Orion, Sherrard, Rockridge, Princeton and St. Bede, DeBaillie said.
Page 3 of 3 - “We do a lot with those schools anyway,” DeBaillie said. Orion plays six of the original eight schools in volleyball and basketball, he said, and the Chargers play seven of the eight schools in baseball and softball.
“A lot of relationships already are established,” DeBaillie said.
Like Orion, Princeton has a strong volleyball tradition, DeBaillie told the board.
The past three state champions in Class 2A football all came from the Three Rivers Conference, DeBaillie said. Morrison won in 2009 and 2011 and Newman in 2010.
Three Rivers began in 1976, the same year as the Olympic Conference, DeBaillie told the board.