MENDOTA – After a decade participating in the Big Northern Conference, Mendota High School is on the move to a new conference.
MHS will get back together with three former members of the NCIC when it joins the Three Rivers Conference beginning with the 2021-22 school year. The change became possible as soon as next fall after an invitation by the Three Rivers and an early release granted by the other members of the Big Northern. Normally a school has to wait three years before exiting the Big Northern and joining a new conference.
The Mendota High School Board of Education unanimously approved the change in conferences at a special meeting on Nov. 10.
MHS will now renew its rivalry with former NCIC foes – Hall, Princeton and Kewanee – in joining the 14-team Three Rivers Conference. The Three Rivers is divided into two seven-team divisions. With the addition of Mendota, the Rock Division will include Mendota, Hall, Princeton, Kewanee, St. Bede, Bureau Valley and Sterling Newman. The Mississippi Division will be made up of Erie-Prophetstown, Monmouth-Roseville, Sherrard, Orion, Morrison, Taylor Ridge Rockridge and Port Byron Riverdale. Fulton will exit the Three Rivers at the conclusion of the current school year.
In football, schools will play six games within their division and three crossover games. In boys’ and girls’ basketball and volleyball, teams will play home and away games within their division and there will be no mandatory crossovers at this time. In baseball and softball, there will be home and away games within the division and Mendota will play teams in the Mississippi Division once during the season. Wrestling and golf will compete against every school in the conference once, and boys’ and girls’ track will have a conference meet at the end of the regular season.
MHS superintendent Jeff Prusator said he is appreciative of the Big Northern Conference schools and looks forward to getting back together with some old familiar rivals.
“We are very grateful to the schools of the Big Northern Conference for allowing us an opportunity to be a member of the conference,” he said. “We have been very happy to be a member of the BNC. We have enjoyed our experience and believe the schools in the BNC are first-class schools and communities.
“The Three Rivers Conference allows us a great opportunity to be reunited with some of our local rivals that we have decades and decades of tradition with. We are excited for the opportunity and are very thankful to the members of the Three Rivers for the invitation. We feel it is a great situation for our students, parents and community.”
Principal Denise Aughenbaugh noted that MHS’s association with the Big Northern has been a rewarding and positive relationship, and joining the Three Rivers is a great opportunity that better meets the needs and expectations of the students and community.
“Geographically, the division of the new conference membership will allow our students and families to travel less than one hour for the majority of our future activities,” she said. “Moving into the Three Rivers, we are excited to revive some old rivalries and fill the stands at games.
“We look forward to a continued relationship participating in non-conference events with the Big Northern, and the collaboration between the schools and sportsmanship has been great for our students and the community.”
Athletic Director Steve Hanson echoed the sentiments of Prusator and Aughenbaugh in the opportunities that MHS had in the Big Northern and those that lie ahead in the Three Rivers.
“Joining the Three Rivers will be a great opportunity for our student-athletes, parents and community members,” said Hanson. “It is a great fit for MHS and we are very happy for the opportunity to join this conference.
“The Big Northern was very gracious and understanding of our position and I commend the athletic directors for recommending to the principals they allow MHS to exit the conference at the end of this school year. They showed true professionalism during this time. The BNC athletic directors made a recommendation that will benefit the next three years of MHS athletes and beyond, and I am very grateful for that.”
Mendota joined the Big Northern Conference in 2011 in all sports except football. Football became a member of the BNC in 2012.