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2013 Year in Review: Park duped by Metro East Conference

A four-year attempt to join a new conference came to a bitter end in 2013 after Park had the rug pulled out from under it by the newly formed Metro East Conference in the 11th hour.

Because of decreasing enrollment, shifting demographics and a hope for better competitive balance, Park discussed leaving the Suburban East Conference since 2009.

In June of 2013 eight area high schools extended an invitation to Park to leave the Suburban East — its home since the 2001-02 season — and join them in the formation of a new conference. Those schools included Hastings, Henry Sibley, Hill-Murray, Mahtomedi, North St. Paul, Simley, South St. Paul and Tartan high schools.

At the end of August — just days before Park was ready to gain District 833 School Board approval to leave the Suburban East and officially join the new conference — something changed and Park was “uninvited” by the Metro East.

Roughly a month after being told it had been denied entry, Park was officially rejected by the Metro East with a 4-4 vote at a meeting on Sept. 18.

Administration at Park, most Park coaches and many community members felt the newly formed Metro East was a better fit for their school than the Suburban East, which made the Metro East’s decision to deny Park’s entry to the new conference a “hard pill to swallow,” according to Park Activities Director Phil Kuemmel.

“The thing that stings the most is, going back to June, we were invited to that conference,” Kuemmel said after the meeting. “They invited us and then as we went through our process I kept them informed of our process and then at the very, very end of the process they decided they didn’t want us anymore. That’s the hardest pill to swallow right there.”

Hastings, North St. Paul, Tartan and Hill-Murray all voted to include Park, while Simley, South St. Paul, Henry Sibley and Mahtomedi voted to exclude Park. In the time since Park’s denial, St. Thomas Academy was placed in the Metro East by the Minnesota State High School League.

According to Kuemmel, some of the Metro East schools were afraid Park was too big. With 1,656 students (according to the 2012-13 Minnesota State High School League Directory of Member Schools) Park would have had one of the largest enrollments in the conference, but very similar to North St. Paul (1,671), Tartan (1,581), Hastings (1,452) and Henry Sibley (1,201).

-Patrick Johnson

Patrick Johnson
Patrick Johnson has been the South Washington County Bulletin’s sports editor since 2008. He reports on and oversees coverage of high school and amateur sports in south Washington County and Woodbury. Prior to joining the Bulletin, Johnson worked for other Twin Cities suburban newspapers. He is a University of Minnesota graduate.
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