JTHS Athletics announce conference changes

Kyle Kopchak, Sports Editor

“We came, we saw, and we conquered.” Coming off one of the most successful fall sports seasons in Joliet West history, it was announced that Joliet West would be leaving the Southwest Suburban Conference for the Southwest Prairie Conference come the 2016-17 season. The South West Prairie Conference is home to: Oswego, Oswego East, Plainfield Central, Plainfield East, Plainfield North, Plainfield South, Romeoville, and Minooka. Joliet Township has been a member of the South West Suburban Conference since 2006 after leaving the Inter-Conference Association. The reason for the conference change now is to eliminate the long travel distances that the Joliet schools face. It is important to remember that in the eyes of IHSA participants are students first and athletes second, and long travel times can affect students study habits and overall grades.

Mr. Millsaps said the conference change will affect Joliet West in two major ways. Firstly, Mr. Millsaps stated, “From a travel standpoint and a local standpoint, we are really excited. The big thing is the local element. Kids will be playing against kids they grew up playing with and against. It will be good for our fan base, too. Parents and fans will be able to make it to the games and be home at a reasonable hour.” Secondly he reiterated that, “In terms of how this will affect our teams; we play most of the SPC teams already in most sports. I don’t envision this move to have a major affect. Joliet West Athletics have improved every year I have been here. I expect us to continue to build to improve in each sport to make JWHS athletics a major factor in conference and post-season games.”

Additionally, each Joliet West sports team will be affected differently by the conference change. For example, the Joliet West cheer team is coming off two top ten finishes at state over the last three years and a 4th place finish last year. Coach Diforti contributes her team’s success to the highly competitive SWSC, “The SWSC is made up of the top cheerleading programs in the State of Illinois.  Because of this, our program has always been pushed to stay competitive, and I believe has been a contributing factor to our success.  The SPC is not as competitive in our sport, so unfortunately, it is not the most ideal situation but we will continue to work hard to stay competitive.”

Furthermore, the Joliet West football program views the change in conference as bitter sweet. After qualifying for the IHSA playoffs for the first time in school history, the football program is making strides in the right direction. The SWSC is full of dominant teams that make it one of the most competitive conferences in the state. On the other hand, the SPC is a strong football conference but not as dominant as the SWSC. Coach Aubry said, “I believe moving into the Southwest Prairie Conference will put us in a position to be able to compete for a football conference title every year.” This will be a great opportunity for the football program to keep moving forward. However, with the team changing conferences it will lose out on the opportunity to take some revenge on our former foes in the SWSC.

In the big picture changing conferences doesn’t affect our overall goal as a school, winning the right way. Every one of our Joliet West athletes strives for success on and off the field, and nothing will change as our school enters the Southwest Prairie Conference. All of our sports teams will face new challenges and adversity, but we are ready to take on the Southwest athletic conference come 2016.