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Harrisburg joins ESD Conference, beginning in 2013-14

Harrisburg is expanding the Eastern South Dakota Conference.

On Monday night, the Harrisburg school board unanimously approved the invitation to join the ESD Conference, beginning in the 2013-14 school year.

"We feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to be a part of the ESD," Harrisburg Activities Director Scott VanDerMillen said, "not only for our teams, but for our parents, our coaches and our community. The ESD is a long-respected conference that is very successful, and that's because of the people in the other eight communities."

Other schools in the ESD are Mitchell, Brandon Valley, Yankton, Huron, Pierre, Watertown, Aberdeen Central and Brookings.

Harrisburg will be a member of the conference in all sports. Initially, the school received an invitation to the conference in football only, but the school was looking for a bigger offer.

At an annual ESD athletic directors meeting in March, the conference decided to extend a full-membership offer to Harrisburg, which was accepted Monday night.

"We're excited in the ESD to have Harrisburg join the conference," said ESD President Dan Whalen, who is also the activities director in Pierre. "We think it's a great fit. It's a school system that's growing and is soon to be similar in size and also competing in double-A in all athletics. That fits for them very well, as well as for us. We look forward to developing a competitive relationship with Harrisburg for a long time to come."

Currently, Harrisburg is a Class A school, while all of the other teams that are members of the ESD are Class AA. But recent increases in the school's average daily memberships (ADM) -- based upon a school's enrollment in grades 9, 10 and 11 -- is telling ESD ADs that Harrisburg will move up to Class AA in 2013-14. Recently, a South Dakota High School Activities Association meeting determined Class AA will consist of schools with ADMs of 450 or higher.

By the time Harrisburg becomes a member of the ESD, its ADM will be above 450, Whalen said.

"We have to plan ahead, and that's why we are where we are," Whalen said. "A year away gives us time to plan and get schedules ready and bring them in and have them hit the ground running in 2013-14."

Added VanDerMillen: "It's a good day for Harrisburg in the fall of 2013, when we start competing in that conference on a nightly basis in all of our activities."

The last time the ESD changed was during a transition period from 1990 to 1992, when Brandon Valley joined. In those years, Brandon Valley had some sports move into the conference before it finally became a full member in the 1991-92 school year.

Brandon Valley Athletic Director Randy Marso said he's pleased to see Harrisburg enter the conference, which is in its 84th year of existence.

"(Harrisburg) is a lot like we were back then," said Marso, who also serves at the conference secretary. "We were moving up, we had to get out of the conference we were in and we were looking for a home. The ESD took us in, and we've loved it ever since. I think and hope Harrisburg has that same experience."