Mid-Penn gives OK for Altoona sports

One step remains for Altoona Area High School athletics to join the Mid-Penn Conference.

The Harrisburg-based league voted Wednesday to accept Altoona as an associate member to begin competing in varsity, junior varsity and freshman football, varsity and junior varsity boys and girls basketball, and varsity and junior varsity boys volleyball next school year.

Altoona needed two-thirds of the 30 schools to say yes, and 20 schools did so on Wednesday in Hershey. Nine schools voted no, and one was absent for the vote.

For the move to be official, the AASD School Board will need to approve it at its next board meeting on Monday, Nov. 13. Altoona School Board president John Donley expressed his support for the Mid-Penn on Wednesday, and Altoona Athletic Council chairman and board member Dick Lockard also said he supports a move to the Mid-Penn.

“We’re pleased,” Altoona athletic director Phil Riccio said. “Pending board approval, our athletic teams will have the chance to compete in an outstanding conference.”

The move would also bring an end to Altoona’s eight-year relationship with the WPIAL in Pittsburgh. Only Altoona’s football program competed in the WPIAL, but AASD administrators recently went on a fact-finding mission on possibly having all of its sports teams join the league.

“We’ve had a great relationship with the WPIAL,” said Riccio, who said he’s been in close contact with WPIAL executive director Tim O’Malley and called him after Wednesday’s Mid-Penn vote. The Mountain Lion football team, however, had trouble staying competitive in the WPIAL, going 24-53 in eight years.

Altoona’s football team competed in the Mid-Penn from 2004-2009 and compiled an overall mark of 27-35. The Lions would be part of the Commonwealth Section of the league with State College, Chambersburg, Carlisle, Central Dauphin, Central Dauphin East, Harrisburg and Cumberland Valley.

Altoona would also have the chance to compete in the District 6 Class 6A football playoffs, which it currently could not as a member of the WPIAL.

Other Altoona sports could follow as members of the Mid-Penn, but those wouldn’t take effect until at least the 2020-21 school year.

The nine Mid-Penn schools that voted against Altoona were Big Spring, Camp Hill, Carlisle, Cedar Cliff, East Pennsboro, Greencastle-Antrim, Red Land and Susquehanna Township, according to pennlive.com.