The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

June 23, 2014

Heralding a return

St. John officials are excited to have been readmitted to OHSAA after four years away

After four years of not being able to compete in the postseason, St. John will once again have an opportunity to build upon its strong playoff tradition.

Last Wednesday, the school was given the official word by Ohio High School Athletic Association commissioner Dan Ross that it’s application was accepted and that it was once again a full member.

“The decision to rejoin the association was based on Saint John’s growing enrollment and the belief that membership in the organization best serves the needs of Saint John student-athletes,” school president Sister Maureen Burke said via press release. “The mission of the OHSAA of promoting the values of participation in interscholastic athletics as an integral part of a student’s educational experience while promoting academics, the safety of participants, good citizenship and lifelong values as the foundation of interscholastic athletics mirrors the goals of the Herald athletic program.

The OHSAA itself played a role in the school regaining it’s membership.  

“Mr. Ross and Dana Bushang have been really helpful,” Iarocci said. “I’d like to thank Mr. (Dave) Rozzo (the former AD). He started the process It was a two-year process to get back in. They wanted schedules, game results and coaches’ PAVs (People Activity Forms, which are required to coach in the state of Ohio). We were real prepared for them. We had to meet with the (OHSAA) board. We got word (last Wednesday). Mr. Ross called us personally and said, ‘welcome aboard!’”

The school decided to leave the organization four years ago as a way to continue to build on its student body, but it was always in the plan to get back in as quickly as possible. “Quick” is a relative term, however, as the application process is a long one.

“No question,” Iarocci said. “It’s the logical thing to do. It was the right thing to do. Our numbers are climbing again.

“Last year, we were on probation. You have to apply, then you have to be on probation for a year. During that year, you have to follow all OHSAA rules, which we did. Then, you have to go before the board.”

Even after following all of the steps, it isn’t a given a school will be accepted into the OHSAA.

“I know at the time we applied, there were 13 other schools and I know for a fact all of them didn’t get in.

“Less than 25 percent of the schools that apply get accepted. I know of the 13 schools that applied, not many of them got in. If you don’t get in, you get another probation year. Most schools eventually get in, but it could take years to fulfill all the requirements. I’m excited we were able to get it done in one year.”

During its self-imposed exile, St. John was still able to maintain all of its local rivalries.

“Nobody really stayed away from playing us,” Iarocci said. “That being said, in football, teams would have had to stay away from playing us because they wouldn’t get any computer points. We still maintained our schedule (as it had been before we left the OHSAA), but being in the OHSAA will provide us many more opportunities.”

“I’d like to thank all the schools in the area who recognized our tradition and continued to play us without dwelling too much on the last four years.”

The news that St. John was once again a member of the OHSAA came in the same week a big project was getting started at the school. Ground was broken on a new gymnasium Saturday night. It was just one in a number of exciting happenings at the school.

“Obviously, we’re real excited for the return of football in the fall,” Iarocci said. “We’re continuing to build the program. Hopefully, (our teams and individuals) will have a chance to play in the postseason and make some noise there.”   

Word of the school’s happenings had even made it to Columbus.

“As a matter of fact, Mr. Ross told us at the review he knows all the things we’re doing up here in Ashtabula,” Iarocci said. “He said he was hearing a lot of good things. He is fully aware of what’s going on.”

There were a number of reasons it only made sense to once again become an OHSAA school. The biggest of which the Heralds can now concentrate.

“The very simple answer is postseason play, without a doubt,” Iarocci said. “Again, we feel we have a tradition in the OHSAA and while we’re striving for the future, we’ll embrace the past. Being part of the OHSAA is a big part of that.

“We have a lot of teams and individuals who can make a lot of noise come tournament time. I’m excited for them.”

Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.

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