When the University Interscholastic League (UIL) announced Texas’s new district and region alignments on February 1, there were a few big surprises for Spring Branch ISD. The first was that all four of its high schools—Stratford, Spring Woods, Northbrook, and Memorial—would be reunited in the same district, 15-6A, competing against each other as well as Klein ISD’s four high schools. (Stratford and Spring Woods currently play in District 19-5A, while Memorial and Northbrook play in 18-6A.)
But the even bigger surprise was that UIL had moved Spring Branch from Region III, which encompasses most Houston-area school districts—and in which Spring Branch had competed from time immemorial—to Region II, which includes schools as far afield as Austin and Dallas. The Klein, Spring, and Aldine school districts are also moving to Region II.
“We got bumped out of Region III, so now when we go to the playoffs we won’t be playing against schools in Cy-Fair, Katy, HISD, any of those schools that we’ve historically competed against,” said Paige Hershey, the executive director of athletics for Spring Branch ISD. Hershey has worked for the district for over 30 years, all of them in Region III. “We wouldn’t see those teams until we get to the state semi-finals. Instead, we’re going to be playing teams from Austin, Garland, and Longview.”
The UIL divides Texas into four regions, and every two years it announces changes to the district boundaries intended to ensure the regions have roughly the same number of high schools. The problem this year was that Region III, the Greater Houston region, had grown too big. Some districts had to move to another region, and UIL selected Spring Branch as one of them.
“Obviously, this is bigger than us,” Hershey said. “UIL has to take a lot of information into account—they have to look at the whole state of Texas. If one part of the state gets bigger or smaller, that impacts the rest of the state. Sometimes you’re traveling to schools close to you; other times you’re traveling longer distances.”
Because the schools in Spring Branch’s new region are so far-flung, Hershey said that travel expenses for the district’s teams will “significantly” increase: “I’ve shared this with the district, and made them aware of what those expenses could look like. Fortunately, the district is very supportive of all extracurricular and co-curricular activities. They’re aware that this is just how it is—you don’t have a choice about the district you’re put in or the region you’re put in. You just have to adjust.”
But Hershey said there were benefits to the realignment as well. For one thing, the district’s four high schools will once again be able to play each other regularly. “We’re excited about being back together again—that’s certainly a positive. There’s a strong collegial bond between our coaching staffs. They care about each other, even though they play against each other.”
As for Spring Branch’s longtime rivals in the Katy, HISD, and Cy-Fair school districts, well, Spring Branch teams will still have a chance to play them—all they have to do is make it to the state semis.
Think of it as an extra bit of motivation.