CRAIG — The landscape in northwest Missouri high school sports is changing as smaller schools arrange new athletics cooperative agreements.
The state's first athletics cooperative for all sports, between Craig and Fairfax, will end after this school year. Next year, Fairfax and Tarkio will combine to form East Atchison for football and baseball, while Craig's program will be absorbed into Mound City teams.
And in the past six months, Cainsville and Ridgeway joined forces to create East Harrison athletics, while Union Star will send athletes to compete for King City in football, softball and boys and girls golf, The St. Joseph News-Press reported Thursday.
The Craig/Fairfax cooperative, which started six years ago, ended this year's football season with just 14 players and a 1-9 record.
"It was a good deal co-oping, and it helped us dynamically change," said Fairfax principal Dustin Barnes. "Nothing will be solid; there will be fluid situations, and our situation changed. It made sense to go these directions, but we are parting on good terms."
"When we started with this years ago, we had eight boys in our whole high school," Barnes said. "That is why we couldn't field a basketball team. It made sense with Craig. They had numbers with not many girls, but they had the boys."
The numbers have changed in Fairfax's favor in recent years, and with the change in cooperative agreements, Fairfax will have a boys and girls basketball team next winter for the first time since 2007-08, while maintaining its volleyball program.
Barnes said it is possible more sports will merge between Fairfax and Tarkio, including golf and track and field.
Only four boys at the Craig high school chose to compete in athletics this year, superintendent Mike Leach said, and sending players to Mound City made the most sense, rather than driving an extra 18 miles to Tarkio to be part of the East Atchison co-op. And he hopes Craig students will have more opportunities at Mound City, such as cross country.