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Friday, February 23, 2024
Feb. 23, 2024

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Martinez: Normal means return of All-Region teams

High school sports

By , Columbian Assistant Sports Editor

High school sports returned to normal this fall, or at least close enough to normal.

Teams played full seasons, advanced to state tournaments and championships and every area league selected all-league teams (we hope you enjoyed the Thanksgiving Day display of those all-league teams in print last week).

And another thing that returned is the selection of All-Region teams by The Columbian, something that started last week with girls and boys cross country.

In the next couple of weeks, we will be unveiling All-Region teams in the other fall sports, except boys tennis and boys golf. Those selections will happen after those sports hold their state championships in the spring.

But the other sports — football, volleyball, girls soccer, girls swimming and slowpitch softball — will have All-Region teams unveiled shortly. In fact, this will be the first time we will select an entire All-Region team for slowpitch softball. In previous years, we just selected a player of the year for slowpitch.

That was the same approach we took for every sport last school year, honoring just athletes of the year in each sport.

We decided that the weirdness of the pandemic season — condensed seasons, no state championships, many athletes playing two sports simultaneously — just made it too hard to select All-Region teams.

It was a decision that bothered me all through the summer. I knew it was the right decision, given the strange season and our staff shortages. But it felt odd not to honor our region’s best.

So that’s why I’m glad that feature returns this fall. But it will return to one slight change.

There will be no fan selection piece of the All-Region teams. And that might come as a disappointment to some. The All-Region fan vote was wildly popular, garnering up to 3,000 votes on a single ballot.

It also came with the perception that we were turning our All-Region selection into a popularity contest, and that was never the case.

Still, every time we held a vote, I’d have to explain over and over that it was a three-pronged selection process. The Columbian sports staff made selections. The coaches made their selections. And the fans made their selections. The final team was a combination of those three sets of selections.

But the truth is the fans really didn’t have a huge impact on the final selection.

More often than not, the selections the coaches made and our staff selections were pretty close, maybe differing by two or three players.

And that’s when the fan vote came into play. If the fans vote agreed with a player the coaches picked, that player would make the team. Or if the fans agreed with one of our selections, that player made the team.

Even with that system, there was usually a spot — or sometimes two — that was still a toss up. And in those cases, The Columbian staff had final say.

So this year, to streamline the selection process and to remove any perception of making the selection a popularity contest, we’ve done away with the fan vote.

We hope you understand and still enjoy this very popular feature that celebrates the best in prep sports in Southwest Washington from Castle Rock to White Salmon.