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'Juggernaut conference' awaits Sparta's Summit arrival


Sparta will not be defending its SWCL championships from last school year in volleyball, boys basketball, girls basketball and softball, what with the Trojans and Lady Trojans joining the Summit Conference.

Effective at the start of the upcoming school year, Sparta’s new conference rivals will include Summit members Conway, Fordland, Gainesville, Hartville, Mansfield, Norwood and Seymour.

“The juggernaut conference is what I call it,” Sparta boys hoops coach Deric Link said.

The Summit indeed has enjoyed great success in recent seasons in boys basketball. Last winter, Mansfield won 26 games, Hartville 25 and Norwood 20. Hartville made it to the Class 2 Final Four. Two years ago, Norwood won the Class 2 state championship. Hartville won back-to-back Class 2 state championships while going 64-2 from 2019-2021.

“It's a basketball conference and so is the SWCL,” Link said. "There’s the same history and tradition in the SWCL. We're moving from one top conference to another top conference.”

Sparta’s road trips will now consist of more bus rides to the east than the west. But the Trojans and Lady Trojans are already acquainted with most of the Summit schools.

In boys basketball, Sparta played Conway, Norwood, Fordland, Hartville and Mansfield last season. The Trojans lost to Mansfield 60-59 in the Sparta Tournament title game.

In girls basketball, the Lady Trojans last season met Seymour, Conway, Gainesville twice, Norwood and Hartville. The Lady Trojans won each contest by a margin in double digits.

The Summit has had a good baseball history. Last spring, Gainesville won 21 games and made it to the Class 2 Final Four.

Sparta’s boys hoops schedule for next winter will see the Trojans still play SWCL members Purdy, Spokane and Crane. In addition to the Summit slate, newcomers on Sparta’s schedule will be Carthage, Forsyth and Marshfield.

Link likes the schedule and expects it to prepare the Trojans for post-season pressure.

“We had some SWCL teams we didn't pick up again, so we had to get creative with how we filled our schedule,” Link said. “Our schedule is going to be much tougher, which is good for us. It's only going to make us better.

“That’s what makes the second half of the season so much fun, the conference opponents and overall chess match for the rest of the season," he added. "It will prepare us for where we want to go. We're trying to make another run.”