Berks Christian School and West-Mont Christian Academy seem like a perfect pair.
Even their mascots make a terrific combo.
The two schools will compete together in athletics starting next fall with student-athletes from West-Mont Christian Academy in Pottstown and Berks Christian in Birdsboro participating together as the Alliance Christian School District.
They’ll go by the Gryphons — a combination of the schools’ two nicknames Wings and Lions.
The two schools share some staff and their fine arts departments have worked together in the last three or four years for activities like musicals.
This school year some of their middle school teams combined to fill rosters.
Next fall, will be the launch of the Alliance Christian athletic program.
“Both of us were kind of on the lower side as far as numbers and kind of wondering, ‘Are we going to be able to field this team?’ going into a season,” Berks Christian athletic director Ben Smither said. “Once that whole district conversation started, we started talking about one unified athletic program with both campuses acting as feeder schools for the program.
“We decided to launch under a new name this fall. Instead of it being like our Berks students are going over to West-Mont to play soccer or West-Mont’s girls are coming over here to play volleyball, it’s going to be like, ‘Here’s this new thing that we’re doing together.’ ”
West-Mont and Berks Christian each total about 40 high school students. Due to low numbers, both schools had to drop programs during the last several seasons.
During its first school year of participating, Alliance Christian is set to compete in boys soccer and girls volleyball in the fall, boys and girls basketball in the winter and track & field, girls soccer and baseball in the spring.
In their press release announcing the change, the schools said they will explore opportunities for adding archery, bowling, boys volleyball, cross country, field hockey, golf, tennis and wrestling.
“At West-Mont, we lost a couple sports over the last three, four, five years,” West-Mont athletic director Charis Felton said. “We used to have wrestling, we used to have girls field hockey. We hope that if not those sports, we bring others to our kids to give them more opportunities to explore different things.”
“That’s something I’m really looking forward to,” Smither said, “being able to offer more sports for our students and being able to know that we’re going to have the numbers to field more opportunities for students to be able to play.”
Alliance Christian will compete in the Commonwealth Christian Athletic Conference and in District 3 at the Class 1A level. Berks Christian was previously a member of both.
PIAA affiliation is something new for West-Mont, which previously was a member of the Atlantic Coast Christian Athletic Conference.
“More recognition for our athletes, playing against some bigger schools and then the opportunity to go to districts and go to states if we get the right team is something that’s an exciting part for me because I haven’t been a part of the PIAA,” Felton said.
While the who, what and when have been figured out, there is still some logistical planning to be figured out like where each team will play next season with two campuses to choose from.
“We have a plan,” Felton said. “We’re still working on that, but our campuses seem to point us in a specific direction with our outdoor fields at West-Mont — a baseball field, a nice soccer field with lights — and then Berks has a new gym floor.”
Throughout the process, Felton and Smither were unable to find anything to model the Alliance Christian athletic program after.
They said while schools have used cooperative agreements in particular sports before, there weren’t examples of two distinct schools organizing as one.
“On some level we kind of feel like we’re in pioneering territory here,” Smither said. “It’s simultaneously exciting and scary I guess if we’re being honest.”
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