Reeths-Puffer will go from the O-K Green Conference to a realigned O-K Black starting with the 2024-25 school year, a move the O-K announced last week. R-P will maintain its current league rivalries with Mona Shores and Muskegon, but the rest of the league will swap out. R-P’s new league mates will be Lowell, Cedar Springs, Greenville, Northview and Kenowa Hills, replacing Zeeland East, Zeeland West, Holland, Union and Wyoming as the conference pursues a more north-south alignment than the east-west alignment of the past few years.

Reeths-Puffer knows it’s an outlier in the O-K — it’s the northernmost and westernmost school in the league. That means their travel situation is different than those of many other O-K schools. Given that reality, the Rockets appear excited about the next stage of the league’s alignment.

“We’re really excited about it,” R-P athletic director Cliff Sandee said. “The creation of those realignments every four years, the goal is to group geography and enrollment...We’re going to have to travel, but one of our coaches was kind enough to Google map the distance to all those places, and we’ll (only) be driving about 27 more miles.”

The slightly increased travel, though, will have a benefit in that R-P will be competing against more similar school districts in terms of approach to athletics and the socioeconomic makeup of the student body.

“The schools we’ll be competing against are very similar schools programmatically, especially in baseball, softball, football and basketball,” Sandee said. “We’re excited about the parity that could provide.”

The Rockets also will see rivalries rekindled with Kenowa Hills and Greenville, who competed against R-P in past alignments of the O-K. Sandee said from a personal perspective, reconnecting with Kenowa Hills, where his late father Richard was a successful coach and where Cliff himself cut his teeth in the profession, will be fun.

In most cases, it’s hard to totally predict where some sports programs will be in a few years, though Cedar Springs has been strong in football in recent years and Northview has been successful in boys basketball. One obvious standout in the new alignment is Lowell’s wrestling program entering the Rockets’ conference. Lowell has won 10 consecutive Division 2 state titles and may be the most dominant program in the state in any sport.

The O-K Black essentially replaces the O-K Green, reversing the change from the last realignment, which took effect in 2020-21. That one erased the Black division; this time the Green is sidelined.