The Early Lead: Perry joins the Heart of Iowa Conference
By BRANDON HURLEY
The Heart of Iowa Conference welcomes a familiar foe as the next academic year nears, while Greene County gains a heated rival.
The Perry High School Bluejays join the local fray after spending the last several years in the Raccoon River Conference.
Perry previously was a member of the Raccoon River Conference, along with other 3A teams such as ADM, Carroll, Boone, Ballard, and many other central Iowa schools.
Transition seems to be a common theme between the two conferences, with each in a constant state of flux.
Gilbert and North Polk fled the 2A-heavy HOIC for the RRC prior to last season, while West Marshall joined the HOIC last year. Perry’s arrival this coming fall bumps the HOIC’s member count up to a much more robust eight teams, which makes regular season basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball more enjoyable for all involved, with a guaranteed seven to 14 conference games each year, depending on the sport.
Perry’s enrollment numbers remain rather on par with other mid-sized schools at 422 (the 72nd largest school in Iowa, grades 9-11) per the 2021-22 data used by the Iowa High School Athletic Association, but their sports performance has suffered over the last several years.
Prior to Perry’s addition, Nevada was the HOIC’s largest school due to an enrollment of 345 (99th) while Saydel slides in at 324. Greene County is further down the list at 252, the 130th largest school in the state, grades 9-11.
Despite a larger pool of student athletes, Perry has struggled with athletic success recently. The Bluejays baseball team lost all 25 of its games this summer, which extended their streak of disaster to 28 games dating back to the 2020 season. In fact, Perry baseball has won just two total games in the last three seasons combined, tallying 63 total losses across that span. The Bluejays have not recorded a winning baseball season since the 2015 summer, a stretch of seven years.
The Perry boys’ basketball team has been the epitome of disaster as well, having lost 20 straight games as well as 31 of their last 32. The Bluejays were winless this past winter and also failed to win a game during the 2018-19 winter. PHS has not had a winning basketball season since the 2016-17 season.
The PHS softball team has enjoyed significantly more success as of late, tallying 53 total wins during across a two-year span from 2016 to 2017. Since that stretch, the lady Bluejays have won just 16 total games in the following four years, including just three wins a summer ago.
The girls’ basketball team is in a state of struggle as well, compiling a record of 2-20 last winter, having only won 14 total games in the last four years.
Soccer is where the Bluejays have seen a little more recent success, tallying winning records in eight of the last 10 seasons for the boys, including four state tournament appearances in 2014 (which they placed second), 2015, 2017 and 2018.
The girls program last posted a winning record in 2018, completing a string of three straight successful years.
The Bluejays also typically have consistent success in track and field and wrestling, contending for titles each year.
And of course, Greene County is rather familiar with PHS, having won the Cowbell Trophy three straight years in football.
It’s safe to say, Perry is a welcome addition to the HOIC, adding more depth to the conference while giving the Rams and others a more geographically centric school to compete with.