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Riverside Military Academy president praises GHSA's 'rational decision' for reclassification
Eagles athletic teams will play in Region 8-A during 2016-18 reclassification period
Lakeview's Daniel Fadool (5) guards Riverside's Davis Short (44) Friday during a Dec. 18 game at Lakeview Academy in Gainesville. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Riverside Military Academy president Col. James H. Benson praised Wednesday the “rational decision” that the Georgia High School Association took last week in allowing the school to switch to Region 8-A for the upcoming reclassification cycle of 2016-18.

Following a lengthy appeal from Benson in Macon, the Georgia High School Association’s Executive Committee voted to drop the Eagles from Class AA to Class A.

The GHSA had originally proposed to push Riverside to Class AAAA, where the school would have been competing against perennial powers such as Blessed Trinity and Marist, as well as several schools who boast much higher enrollment numbers.

“It was a long meeting, and it was draining,” said Benson, who will retire this June after seven years as president. “But they were very generous with their conclusions and supported our appeals.”

According to the minutes of the Jan. 13 meeting at the Macon Centreplex, Benson’s appeal was the only one approved by the executive committee.

Following Benson’s remarks, the reclassification committee later presented an amended plan to the executive committee, which was as originally published, but with the exception of moving Riverside from Region 7 in Class AAAA to Region 8 in Class A. The motion passed 41-13, with four absent.

A substitute motion to place Riverside back in Class AA failed with 38 votes of “no” and only 16 votes of “yes.”

Buford athletic director and executive committee member Dexter Wood said the move was based on competitiveness.

Riverside hosts 429 students – 96.6 percent of the school’s student body – from out of the district, including many international-based students.

“Riverside is maybe the most unique school in the GHSA,” said Wood. “They made a good presentation about that in terms of enrollment, how they have to recruit students to a military school like that, the investment that it requires. The transition of many students, in and out, is unmatched by any other school.”

Had Riverside moved up a classification, Benson said it would have been “unfair” on the school’s athletics teams. The Eagles moved back to playing in the GHSA in 2008 following six seasons in the Georgia Independent Schools Association.

Riverside will now join 11 other teams in Region 8-A, including Lakeview Academy, Commerce, Towns County, Athens Academy, Athens Christian, George Walton, Hebron Christian, Prince Avenue Christian, Providence Christian Academy, Tallulah Falls School and Woody Gap.

“It was a day that ended in our favor,” said Benson. “It will serve Riverside well for years to come.”

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