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Lehighton to join Colonial League

Lehighton Area School District’s athletic teams will have a new place to call home in the fall of 2024.

Board members in the district voted unanimously Monday night to become a full-time member of the Colonial League after playing in the Schuylkill League since 2014-15.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for us and obviously we have the experience of going from the Mountain Valley to the Schuylkill League, which will help us with the transition,” Lehighton Athletic Director Kyle Spotts said after the meeting. “It was hard to dismiss the fact that the Colonial League provided an opportunity for all of our student athletes. There were three programs (field hockey, tennis and competitive cheerleading) that the Schuylkill League unfortunately doesn’t have and it will be an exciting opportunity for the athletes in those sports to have a chance to play for a league title.”

Lehighton High School Principal Sue Howland said the district is in a unique spot geographically at the top end of the Lehigh Valley, but also not completely in the Schuylkill region. More Lehighton students and families, she said, relate to the Lehigh Valley through club teams and even their athletic trainers, many of whom are based in that area.

“I’m an old school girl and I think our kids will be able to establish those kinds of rivals that we never really did in the Schuylkill League because it just wasn’t really part of our existence,” Howland said. “You look at rivalries with Palmerton, Northern Lehigh, Northwestern Lehigh, and even Notre Dame Green Pond where you get to go down and play in the old gym. I think it’s going to be very exciting for our students to be a part of all that.”

Like Spotts, Howland said a major factor in Lehighton’s consideration of the Colonial League’s invitation was taking that teams that were previously independent and allowing them to play a full league schedule.

“It’s not just league championships,” Howland said, “but they can also now earn first or second team league honors and everything that comes with playing in a league. At the end of the day, the athletes should have a chance to be honored for their achievements and those doors will be opened now in those particular sports.”

Some of the schools Lehighton will compete against, such as neighboring Palmerton, will renew an old Centennial League rivalry. While the Indians and Bombers normally play in every sport anyway, those contests will take on extra meaning.

“I know those kinds of games have the people in the community excited,” Spotts said. “We have some history there with a lot of those schools. We tried to get into the Colonial League 20-some years ago, but the timing just wasn’t right with that. We really appreciate this school board taking a look at the opportunities presented to our athletes and making a decision based on that.”

Jim Thorpe, who like Lehighton made a bid to join the Colonial League in 1997, has also been invited to make the jump from the Schuylkill League.

Officials in Jim Thorpe said its school board will consider the invitation at its February board meeting.