Leaving a conference can be a very hard thing for a school to do, but sometimes an opportunity is too good to pass up.

That is what happened to the Pierz Pioneers, who make the jump from the Central Minnesota Conference (CMC) to the Granite Ridge Conference (GRC) starting this fall.

“We are excited to compete in the GRC, but it was a very tough decision to move from the CMC as we have created great relationships with all the schools in the CMC,” said Pierz Activities Director Dave Rocheleau. “We have played all the schools in the GRC in the past, so we look to enhance those relationships from here on out.”

Pierz fills the void left by the GRC’s largest school, Becker, and joins Foley, Zimmerman, Albany, Milaca, Mora, St. Cloud Cathedral and neighboring Little Falls among the GRC ranks.

“We are playing some bigger schools, which will make the competition tough, but it also allows us to play full schedules from junior high all the way up through varsity. Our teams also have less travel time, which should allow for more fans to attend away games,” said Pierz head football and baseball coach, Dan Saehr.

And the GRC is happy to have them.

“With Becker leaving our conference, I feel we are very fortunate that Pierz accepted our invitation to join the GRC,” said Little Falls Activities Director Kevin Jordan. “They are a great fit, not only geographically, but competitively as well. We now can look forward to playing them in almost all sports.”

And while it will not be on a regular basis, rivals like Holdingford, Paynesville, Eden Valley-Watkins and Kimball from the CMC will still be on the schedule.

“I think this move is best for all our sports programs as a whole, but we are definitely leaving a very good conference though,” Saehr said. “In my opinion, the Central Minnesota conference is one of the better A/AA conferences in the state.”

Football, which moved away from conferences and to a separate district system a few years ago will remain in its same district. Just about everyone else though will make the shift, including activities such as honor band, Knowledge Bowl and visual arts.

“It was a tough decision to switch conferences, but we are excited to join a very good Granite Ridge conference,” Saehr said. “The conference has many schools who have great traditions in a number of sports.”

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