HENDERSON — The N.C. High School Athletic Association has approved its final draft of a conference realignment for the 2021-22 school year, with Vance County and J.F. Webb set to be a part of the Northern Lakes 2A/3A Athletic Conference.

Vance High Athletic Director Joe Sharrow, who will also serve as the conference president, had been waiting for the NCHSAA to make a decision on the matter, and is now ready to build on existing relationships while simultaneously creating new ones.

“It’s been a long process, but we’re still with the same six schools from the last two drafts,” Sharrow said. “I think this is a good group of schools and we already have solid relationships with some of them and a great competitive rivalry with J.F. Webb, so all of this is very exciting.”

Sharrow said that he, Vice President Ray Noel and the rest of the athletic directors believed that Northern Lakes is an ideal name for the new conference due to their schools being within driving distance of Kerr Lake and Falls Lake.

Joining Vance County and J.F. Webb in the Northern Lakes conference will be Granville Central and South Granville from the Northern Carolina 1A/2A Conference, and Southern Durham, which Vance County has faced multiple times since joining the Big 8 3A Conference in 2019.

The Durham School of the Arts will also be a part of the Northern Lakes Athletic Conference after being aligned with Southern Vance from 2013 to 2017 in the NCC. Rounding out the seven schools in the Northern Lakes Athletic Conference will be Carrboro, coming from the Mid-State 2A Conference.

Although Sharrow has never worked directly with officials at Carrboro High during his career, he has paid close attention to how school has addressed athletics and is confident that its teams will test Vance County athletes every time the two schools meet.

“Carrboro has a very excellent athletic program,” Sharrow said. “Overall, I think they are going to be the strongest athletic program in our conference. They are very good at a lot of different sports like soccer, tennis, swimming and many more. They’re in the same school system as Chapel Hill and East Chapel Hill, so they’ll look a lot like those teams.”

Sharrow believes that basketball is going to be tough for Vance County in the Northern Lakes Athletic Conference, with South Granville and Granville Central coming off two straight years of success while others like J.F. Webb are in the middle of a rebuild with a young roster.

He also intends to have Vance County’s teams take part in a diverse non-conference schedule that will include matchups with Warren County and Roanoke Rapids in football to open up next year. He also has both varsity basketball teams lined up to participate in a Christmas tournament at Bunn.

Regardless of how athletics turn out for Vance County beginning next year, Sharrow is committed to doing what is best for student athletes in the Northern Lakes Athletic Conference, and considers himself fortunate the other athletic directors trust him to make any tough but necessary decisions.

Although high school athletics face a handful of additional challenges in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sharrow is confident that everyone in the conference will be able to work together to ensure that their schools remain some of the best athletically and academically inside the NCHSAA.

“We need to get out of the pandemic first, but the focus is going to be providing opportunities for our kids and making sure that our conference is organized,” Sharrow said. “At the end of the day, it’s all about the kids and we have a good group of athletic directors that are all on the same page with that.”

Details on fall sports schedules for Vance County, J.F. Webb and the other Northern Lakes Athletic Conference schools will be announced at a later date.