In conjunction with action approved 18 months ago, St. Joseph High School in Santa Maria will move to the California Interscholastic Federation’s Central Section for athletic competition, beginning this fall.

The move for St. Joseph and 12 other Central Coast high school sports programs out of the CIF-Southern Section will allow the respective schools to compete without incurring the high travel costs necessitated by trips (that, in some cases, were 100 to 200 miles from their home bases), and to compete for more titles.

The Central Section — whose officials approved the move unanimously in January 2017 — consists of 102 schools, primarily in the San Joaquin Valley. The Southern Section has included approximately 600 schools in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

In addition to St. Joseph, the section-transferring high schools include Orcutt Academy, Pioneer Valley, Righetti and Santa Maria (in northern Santa Barbara County), and Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Mission Prep (the only other Catholic high school involved), Morro Bay, Nipomo, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo and Templeton (in San Luis Obispo County).

The PAC 8 and Los Padres Leagues in which the 13 schools have primarily competed have been realigned, based on the sport and “competitive equity” within each sport. This fall, St. Joseph will participate in the Mountain League (for teams with most recent success) in 11-man football, cross country and girls’ tennis, and in the Ocean League (teams with less recent success) in girls’ volleyball and golf and boys’ water polo.

Each school is also assigned a division in each sport for determining playoff participation, as in the Southern Section. In 11-man football, for example, St. Joseph — led this year by new head coach Jose “Pepe” Villaseñor, former record-setting receiver at St. Bonaventure in Ventura — will compete in Division 1.