Should Relays Count Double?

John Brumund-Smith Coaching Blogs, Illinois HS Cross Country, Illinois HS Track & Field, Opinion 24 Comments

Track & Field is often described as an individual sport with a team aspect. The objectivity of our sport is one of its greatest aspects. Want to know who’s the fastest? Race. Want to know who can jump the farthest? Measure it. Want to know who has the best team? Uhhhh. That is much harder to tell, and depends on an incredible number of factors.

Just this year, my team at Lake Forest ran in dual meets, standard invitationals, ABC invitationals, frosh/soph invitationals, relay meets, and invitationals that also scored JV relays. Until we got to the championship meets, not one of our invitationals, indoors or out, had the same schedule of events or scored the meet the same way. Part of that is the draw of our sport: it takes all kinds.

In our crazy sport we also have meets just for the distance runners, just for the pole vaulters, just for three relays. Some meets do not even bother keeping team scores. The events themselves are the draw, and keeping team scores would just muddle things up.

But ultimately, we care how the team does. Winning an invite is fun. Getting plaques is fun. Earning a trophy at the State Championships? I don’t know any coach who isn’t striving for one. But are we scoring the IHSA State Championships the correct way? Could doubling the points in the relays help determine a more “true” State Champion?

Note: I realize I am not the ideal person to present on whether or not relays should count double. I have never coached a high school track team in contention for a trophy at State. This article is largely meant to start a discussion. Please comment below.


Ben Kuepers

Ben Kuepers scored 34 points by himself to single-handedly earn Cuba City the runner-up trophy at the 1996 WIAA D2 State Championships. Scott Wick (yellow shoes) won three events to help Sugar River win the team title.

In 1996, Ben Kuepers of Cuba City (WI) won the runner-up trophy at the Wisconsin Division 2 Track & Field Championships by himself. He won the Triple Jump and the High Jump, finished second in the 110m Hurdles and third in the Long Jump to score 34 points for his team. He was the only athlete from Cuba City competing at the meet. The State Champion team that year, Sugar River, had only two athletes at the meet. Scott Wick won the 110m Hurdles, 300m Hurdles and 200m Dash; Ben O’Brien took second in the 3200m and third in the 1600m. Wisconsin only gives two trophies per division. A total of three athletes contributed to the two trophies in D2.

Two people, of course, do not make up a team. One person certainly doesn’t. Babatunde Ridley won four events for Carlinville at the 1996 IHSA Class A State Championships to score 40 points. Two of his teammates added six more to given Carlinville a total of 46 points and the team title. Second place had 31 points, which means Babatunde Ridley would have captured the team State Championship all by himself.

The performances mentioned above are noteworthy because they are rare. While seeing amazing individual performances is no doubt memorable, I hope we can all agree that just a couple individuals should not be honored with a team State Championship.

“I believe all championship programs focus on relay excellence.  Top programs have depth.  Depth creates relays.  Bad programs may get lucky and have one or two elite athletes.  Great programs have dominant relays.” – Tony Holler

Tony Holler, whose teams have won 3 state titles and 8 state trophies, believes relays should count double. In his own words, “I believe all championship programs focus on relay excellence.  Top programs have depth.  Depth creates relays.  Bad programs may get lucky and have one or two elite athletes.  Great programs have dominant relays.” To make this easy, let’s show a simple pro/con list for having the relays count as double at the State Championships.

Pro

  1. Relays are more reflective of team depth
  2. A few stellar athletes will be less likely to take home a “team” trophy
  3. Relays focus on the team aspect of the sport

All three of these basically are the same general point. Four athletes contribute to a relay, while only one contributes to an individual event. If we are truly trying to determine a “team” championship, then more athletes should be contributing to the points. Doubling relay points rewards the deeper teams. Then again, scoring to 20 instead of nine would be a great way to add depth to the team trophy hunt as well. Swimming scores to 12. In Wisconsin, track scores to eight and swimming scores to 16! We’ll talk more about swimming in a little bit (and more about Wisconsin as well).

Con

  1. Less impressive individual race performances (even during the regular season)
  2. Larger teams now have an even larger advantage
  3. Sprint schools will have an even bigger advantage as well

Something has to give. If you double relay points, more teams are going to load up the relays. That means less top athletes in the individual events, and not just at the State meet. Changes at Sectionals and State always trickle down to the regular season. How many outdoor invites did you go to this year that ran sprint prelims? Hopefully none, the IHSA got that rule right. If relays count double at State, many invites, even conferences, will change their format to have relays count double. Obviously each coach makes his or her own decisions, but doubling relay points at State will affect individual events all season long.

East St. Louis, enrollment 1414, is one of the smallest schools in AAA. They are of course our 2016 IHSA Class AAA State Track & Field Champions, and would have won by a wider margin had relays been doubled. But that does not hide the fact that the bigger schools are the main ones that benefit from doubling relay points. It should be easier to find four studs at a school with 3500 kids than from a school with 1500 kids.

The third con is the biggest. Right now, the State meet is weighed heavily toward the speed events. There are only four “distance” events in Track & Field. If we double relay points, we are making it even easier for the sprint schools to win trophies, since three of the four relays are sprint relays (some may argue that the 4x800m is basically a sprint relay also). The flip side to that, of course, is that the distance runners get their own sport. Win a Cross Country trophy in the fall, and understand that the spring may be weighed against you.

York

Traditional distance power York always has a great crowd at the State Championships. Their improved sprint/jump crew helped them win State as a team in 2014. York scored 30 points in the sprints/jumps and 10 points in the distance events.

You know what would make it easier for the distance runners to contribute to a team trophy? Eliminate the prelims. Wisconsin does not run prelims in the 800m, 1600m or 4x800m. Can you imagine the Torpy twins tripling up in the 4x800m, 800m and 1600m? At that same Wisconsin State meet I mentioned above (1996), Madison East’s future Olympian Gabe Jennings won the 800m, 1600m and 3200m in Division 1.

Two good comparisons

Swimming

In Illinois, like in most states, relays count double in swimming. However, no two sports are created equal, so we have to talk about the relevant differences between Swimming & Diving and Track & Field. Both sports allow four events per athlete, but in swimming each athlete is only allowed two individual events. That makes the relays matter even more, so having the relays count as double makes perfect sense.

Something else swimming does, semi-officially, is give out National Dual Meet Team Ranking certificates. The NISCA uses their own power point tables to determine the strength of your team in a dual meet setting. Of course, you have to belong to the NISCA to be included in such rankings. Most teams do not bother to pay the memberships, so the rankings are fun but ultimately do not mean much.

Minnesota

Minnesota holds a “True Team” State Championships on a different weekend than the regular State Championships. Both give team trophies. The winner at each True Team Sectional (where they score to every place) advances to the State True Team Championships, with the runner-up team advancing as a “wild card.” Teams get two entries per event in 1A and 2A, and three entries per event in 3A (regular state meet only has two divisions, True Team has three). Sounds great until you see what their schedule looks like. Here is a typical schedule from this year.

Wed, 5/11 – True Team Sectional

Tues, 5/17 – Conference Championships

Fri, 5/20 – State True Team Championships

Tues 5/31 – MSHSL Sectional Day 1

Thurs, 6/2 – MSHSL Sectional Day 2

Fri, 6/10 – MSHSL State Championship Prelims

Sat, 6/11 – MSHSL State Championship Finals

How does a solid month of championship meets sound to you? How does a State meet four days after your Conference meet sound? How about two State Championships 22 days apart? Obviously the State True Team Championship definitely does a better job of determining the “real” state team champion, but there is a reason Minnesota is the only state with such a meet.

A more logical proposal in Illinois would be to use our current Sectionals to determine the teams at the State True Team Championships. We could keep the schedule exactly as it is, but add the State True Team Championships the week after our current State Championships. Take each of the Sectional champions and have some sort of a system to determine some wild card teams (I would suggest throwing all the performances from the runner-up teams into a list, scoring out that list, and taking the next 4-5 best teams). You know what? Let’s expand on this proposal.

Illinois State Championship and True Team State Championship

This first point is destined for a longer article, but why not allow the athletes to hit their State auto mark at any time during the season? If you run a 3:21.35 in the 4x400m Relay at your first outdoor invite, you can relax a little knowing that those four athletes have a spot at State. Obviously the times would have to be FAT. Yes, there would be issues with standardizing the horizontal jumps (low pits), high jump (sagging bars) and the rest of the field events. But those issues are for later. Right now we’re assuming we have figured all that out, and your marks from any invitational can qualify for State. Even if you have three people on your team who hit the mark! It’s ridiculous how we only allow two people per team in each event. This proposal fixes that.

Illinois produces some of the best individual and relays in the nation. Here is Evan Jager as a junior anchoring Jacobs to a State 4x800m Relay record that would stand for ten years.

Illinois produces some of the best individuals and relays in the nation. Here is Evan Jager as a junior anchoring Jacobs to a State 4x800m Relay record that would stand for ten years. They set a State record and this is how close it was with a lap to go!

Now that teams have a lot of pressure off of them, we can have a true Sectional Championship (rather than a straight-up State qualifying meet). Yes, some athletes will not have hit their mark yet and will have to qualify at Sectionals. No plan is perfect. But many athletes will not have to rest for one event in order to qualify in another. Want to keep a kid out of the 4x400m in order to score more points in the 200m? Go ahead. Got a distance runner who has hit the auto in the 1600m, but also wants to score points for his team in the 800m? Put him in both. This will give us a better reflection of the best team at Sectionals because…we are taking the Sectional champions to the True Team State Championship in two weeks!

As mentioned a few paragraphs earlier, we are also taking some wildcard teams, but are being objective about it. Take all the runner-ups, enter their marks from Sectionals, score out a meet, figure out who the next best teams are. The top five in AA and AAA will qualify, plus the next two in A. That way we have 16 teams on each level.

Hold the A, AA and AAA True Team State Championships at different sites if you like. Make it a one-day meet. No prelims. Score to all 32 places (or just to 16, but make it deep). Want to switch your lineup from Sectionals? Go ahead! Two entries per individual event, one in the relays. Everybody has fun. We determine a “real” state champion team.

– – – – –

Or we could just double the points in the relays.

Have a better idea? Comment below. You can follow Lake Forest Track & Field on Twitter at @LFHStrack.

 

 

 

Comments 24

  1. True Team Championship

    We SHOULD NOT have a team championship until we fix these sectionals, ALL SECTIONALS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL! The same occur in multiple IHSA sports, in hoops all the city powers are lumped together, in wrestling and baseball all the traditional powers are grouped together, in Track the state powers are stacked into 2 or 3 sectionals. A fourth place team at one sectional could win a sectional in another part of the state. For track we need to add common sense to assignments and/or update the map. What map are they using when schools five minutes apart are sent in two different directions? How does a Chicago team end up near the Wisconsin border? How about we have a committee outside of the Advisory Committee help assign teams to these sectionals? I would like to see one sectional eliminated (11 to 10) in 2A & 3A then allow at-large entries to fill the rest of the lanes at state, like I said, all sectionals are not created equal. How many times have you seen an 11.01 not qualify from a “hard” sectional, but 11.20 wins a “weak” sectional? How about a 4:22 1600m missing the standard but a 4:28 winning a sectional the same night? With at-large entries that kid may punch his ticket to the blue track.

    Doubling Relays

    The most recent drastic move the IHSA made was moving from two classes to three for track and field. I don’t see them doing anything like doubling relay points because it would put teams who rely on distance and field events out of contention. Every once in a while we will get an elite athlete who will win a team trophy (Shamier, Cole, LaJarvia, Babatunde). Maybe we classify a team as having 4 or 6 state qualifiers. I think the least controversial move to make is to allow coaches to use their 28 entries how they choose, if you have four shot putters or vaulters enter them in the state series.
    The setup of the state series really needs to be addressed. We as coaches should really come up with creative ideas to make our sectional and state meet better. Please take time to come up with ideas and submit it to the track/XC committee via you sectional suggestion report.

    Pierre

    @stritatf_coachp (Twitter)

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      1. How close is close, should we set a goal to be within 20 miles on a school night? All the classification changes over the years has put sectionals in whirlwind, now we see Wednesday sectionals (jeez). Honestly if there is not regional-sectional-state format the only way to get close to even sectionals is rank teams and distributing them to sites. I do think Chicago sectionals should be combined, especially in 2A.

  2. Problem with relays being double is that there are three sprint relays and one middle distance relay. Add a DMR or a 4×1600 and then the depth of a team will really be tested.

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      I mentioned the lopsided relays in the article. Another potential solution would be to remove the 4x200m. I know that’s blasphemy to a lot of people, but if we’re doubling relay points, it’s too weighted to the sprints. Many states didn’t have the 4x200m until the women’s pole vault was added (the women’s 4×2 was a way to “make up” for the men having more events). Illinois women used to run a Sprint Medley (1-1-2-4), but it was eventually scrapped.

      1. I like the 4×2, but can do without it. It’s considered a B team relay due to top 400/300H typically being left off. A DMR/4×8 + 4×1/4×4 looks like a solid compromise. I do agree with many others that track is a speed sport, cross country is distance time to shine

    2. Track & field is a speed/power/athleticism sport. There are only 2 real distance events, cross country is when the distance runners get to do their thing. Relays should count double just as they do in Texas. But the rule should be for only the State Tournament IMO.

    3. Speaking as an assistant coach for a 1A school…DMR would be a terrible idea in 1A. Lot of schools struggle to find enough strong distance runners to be good in the 4×8. Add a DMR and these poor kids will either have to double up (making it more difficult to score points) or you will see VERY weak teams scoring in the relays as teams priorities either 4×8 or DMR.

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        I agree. Adding another distance relay is not the answer (though I love relay meets). With prelims, the distance runners are already stretched thin. I know a lot of people will hate it, but I think eliminating prelims in the 4x800m and 1600m would really help. Seed the athletes based on their Sectional times. The 3200m does it, why not the 4x800m and 1600m?

  3. Distance running has its own sport. It is called cross country. Stop complaing that track is a sprint dominated sport. If you give double points to relays it does make it more of a team effort and also change the way some teams would approach the meet. It is worth investigating in my opinion.

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      Yeah, I mentioned in the article that distance runners have Cross Country. Not sure where you got at all that I was complaining about track being a sprint-dominated sport. Thanks for sharing your opinion though.

  4. I think the IHSA has a belief where they want the best from all parts of the state.Also, the state moved to more classifications when the C.P.S. wanted to get more than one team to state in basketball. They lost their automatic 2 state qualifying teams in cross country and their own sectional in track and field in the trade-off. I am not giving my opinions these are facts.As far as sectionals I think it is rough on a 3200 runner who has to run a conference meet on a Saturday then run a sectional on a Wednesday. A coach has to decide which meet to run the 3200. Thanks

  5. As far as the “depth of the team” goes, what if we double the relay points, and a school has 3-4 above average sprinters(that’s not depth). They score 60 points, possibly. The school with 5 DIFFERENT state champions in five DIFFERENT events (it could happen, or at least get close) gets their butts kicked by 3-4 good sprinters in 3 events. Which team is deeper/more talented?? Or, a team could score in every open event, but not score 60. Deeper/ more talented?
    Why would the points have to double? 12-15 points seems more logical. Maybe athletes should be limited to how many points they can score….if you run 2-3 relays, no open events for you. Now that would be strategic! Just sayin’

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      There is no way a team with 3-4 “above average” sprinters is winning all three relays, but I know what you mean. Also, I like the idea of making the relays worth 1.5-times as many points vs. having them count double.

  6. Relays should be worth more because more athletes are participating. If one person drops a baton or false starts, etc…then four athletes are out an event.

    There should be more points because there is more to lose.

    What’s wrong with 3-4 “average” guys scoring more points than 3-5 “better” guys in open events? i know its hypothetical, but for that to happen, you would be in the top three in all three relays….that doesn’t seem “average to me”. When I moved to coaching 3A, I knew we were more than likely going to have to concentrate on relays because a few months in short time to develop a “state caliber” kid.

    Do you know what you’d more than likely have to have on your team? Four guys who can go 11.3 in the 100. Is that average? I think that’s pretty damn fast. It’s not 10.8 all-state fast, but it’s not average either.

    If you have four kids that can 11.3, they can (in theory) go 42.2, 1:27 and 3:19 in theory. (We still couldn’t get that done, though we came close (42.88, 1:30.06 and 3:24.3). And this was the same 4 guys on all three relays. Maybe a better coach could have gotten those little bits of time needed. Or not. Point was, getting 4 guys to run state relay split times is still not easy)

    My point is that it’s harder than most would believe to put together a state caliber relays team. They have to be faster than you think, have perfect handoffs and chemistry/faith in their teammates.

    Let me put it this way. I think an individual can get lucky. I don’t think a relay can just get lucky.

    As far distance, a 400m track isn’t built for distance and they have their own sport. We only have two throws and they don’t have their own sport.. But I haven’t yet heard throws coaches want more throwing events (entries yes, events no).

    I like the 4×200 and I don’t want to see it go. But if you replaced it with a sprint medley at least you’d have a team relay that mixed some distance and sprint kids together at the statw level.

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      Yeah, to win all three relays (or come close) you basically need four absolute studs. My team finished 9, 9, 10 (before being DQed in the 4×4) in the three relays at AAA State this year. Three kids were on all three of those relays. They pretty much all just ran the relays at the end of the season, so it’s hard to say if they could have made State individually, but I believe they could have. One ran a State auto time in the open 400m and almost certainly could have in the 200m. Another ran a 49.6 lead-off in the 400m, and I’m betting could have run 22.30 in the 200m at Sectionals. Another was my best 200m runner and was significantly better this year than he was in 2015 when he ran 22.42.

      The point is that we had three kids who were basically State-quality athletes in the individual events (our fourth guy was no slouch either), and we placed 9th or 10th in all three sprint relays! To win all three, you need STUDS. State-placer type kids. And you need a lot of them. That’s depth.

  7. This was talked about last year as well on Dyestat and I couldn’t find the link. This was my take on doubling the relay points. Sorry it is long because I am passionate about it.

    Currently, the sprints take up 6 of the 18 events which accounts for 33% of the possible points at the state meet. The distance event area and the four jumps take up 4 of the 18 events which means each accounts for 22%. Last, hurdles and throws have 2 of the 18 events which take up 11% each of the remaining possible points at state.

    Let’s take a look at how the numbers change if you double the relays. The sprints have a huge increase to 41% of the possible state points from 33%. The distance points actually move up less than a full percentage point to 23%, the jumps go down to 18%, and the hurdles and throws go down to 9%. The sprinters are the one group that doesn’t need a bigger percent of the points especially since those same athletes usually fall into the hurdling group as well. The distance, jumps, and throwers would make an even smaller impact on the total points than they do now. Logically why would we want to give sprinters and hurdlers an even bigger impact than the 44% they already take up and move that number up to 50%?

    I am all about what is best for the athletes but in this case you are really hurting the distance, throwers, and jumpers groups. The one group that is most effected by the changes is the throwers since those athletes don’t typically cross into any other events because of their body types. They should be the ones complaining that they are underrepresented instead of sprinters. I wonder how sprint coaches would feel if they suggested removing the 4×2 relay and adding in an event that will add opportunities for them to be considered for college like hammer or javelin.

    With one awesome sprint athlete, like we had at Lake Park in 1998 named Anthony Moorman, who ran 10.5, 20.9 and 47.9 plus three decent athletes you can score 60-70 points with double relay points and having that athlete run in one open event. That will be too much to overcome in almost any state meet. Of course this is the extreme case but it argues what double relay proponents argue. That is, that a single athlete can get a trophy by themselves. Cole Henderson, who won a trophy by himself, is an Illinois track and field celebrity because of his athleticism which I think is a good thing for the sport. Mike Conley is an Olympic medal winning athlete who was another athlete that got a trophy by himself. However, these are anomalies in the sport and not something that happens often. I would argue they are good for the sport because it actually creates buzz. Who talks about or is going to remember the team that got 3 top five relay finishes and earned a trophy vs. the team with one athlete that did it by themselves? Isn’t that actually more exciting? Instead of complaining about how one athlete can beat your whole team why not coach up the 100-200 athletes on your team to beat that one athlete? We are trying to change the system because one athlete can beat a team every decade or two. That just means as a coaching staff we haven’t done a good enough job developing enough of our athletes to beat the one athlete. Perhaps this should be our focus instead.

    I have also heard it will make the meet more exciting. With this thought process we should double pole vault points since that event seems to be the most exciting to the casual fan. Scoring has nothing to do with the excitement of a track meet; rather it is the great athletes and their performances that are exciting. Instead of making the meet more exciting doubling relay points just gives an advantage to sprint based schools that can’t or refuse to figure out how to train their sprinters in the field events/hurdles. I think making changes to make the sport better makes sense but to use a few great athletes as your reason for change out of the hundred years we have had the meet doesn’t make sense. How many individual athletes have even had a trophy by themselves in the last few decades?

    Also, what about the smallest schools in their class being able to get a trophy? The way the state is setup having a single great athlete gives your school a shot at a trophy, but by doubling relay points teams that are the biggest in their class will have a lot more depth and better athletes that can fill in if an injury occurs. I could see why bigger schools in their class with more depth would love doubling relays and smaller schools would not.

    Think about what this would do with your best athletes. Any new, sane or sprint focused head coach would load up all 3 sprint relays with their fastest athletes and that would leave one event left if the athlete had any gas left in the tank. I would think this would detract from the field events and remove the art of coaching the field events even more than it already is. It will force coaches to forego trying to put a lot of emphasis on a field event for a naturally fast athlete and athletes that would normally be a great high school jumper could get lost in relays. These types of athletes will lose out on college opportunities because now they are buried in a relay instead of showing off their individual talents. In addition, athletes that should focus on jumps will be pushed into the relays because they are fast and because a state meet will be much harder to win without them being on the relays.

    Let’s also talk about what happens with double relay points and parity. What is great about the past few years is that the whole state is getting better so that the points are more spread out between them and the gaps between a trophy team and tenth place hasn’t been that big. Running the numbers from the last 18 years of boys state meet data available from the IHSA website the average number of points from getting a 3rd place trophy to tenth place was 17 points. Moving to double relay points that number almost doubles and goes to 30 points. The average number of points from first to tenth place has been 41 points and moving to double relay points the number jumps to 55 points. I know some people believe doubling the relay points would be beneficial but as the numbers show, you would be creating a big divide amongst the programs that are in the running for a trophy and the ones that aren’t.

    Track and field is an individual sport by nature. To try to convolute that by changing the rules to bias for one event area of the sport doesn’t make logical sense and will not garner more interest from the typical fan. What will gather interest is allowing the sport to have superstars such as Usain Bolt or Cole Henderson to root for. Why try to change a rule to persecute the superstars of the sport then have a boring story about relays to write about? Tell me what sport that is popular doesn’t have superstars that people can’t root for? For that matter, who doesn’t love a David vs. Goliath story? Doubling relays may indeed make it so at least four athletes have to be involved to win a trophy but at the same time how many times do we see less than that amount actually earning a trophy?

    Let’s not give half the possible points to the sprinters/hurdlers group because the parity we have today is exciting to watch. Let’s create more publicity by allowing the superstars to continue to raise the awareness of the sport to those that only know the superstars of other sports. I hope to see another individual sometime soon be able to embarrass these huge teams by himself.

    1. I think you just dropped the mic on some of the coaches wanting to double relays. What are your thoughts on coaches using their 28 sectional entries however they choose for the state series?

  8. Coach Brumund-Smith and others,
    I’ve enjoyed the lively discussion on the relay question and want to weigh in on that one first. I do agree with relays scored at 1.5 times the current scoring method. If it take 4 athletes to compete it in, it should be worth more.

    I agree with the elimination of prelims as an unnecessary step in a long day of competition. Track & Field has a big enough problem with day-long meets that are slow going and boring for spectators to watch. Let’s speed this thing up!!

    One comment that Coach Brumund-Smith made that no others have touched upon is “auto” qualifying for state competitions from meets earlier in the season besides a sectional. I’m totally in favor of that for the reasons Coach listed!! I’ve been a 3-time sectional host for IESA meets and would appreciate the fact that my kids could qualify earlier in the season and then just focus on enjoying what track & field is all about. I imagine that it would dramatically shorten the time it takes to do the running events. For those of you not familiar with IESA format, boys boys and girls compete at the sectionals to qualify for the state meet. That’s 4 meets being ran in 1 day ( both boys & girls having an 8th grade and a 5-6-7th grade team). From a hosting standpoint a 6 hour meet is crazy and that’s if weather is on your side. Many of the meets have gone for 8 hours!

    The sectionals still can be the place where athletes have their final chance at qualifying for all events. The state level meet would need to have more volunteers to assist at the state finals due to the higher number of athletes in attendance, but it would be worth it.

    I do realize that only the running events would be able to take advantage of this by using FAT and that field events will still need the sectionals to qualify. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of the beast! Being fair is not giving everyone the same thing, fair is everyone getting what they need in order to be successful !

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      There should be a way to figure out how to get field events standardized as well. The NCAA does it, but I realize there are differences. Some facilities would hollow out their jumping pits to increase distances, fail to actually measure the HJ/PV bars (just rely on the standards), etc. I used to coach at Antioch, and their discus ring is on a hill a couple feet above the landing area. Obviously a lot of people set PRs there.

      If we did go to a college-style qualifying system, the fear would be that it would kind of ruin the month of outdoor invites. The distance runners would go to one invite, the sprinters to another, the jumpers to another, etc. The rich schools would have an advantage. This year we had an athlete who wanted to run at the Palatine Distance Classic, but we kept him at our home invite because we had a chance to win (we did, for the first time in over 30 years). If you could achieve any auto standard any time during the season, I might have sent him to Palatine.

      Point is that being able to hit the auto time anytime during the season may actually turn our sport into more individual-based rather than team-based. There are positives and negatives of every decision.

      1. John,
        I think the point you made regarding hollowed out pits etc. is something that is a concern. We see it in sectionals every year where we question times and distances because of thing like you mentioned.

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    Great story about the 1996 State Champion team from Sugar River I mentioned in this article. That “team” was actually a conglomerate of two different schools: Belleville and New Glarus. They call their sports programs “Sugar River,” which is the name of the river that runs through Belleville.

    Somebody told me that the schools had a policy on alternating ownership of the trophies won by the schools. So if the volleyball team won a trophy one week, it would go to Belleville (and remain there), and the soccer team won a trophy the next week, it would go to New Glarus.

    The only two athletes who competed for the 1996 State Championship team were both from Belleville. The trophy sits in New Glarus High School. How stupid is that?

  10. As our sectional representative I was presented with the task of writing to the IHSA with questions, concerns, and suggestions from other track coaches. Several items were brought forward at our seed meeting, but the number one concern was finding an equitable way for “auto” qualifying for the state meet. I have felt for several years that this should take place and now that most of the bigger meets we go to have FAT it seems like there should be a way to make it happen. After discussing the ideas of the proposal with several coaches at the meeting and at Charleston, here are some of the points I made in my letter to the IHSA:

    -Qualifications must come at meets where FAT is run by an impartial 3rd party (not one of the participating school’s timing systems)
    -Qualifications must be verified by referee/starter at the meet
    -For 100, 200, 110 HH, Long Jump and Triple Jump – wind-aided marks will not count
    -If an athlete who has met the early qualification standards has been declared by his coach to compete in said event at the IHSA State Finals, he is limited in the number of additional events he can compete in at the sectional.
    (For example, suppose Tyler Higgins of Highland meets the early qualification standards in the 100, 200, and 400. If his coach declares him for those events, he is limited to only one other event at the sectional meet.)
    -Early qualifiers who do not compete at the sectional do not earn any points for their team in that event
    -A team may not substitute another athlete for an early qualifier at the sectional (teams would be limited to two athletes per event whether they compete or not)
    -An early qualifier may elect to compete at the sectional to help his team win the sectional team title
    -If an early qualifier competes at the sectional and places 1st or 2nd in that event, 3rd place finishers and below may only qualify by meeting the IHSA regular qualifying standard
    -If an early qualifier competes at the sectional and finishes 3rd or lower, he still qualifies for state based on the early qualification
    -If an early qualifier does not compete in the sectional, regular IHSA qualifying procedures will be followed

    After trying several different scenarios for establishing the early qualifying standards, we settled on the average of the 5th best state qualifiers over the last five years. We think it should be tough to reach the early qualifying standards. We know the IHSA will be concerned about having too many qualifiers. Here’s what it would look like for Boys 2A:

    Event Early Standard
    Long jump 22′ 0
    Pole Vault 14′ 3
    High Jump 6′ 5
    Shot Put 54′ 4.5
    Triple Jump 44′ 9.5
    Discus 164′ 7.5
    4 x 800 8:02.46
    4 x 100 :42.73
    3200 9:33.95
    110 HH :14.74
    100 :10.86
    800 1:56.92
    4 x 200 1:29.80
    400 :49.79
    300 IH :39.25
    1600 4:24.12
    200 :22.11
    4 x 400 3:23.83

    At our sectional we would have had one early qualifier in the long jump, two in the high jump, one in the triple jump, one in the discus, one in the 100, 800, 400, 1600, and 200. Some of those might not have been allowed if the early marks were wind-aided. Some might have chosen to compete in the sectional while others might have taken the week off to prepare for the state meet. What if Ja’Mari Ward’s injuries were of a nature that would have allowed him to compete at state with one more week of rest and recovery? An early or “auto” qualifying system could have made that happen.

    Other coaches might have additional suggestions to tweak this proposal. Our goal is to find an idea that would be satisfactory to a majority of coaches and the IHSA.

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      I like this proposal, but it seems awfully tough to get that “early” qualifier. Nobody LOSES with this proposal though, which is the good thing.

      Here is where you’ll get a little backlash though. Some programs have spent an enormous amount of money on their own timing system. Now we’re saying they can’t use those systems at their home invites if they want the athletes to have a chance to hit the early qualifier.

      Another potential backlash of the early qualifier times is that teams will potentially go to less relay meets. I personally love relay meets, and outdoors we go to one straight-up relay meet (Spartan Relays) and another modified relay meet (Vernon Hills Relays, they run the DMR and SMR instead of the 4x800m, 3200m and 200m).

      There’s no such thing as a perfect system, of course (including the one we currently have in place). If you asked me to change ONE THING about our State tournament, I’d want teams to be able to enter three athletes per event if they choose. They’d just have to take an athlete out of another event. The Lake Forest girls in 2011 had three girls over 11’9″ in the Pole Vault (two were eventual State Champions). So one of those girls didn’t get to pole vault at anything but the dual meets, and she would have been a State qualifier on any other team in the State. A leap of 11’9″ at State would have gotten her as high as 4th at State, but she didn’t even get to compete at Sectionals. That’s stupid.

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