Enhancing Opportunity

Rob Assise Illinois HS Cross Country Leave a Comment

The IHSA State Track and Field Meets are incredible events. The amount of work our governing body does to ensure a high quality environment is extreme, and unfortunately is taken for granted by many. As a host of numerous large invites and sectionals in the past, it is certainly something I do not take for granted, and am extremely thankful.

I recently had a conversation with my wife and I said, “Honey, I am pi$$ing a lot of people off lately.” Her response, “If you are not pi$$ing people off, you aren’t trying hard enough.” I agree with her to a point. The intent of what will be discussed is not meant to anger anyone…..but it might. At its core is creating a better situation for athletes, which is something that will always be in the forefront of my mind. If it ever is not, I know it will be time to find something else to do.

We know sectionals are not created equal. The competition, weather, facilities/environment, and ability to switch direction for the short sprints do not exist everywhere. However, the qualifying standards are the same across the board. This is a dilemma. We are currently in a system which guarantees inconsistent consistency. Our goal should not be to create a system which ensures more state qualifiers. The goal should be to try to create a system which gives athletes the best chance possible to qualify for state.

We only have to look at the past few days to understand the inequities. On Wednesday, I was privileged to see what may have been the greatest sectional in state history. Everyone knew going in that the Bloom Township Sectional had a chance to be something special with the quality of talent which would be present. In addition, Mother Nature produced the best weather of the season (high of 72 degrees, sunny, minimal winds of 4 – 9 mph), the environment was electric (excellent announcer, great fans, live results), and their new facility is absolutely phenomenal. The result – 38 extra qualifiers.

In comparison, the three sectionals held on Friday, May 17 (Lyons, Downers Grove North, Rockford Guilford) combined to total 10 extra qualifiers. For reference, the temperature in Downers Grove during meet time was between 46 and 50 degrees.

In equal conditions, I do think the Bloom Township Sectional would have produced the most extra qualifiers out of all the sectionals. It was the best sprint and jump sectional on paper before the meet, which consists of 11/18 events (I did not include pole vault). However, do I think there would be as big of a discrepancy as listed above? I find it hard to believe.

In a further comparison between the Downers Grove North and Bloom Township Sectional, in which the top 10 marks in each event were analyzed (data from a #Uncommon Coach), 51 marks from the DGN sectional occurred AT the DGN sectional. At the BT Sectional, the total was 81. Clearly a discrepancy, surely due to weather conditions in this comparison.

Where do we go from here? In my opinion, the resources below are must reads if you truly care about creating the best opportunities for athletes. For all those who say the IHSA will not listen, I respectfully disagree. Prelims in the 100, 110 hurdles, and 200 were eliminated from sectionals in 2016 – an agenda item pushed by coaches. Last year, the IHSA did the right thing and allowed John Bickel and Brandon Adams to compete in the state meet after failing to qualify on the re-run of the 200 m, which occurred on a Saturday morning after a Thursday sectional. Heck, just yesterday the 200 m was run WITH the wind at the girls’ state meet! Coaches, parents, athletes, school administrators – please make your voices heard! We may not be able to create a perfect situation for all athletes, but we certainly can get closer to perfect!

“Perfection is what you are striving for, but perfection is an impossibility. However, striving for perfection is not an impossibility. Do the best you can under the conditions that exist. That is what counts.” – John Wooden

If one kid is left out of the big dance because of poor conditions at a sectional, that is one kid too many!


This document address numerous suggestions to improve our state qualifying system, amongst other items. It is a work in progress, so expect to continue to see changes as the years progress: Sectional Coach’s Suggestions

Tony Holler’s 10 Questions for a Sectional Host. Note: I posted a comment worth reading regarding the ability to switch directions for the short sprints.

Dr. Brian Damhoff’s suggestions on improving long jump at sectionals.

Ed Ernst’s take on #FillTheLanes

Rob Assise



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