Ask an Expert: Can the meet timing and team points be structured differently to better recognize the 1600/3200 athletes?

Kevin Christian Distance, Sprints/Speed 2 Comments

Recent Conference meet experience: 2 sprint and middle distance runners from one team accounted for 116 team points running 100/200/4×100/4×200 and 400/4×400/4×800 respectively. The second place team earned a total of 108 points. Clearly the two outstanding athletes deserve to be recognized but the Conference meet is supposed to be a team event and these kinds of point totals do not support that. Is there an elite 200m athlete that doesn’t also run the 100m and compete in the relays as well? Is there an 800m athlete that doesn’t compete in the 400m?

The meet timing and physical demands clearly allow them to compete multiple times at peak levels. Contrast this with distance runners attempting the 3200 and 1600; very difficult to make peak efforts for both events with the short rest in between. Most coaches/athletes must choose one or the other and forego a run in the 800m.

Now please consider the time investment, difficulty, and single sport sacrifice to train to reach the qualifying standards for the 1600/3200. I would suggest the commitment is an order of magnitude higher in difficulty physically and mentally. There is truly a team investment and sacrifice to produce outstanding distance runners. Though they may not be on the track, team mates have run thousands of miles along side these individuals and account for a big part of their success. Distance running is truly a team endeavor that unfortunately is unrecognized with the current meet time structure and points allotment. Why can’t the team points awarded be higher as the distance is longer? The 3200 should be worth 2 or 3 times the points.

It would seem rational to structure the meet so that the maximum amount of time is available between the 3200 and 1600. Why not swap the fast and slower 3200 heats, or run both as ‘early’ events? Move the 1600 later? Let more than 2 distance runners per team compete. The sprints have all the preliminaries, all the fussing with blocks and hurdles, getting into the blocks, standing up in the blocks, etc, taking way too much time. Why not increase the athlete numbers in the longer distance races? It would take comparably less time for another heat.

Pole Vault and High Jump are unique single focus, specialist events as well and seem that they should be rewarded with higher points.

Frankly, and unfortunately, track meets have so little attendance is because they are boring and take too long; No fanfare, no music, no school spirit promotion, little interesting announcing (e.g. HJ, PV heights unannounced), high jump finishing before the meet officially starts is ridiculous, and top distance athletes ‘off the charts’ investment unable to compete in more than one event at peak levels and under team point valued in those races.

The sprints are certainly a track highlight event, high prestige, high intensity, high value. With all the fist bumping and chest beating unfortunately, you would not want many of these athletes to speak for the team or school. There are, of course, wonderful exceptions so the reduction of the team points in these events would only hurt the egos of the puffed.

Observe the finish of the 1600 or 3200. Losing athletes sincerely congratulating the victor and speaking highly of one another off the track, knowing the team sacrifice, dedication, and pain to achieve those levels are to be respected as the price of admission to be considered a distance runner. These are the athletes a team or school would be eager to have speak on their behalf. Let’s reward that.

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Comments 2

  1. Post

    As a cross country guy that shifts over to sprints/jumps in the spring, I totally know where you are coming from. However, I think the distance guys have their own sport that gives a lot of distance kids a chance to compete: Cross Country.

    Spring is where all those football and cross country guys merge, and speed is the focus.

    That said, I would absolutely love at least one more distance opportunity in the spring—the DMR.

    Ben Draper
    Yorkville, IL

  2. I don’t believe distance runners should be rewarded more points just because they “sacrifice more” and “might have more dedication”. I know of sprinters/jumpers/throwers who play other sports like football or basketball that sacrifice just as much during the track season. The majority of distance runners care much more about cross country than track, and we as track programs are lucky to have them out for the team. Track & field is a unique, diverse sport that all athletes should be treated with equal praise and reward. Equality is what the sport needs. Coach Holler of Plainfield North is trying to make track & field a more attractive sport compared to the ball sports. Track & field is the greatest sport in the world IMO, but it needs to be promoted just as much as the ball sports.

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