Don't get me wrong, I love the State Meet. It's something that I never experienced as an athlete myself, but have always been excited to attend it as a spectator, a coach and as part of the media. With that being said, there are some things that can be done to make the sport that we all love, Track and Field, better in the state of Ohio. Some items would bring us in line with other states, while others would be more progressive and proactive and would place Ohio as a leader in Track and Field when compared to other states.
In this series we will touch on five different ways in which Track and Field can be improved in the state of Ohio at the High School level. Over the next few weeks a new article will come live about once a week and will be open for discussion. Please share your thoughts on each of the topics on the side of the articles in the comments section.
2. Change Qualifying for the State Meet
This topic, like the others, has been discussed in length on yappi.com. The credit for the promotion of this change should go to the yappi poster known as ENA, while I have borrowed from his original post, I have also made some changes and tweaked it in ways that I prefer.
Ohio is starting to move in the right direction in terms of qualifying athletes to the finals of the state meet. This past year was the first year in which nine qualified to the finals in the sprints, hurdles and relays at the state meet, filling all of the lanes (Jesse Owens Stadium has a nine lane track). In previous years only eight qualified for the finals, and to qualify you had to finish in the top four of your semi-final heat to move on to the finals. This past year there was a change from solely advancing on place to a hybrid advancement system of place and time. Now the top two in each heat automatically advance, and then the next five best times advance as well.
If all nine lanes are going to be used in the finals, it would be possible to use all nine lanes in the semis as well. But this would require a change from the way in which athletes advance from the various Regional Meets to the State Meet. Currently the top four in each event at every Regional Meet advance to the state final. This way ensures equal representation from across the state in all events. This way also only brings 16 athletes per event to the state meet, and leaves an open lane in each heat of the sprints, hurdles and relays semi-finals It is time to use these open lanes, and by filling the open lanes, each event would now have 18 athletes competing in it. The distance events and the field events could easily handle the addition of two more athletes with out changing the amount of heats or flights in the events.
There will be people that say the only way to qualify from the Regional Meets to the State Meet should be by place due to possible variances in weather at the Regional Meet locations. And it is true that there could be variances in weather, but over time those variances will be minimal and will equal out. It's not always going to rain at every Southwest Regional Meet, while every Central Regional Meet will have huge head winds on the home stretch, while having perfect conditions at the Northeast Regional Meet. All the different weather scenarios would play out over time at the different Regional Meets and there would be a natural ebb and flow of what regions send more athletes in particular events each year to the State Meet.
The positives about qualifying two more per event to the state meet are easily evident. First it would create more competition at the Regional Meets and at the State Meet. Athletes would now have more incentive to "finish" the race if they know that they will not be in the top four spots at the Regional Meets. At the State Meet, more athletes that are of similar caliber will create for enhanced competition to qualify for the finals and to secure a spot on the podium. Adding two athletes per event will not cost the OHSAA anymore money since they have dropped the travel reimbursements to schools in recent years. Adding two athletes will not increase the length of the state meet in any significant way. In the running events, adding two more will have no effect on the time as there will not be a need to create any new heats. In the Long Jump and the Throws, there will only be six additional throws, which will add no more than 10 minutes to the total competition time. In the Vertical Jumps, a little time might be added, but if the bars start at a reasonable height, the added time will be minimal. But the most important positive aspect of qualifying 18 athletes or relay teams is that up to 348 more athletes across the three divisions could get a chance to experience the State Meet every single year. (And these added athletes will bring added paying fans and will also increase t-shirt sales to help cover the costs of the meet).
There are multiple ways in which to change qualifying and fill all lanes, but my suggestion is to go with a Top 4 + Two Best 5th Place Finishers. This would keep fairly close to the equal representation from across the state, as each region is still guaranteed four representatives, but two regions would have five representatives. The one thing that would need to be done is that the fifth place finishers would have to have their times posted out to the thousandths in the running events (or more precise if possible and allowable) to try to break ties that could occur across regions. In the field events, the typical way in which to break ties would be used. If there was a tie out to the thousandth of a second in the running event there would need to be a predetermined tie breaking procedure in place, such as best prelim time, or even a procedure in which Regions 1, 5, 9 win all tie breakers one year, and Regions 2, 6, 10 win all tie breakers the following year, etc. (This is just an example of how to do the tie breaker though and I am sure there are better ways to do it than my suggestion).
Lets look at the 2011 Girls Division 2 400m Dash and see how adding two fifth place finishers would improve the competition at the state meet.
|Place||Region 5||Region 6||Region 7||Region 8|
In the case of the 2011 Girls Division 2 400m Dash, by adding two more athletes (the ones italicized in red), the semi-final heats of the State Meet are only going to improve and become more competitive.
The major advantage of the Top Four + Two Best 5th place finishers is that all regions will still keep their four qualifiers. So under this type of change in qualifying, no regional will lose a qualifier, but they do have the opportunity to qualify another athlete in each event.
A minor tweak to this format could be that instead of taking the two best 5th place finishers, that the next two best times would qualify. In this scenario, a region could qualify up to six individuals in a given event. In the case of the 2011 Girls Division 2 400m Dash, Region 8 would have qualified six individuals as their sixth place finisher's time of 59.02 is better than the second best 5th place finish (the Region 6 5th place finisher).
Now there are many other ways that Ohio could do qualifying, but this is a way that still continues the equal representation that OHSAA wants, but does allow for those fifth place (or fifth and sixth place) finishers from tougher or stronger Regional Meets to qualify to the State Meet. Another reasonable option would be to do the top 3 from each regional and then the next 6 best marks. But a Top 3 + Next 6 Best type of advancement model has some major flaws that would need to be dealt with before it would ever have a chance at coming to fruition.
(Photos courtesy of Mike Nie and Jim Findlay)