CALN >> If you thought track and field was immune from the trend to add a classification like every other sport sponsored by the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, think again.
Next month, the PIAA steering committee for track and field will meet in Mechanicsburg to decide on whether or not to recommend adding a third classification in the sport. Even if the committee votes to add a third classification, it does not mean it will happen. The ultimate decision lies is in the hands of the PIAA Board of Control.
“They can do one of three things,” said Ron Lopresti, the chairperson for District 1 track and field. “They can accept our proposal, they can reject it or they can table it to a later date.”
If the first day of the District 1 track and field championships is any indication, another class is not necessary. There are only 12 Class 2A track and field teams in District 1, and there were only preliminary races in the boys 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes, and the girls 200- and 400-meter dashes.
All the other events on the track are finals Saturday.
In the Class 2A field events finals held Friday, there was only one entry in the girls pole vault, two in the girls long jump and six in the discus. On the boys side, there were six entrants in the javelin, five in the triple jump and four in the shot put.
Yet medals are awarded up to eight places because that is how the state meet is scored.
“District 3 has a lot of 2A schools,” Lopresti said. “We’re the (district) that doesn’t have them. That’s not the problem. The argument, basically, being those schools in 3A (that are close to qualifying as 2A) have to compete against schools like North Penn, which have three or four thousand people and they have 600. That’s the argument.
“The problem is that (adding a third classification) will require a redoing of the state meet and probably going to a 2½-day meet, Thursday afternoon and then Friday and Saturday.”
Adding a third day also means more expenses for the PIAA because officials will have to be paid for three days instead of two, and the organization will have to rent the facilities for another day. It also means more lost time in school for the athletes who qualify for the PIAA championships.
That’s not going to go over well with a lot of school district administrators.
“There are a lot of things,” Lopresti aded, “that have to be worked out.”
Lopresti said he is unsure on where he stands on the matter. He wants to take time to study it in depth. As far as the coaches, clearly the issue is going to be debated.
“It’s not going to affect us because we’ll be in the largest class regardless,” Haverford High girls coach Jim Jensen said.
“We’re in the same situation,” added Garnet Valley’s Terry Lillicrap.
“There’s no need to change it,” said another coach who asked not to be identified. “Adding another class would just water down the meet.”
Under PIAA regulations, the classes would have to be broken down evenly. One-third would be Class A, one-third 2A and one-third 3A. Because of the PIAA’s two-year cycle for rules, the earliest it could be enacted would be 2019.
Cross Country went to three classifications in 2012 and it has worked out fine. The state meet in that sport is longer than it used to be because there are six races, three in each class, instead of the old standard of four. But track and field is a different animal, because there are so many different events and the number of competitors in each event varies from year to year. In cross country, the only difference is the courses.
Everyone runs 3.1 miles.
At least they haven’t changed that yet.
The PIAA championship has been two classes since 1935 and that has worked out well for those 82 years. Why mess with it?
Just look at what has happened in the other sports that have gone to as many as six classifications. There are teams in the District 1 girls Class 2A lacrosse tournaments losing by 20-0, 17-1, 18-3, 22-7 and 20-9. Some of the scores on the boys side are equally lopsided.
Playoffs are supposed to be the best of the best, a reward for success, not mediocrity. Look at the District 1 baseball and softball pairings that were just released. Five of the 16 teams in the Class 5A softball bracket have losing records. Three of the four teams in Class 3A have sub-.500 records.
Part of that is due to the fact that some less-successful teams play in leagues that house school teams from multiple classifications, but those teams would not have qualified under the old, three-class system. Of the 83 teams that play softball in District 1, 52 are in the postseason. In baseball, 51 out of 86 teams are in the various District 1 tournaments, and that’s with no teams in Class 3A. That’s ludicrous.
Track and field does not have to join that trend. The system works just fine. Don’t change it.
To contact Terry Toohey, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TerryToohey