Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Track and field coaches have mixed feelings about new area meet
Added round could benefit athletes, but it comes with extra risks
The addition of an area meet to the track and field postseason solves several financial and logistical problems.
But some North Texas track coaches fear the meet might cause more problems than it fixes.
“Call me after the area meet, and I may think it’s the greatest thing since we’ve had track and field,” Mesquite Poteet coach Doug Robinson said. “I totally understand the logic behind it, but I don’t know yet that it will actually do what it’s set out to do.”
UIL assistant athletic director Traci Neely said schools save money by traveling a shorter distance for an area meet. Typically, the meet won’t require a hotel stay, and it’s close enough that parents can make the trip.
The new meet also gives track and field a postseason setup that is more similar to team sports. The increased competition, Neely said, will get the best athletes to the regional.
“Track and field deserves this championship series like every other sport,” said Neely, who is the state track and field meet director. “They advance from one week to the next and advance to higher competition.”
Class A schools have been operating with an area meet for many years, but 2013 will be the first year that the area meet is required for all classifications. It will take place the weekend after the district meet.
Four contestants will qualify from district to area, and four will qualify from area to regional. As in the past, two contestants will qualify for state from the regional.
If the two districts that are paired for an area meet mutually agree to forego the competition, the district executive committees can opt out. In that scenario, the top two finishers from each event in the district meet would advance to regionals.
No Dallas-area districts are expected to forego the area meet.
A strong district will have the opportunity to send more runners to regionals, and that makes the area meet a favorable addition for the top programs and districts.
“It’s hard to justify not having an area meet when you can get more of your kids out,” Lancaster coach Greg Williams said.
The distance runners in District 4-5A might be at a particular advantage. Southlake Carroll and Justin Northwest have six of the top seven area runners in the boys 3,200 meters. The previous postseason construction would allow three of those six to potentially advance, and the new format would allow up to four.
Many coaches, though, are taking a wait-and-see approach to the new format.
Cedar Hill has some of the area’s top relay teams, but those events are subject to more variance than most. A dropped baton or an off day by one runner could end up leaving an elite relay home during the regional weekend.
“A couple years ago we had a really good 4x200, and one little hiccup at district cost us regionals,” Cedar Hill coach Kevin Benjamin said. “It was the only hiccup all year. I know there are a lot of concerns about that this year with an extra meet. We’re going to be getting extra stick work in.”
The area meet also causes administrative and educational obstacles, Robinson said, by pulling coaches, teachers and students out of classes.
Additionally, Robinson fears that an extra meet will overwork or cause unnecessary injury to his athletes.
“If I’m a point guard on a basketball team, and I get tired, someone else can step in and take my place,” Robinson said. “You don’t have someone that can take your place for the second and third legs of a mile. If I go down, I’m not going to advance, and neither is my team.”
The economic benefit to schools will vary. Dallas-area schools in Region I will have to journey to Lubbock for the regional meet, and Region II schools will compete in Waco. The 4A Region II meet is at UT-Arlington.
West Texas schools and districts in smaller classifications will face the biggest financial challenges due to the travel. But, Neely said, that’s why the option to forego the area meet was included.
“We’re all going to kind of feel our way through it this year,” Robinson said. “It’s an animal we haven’t dealt with before, and we’ll see how it plays out.”
Follow David Just on Twitter at @DavidJustDMN.
April 13: District certification
April 20: Area certification
April 26-27: Regional meets
May 10-11: State meet