Written by SportsDayDFW.com
New area track meets prove costly for some, but others say they accomplished goal
The UIL added an area track meet for all classifications this year, in part to help relieve financial pressure on schools that have to travel a long way for regional meets.
The new meet reduced the total number of regional participants in each event from 24 to 16. By sending fewer qualifiers to regionals, schools save money on travel and food.
But not every school is enjoying financial savings from the extra postseason round. In fact, many schools across the state are spending more to accommodate the new meet.
Lovejoy athletic director Jim Bob Puckett said the school spent an extra $500 to go to an area meet. He said Districts 13-4A and 14-4A have already decided not to continue holding the event.
Duncanville athletic director Cathy Self-Morgan said the school spent $1,000 more than last year to send her track teams to Waco for the District 7-5A and 8-5A area meet.
“Financially, I’d rather not do it,” Self-Morgan said. “And I think most athletic directors would tell you that.”
Competitively, the area meet helped many talented programs send more athletes to regionals. District 7-5A put the issue to a vote and opted to continue participating.
Administrators in West Texas, where schools are farther apart and travel expenses are greatest, also reported spending more for the area meet.
Athletic directors from Littlefield, Muleshoe, Denver City and Floydada said they spent as much or more than in previous years. Despite the extra cost, all of them unanimously approve participating in the extra round.
The area meet gave more athletes an opportunity to compete deeper into the postseason and made the regionals more competitive, they said.
“If we can get more kids to the next level, we’re going to find the money to do that,” Floydada athletic director Todd Bandy said.
Puckett, a longtime track coach at Allen, said finances were only a small reason his district opted out of the area meet.
He said the meet put his teams at a competitive disadvantage. Like other schools, Lovejoy had athletes who won district championships fail to make it to regionals.
“If you have a sprinter with a sore hamstring, you can choose to rest him at a regional qualifier meet,” Puckett said. “We had some district champions that didn’t make it out because of injuries or other unfortunate things in what would have otherwise been an off week.”
UIL assistant athletic director Traci Neely said districts that are especially strong in track are more likely to incur greater expenses. District 7-5A, which includes defending boys champion DeSoto, is arguably the state’s strongest district.
But if one district is sending large numbers to regionals, another district is saving money by not sending as many.
“That’s not a bad byproduct of this movement in a way,” Neely said. “It’s kind of a balancing act.”
Follow David Just on Twitter at @DavidJustDMN.