The athletes are getting faster and stronger, moving Arizona up the charts among top track and field states in the country.But some high school coaches feel the Arizona Interscholastic Association needs to make more strides to keep up.More than a year after the AIA made changes, reducing state meets from seven to four, there still is grumbling among coachesSome of the concerns
:-Limiting each school to no more than four participants in an event at the state meet.
-Elimination of regional meets to automatically qualify athletes to state.
-Inputting state-qualified times that had one Tucson-area athlete arriving to Mesa Community College with a court injunction to compete at state, because his coach missed a deadline to enter his name.
-Cramming all four division state meet finals into one site on the same day.
“I think that the AIA and the track committee have done a better job of listening to coaches and communicating back to coaches changes for the state track meet,” Glendale Mountain Ridge coach Don Tate said. “I think the bullpen/staging area was the best at the state meet ever.
“I think they still have a long way to go in making the state meet a positive experience for athletes, coaches, spectators and parents. I hope that the AIA would find a way to separate the divisions and have smaller state meets so that we can start later and the 1,600 (meters) won’t have to be run at 100 degrees with full sun exposure.
“The combination of all four divisions into one meet on the last day has affected not only the level of competition, but the opportunity for a large number of athletes to have their best performance at the meet that culminates their season.”
Adequate ability to recover from races is one thing. But the one thing coaches seem to dislike more than anything is the qualifying limitations.
For example, Chandler’s juggernaut girls team was so loaded this season in the sprints that even though freshman Taylor Patton met the state qualifying standards in the 100 and 200, she could only run in a relay at state, because there were four girls on her team with faster times.
“Already athletes can only participate in four events,” Chandler boy coach Steve Carson said. “We get that part for the ‘even’ playing field. But this decision does not reward a well-coached overall track and field program. Plus, it brings on animosity amongst teammates and, worst of all, athletes don’t come out for track. … Again, you penalize sound programs, plus scare away would-be participants. The goal is to make state.”
The main objective to the changes was to reduce costs and produce higher quality meets.
If not for the reduction of state meets from seven to four, there wouldn’t have been a Devon Allen-Trae Armstrong showdown in Division I that produced two of the greatest 100- and 200-meter showdowns in state history, because Armstrong would have been running in 5A-II and Allen in 5A-I.
“I like the fact that the divisions have been contracted,” Chandler Valley Christian coach Dan Kuiper said. “I believe it lends itself to better competition and a more competitive state meet. I do not like the fact that only four from each school (in one event) can advance to the state meet. If we want the best athletes at the state meet, why aren’t we allowing all the best to get there?
“How this application has affected our team the last two years, it has been very minimal, but I would hate to see this impact any team to a large degree in the future.”