Part of the exhilaration at sectional track and field meets is that moment when a competitor looks at the clock and knows he or she is headed to Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
It is a magical moment, although it’s one that soon may be eliminated. However, there is a nice tradeoff with the proposal the IHSA may adopt for the 2013 season: There will be more athletes competing in the state meets – about 500 over the six state meets (three boys and three girls) combined.
The IHSA track and field advisory committee has recommended to eliminate the state-qualifying standards on running events, but will keep the standards for field events because there are more variables. The proposal will be sent to the IHSA athletic directors board, and, if approved, will then be sent to the IHSA board of directors.
“The proposal was initiated by the Illinois Track and Cross Country Association as a way to get more kids the opportunity to compete in the state track meet,” said Fremd boys track coach Jim Aikens, who serves on the IHSA track advisory committee.
Under the new proposal, the first- and second-place sectional finishers will qualify as they always have. Then, the next 14 best times will receive at-large berths. One drawback is it may take a day or two to know.
“That will take away from the excitement at the sectionals,” Jacobs boys track coach Jason Borhart said. “In the end, it looks like there will be more athletes, but the wait will not be fun.”
Many athletes will go home the Friday after their sectional thinking they made it, but yet anxious to receive the definitive answer.
“We should have more kids at state,” Cary-Grove girls track coach Mark Anderson said. “So what if they have to wait a day? I agree we should keep the field events as they area, but doing this for the races I agree with 100 percent. Kids who normally make it to state will still make it.”
What Anderson really likes is that the nine-lane track at EIU’s O’Brien Stadium will be full for each race now, unless athletes scratch. With 11 sectionals and 14 at-large berths in Classes 2A and 3A, there will be 36 qualifiers in each race. There are more Class 1A schools, and 14 sectionals in that class, so there will be 17 at-large berths and 45 qualifiers in each race.
Races with nine competitors will have four heats, those with 12 will have three heats. This should eliminate heats like the boys Class 3A 100 meters which had heats with six, seven, seven and six competitors last spring.
“The idea has been talked about for some time now,” Aikens said. “The advancement of FAT has enabled results to become more consistent and accurate across the state. With this system in place, we will be able to get the largest number of participants with the greatest quality and still provide regional representation. If we can do all of that with this proposal, why shouldn’t we?”
• Joe Stevenson is the senior sports writer for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached by email at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @nwh_JoePrepZone.