Opinion | Should The State Meet Format Be Changed?

Learning about AIA Track & Field

I have lived in Phoenix for over 15 years and have been coaching out here since 2007. I remember first finding out about the AIA track & field state meet and that there were 4 different state meet divisions. I was a bit perplexed by this fact because back in New York, where I grew up, there were only 2 state meets (Public Schools and Private/Parochial Schools). To make the state meet you had to meet certain time and distance qualifying standards and it didn't matter how big or small your school was; you hit the time and mark then you made state. I was from a small suburban high school outside of New York City and even though I was a good runner, it wasn't until my junior year that I qualified for state. I remember being so proud of qualifying; and even though my junior year I didn't do anything special, it was still very satisfying to make it. In my senior year, my 4x400 team got 3rd overall in the public school division at state. There we were these 4 kids from a school of under 600 students, who had to beat a big school of over 2000 students from our section to make the meet, plus run a qualifying time, and then we were able to place 3rd - that team still holds my school record over 30 years later (It was sort of like the movie Hoosiers in a way, but definitely not as dramatic). It was a big moment for our track team, our school, and for all of us. 

We Have Great Athletes in Arizona

Since moving here, I've seen some remarkable runners, jumpers, throwers come out of Arizona track and field. I will argue that our state's top athletes can compete with anyone out there in the United States on any given year, but what has been a thorn in my side for some time now is that we base the track and field state meet on school size and not by outright ability. Yes, I know we have the Meet of Champions after state, but so often the top athletes don't go against each other - it's sort of an afterthought for some. I'd argue, not many athletes go into the season thinking "I'm going to win Meet of Champions this year." No, most of the top athletes in Arizona are thinking, "I'm going to win State this year."

After the state meet, If the athletes are seniors, sometimes they are already getting ready for collegiate running or if they are ranked high enough in the U.S., then they are getting prepared for those national meets in late May and early June. Wouldn't it be great to see these kids compete at what most athletes consider the culmination of their season - the AIA State Championships?

Well, I have a new format, I'd like to share with you. I think it's the best of both worlds of getting the high-caliber athletes in Arizona to compete against each other and still let school divisions be part of the state meet as well.