Sectional Week In Arizona

The big prize of sectional meets this week is advancing to the state meet next week. Read more about the details here.

Between Tuesday and Thursday of this week, all of the state qualifying teams and individuals for Arizona's 2021 State Cross Country Championships will be determined.

The rules of qualification are simple. Finish in the top half of teams in your section, and you advance to state. If your section has an odd number of teams, you don't have to finish in the top half to advance, but, failing that, you do have to finish as the bubble team in the middle. For individuals, you must be among the top seven individuals in your region not already on a qualifying team.

All of life should be this simple.

For many Arizona teams, advancing to state represents no special challenge. As an example, Flagstaff--either boys or girls--would have to experience some kind of major local catastrophe not to advance to state. That doesn't mean, however, that Flagstaff necessarily wants to get through the sectional meet on a minimal effort. Most coaches prefer for the regional meet to be a kind of dress rehearsal for state. You may not empty the tank at the sectional meet, but--generally speaking--you want to run well enough to go to state the next week with a full head of confidence.

There are, however, several teams in most sections that may or may not advance to state. For them, showing up and pinning back their ears at the sectional meet is a matter of necessity. Emptying the tank becomes a matter of highest importance. Those teams get one more week if they succeed. They get to turn in their uniforms if they don't. In any given region, somewhere around half the teams will fall into this category--not dominant enough to have some reasonable assurance of advancing and not in such a state of disrepair that all hopes of advancing are, at best, bleak.

By the formulas given for state qualification, we never know exactly how many teams will be in the state field until all the sectional meets are complete. A lot can turn on one or two schools in each section either fielding or not fielding a scoring team at the sectional meet.

Allowing for that little bit of ambiguity, we expect somewhere around 20 Division I teams to advance to state, somewhere close to 30 Division II teams to advance, somewhere close to 30 Division III teams to advance, and somewhere around 25 Division IV boys teams and 15 Division IV girls teams to advance. The count is subject to a little more uncertainty in Division IV owing to the varying number of complete teams in any given year. Generally speaking, a slightly larger number of boys teams than girls teams qualify in Divisions II and III, though the difference is not as large as we expect in Division IV this year.

All sectional meets will be chip timed by Wingfoot Finish. Chip timing is not infallible, meaning all results should be verified on site, but it's still a fair piece more accurate than any of the manual methods formerly in use to score championship cross country events. 

One interesting rule, and somewhat unique to Arizona, is that no bicycles are allowed at regional meets. Bicycles never were legal for competitors, so here we have the spectators and, especially, the coaches in view. It is deemed an advantage to be able to bike from point to point on a course versus needing to run between points. I infer then, that it is something of an advantage to have a young and highly mobile coaching staff that can hustle from point to point on the course. That massive camera you're thinking of carrying might be thought of as a considerable impediment much as advancing age or weight would be.

Like all rules, I would guess this rule has some history somewhere. I'd love to be able to tell you what the history is, but I don't have that information.

Another rule present in Arizona but not present in many other states is the one-meet-participation rule. To be entered in a regional meet, an athlete must have competed in and finished at least one meet during the season. Presumably, this rule precludes late transfers from other sports, perhaps athletes whose seasons in other sports have recently ended. If you just worked your way back from a summer stress fracture, however, your luck just ran out unless you finished a race in at least one meet prior to the sectional meet. This rule might be one good reason for coaches to keep a meet on the schedule that happens just prior to the deadline for registering for the sectional meet.

Keep checking back here for sectional results. We'll get those results posted as they come in.