It seems distance coaches and parents have this conversation every season, but nothing is ever done to change it. The way the time schedules for Districts, Sectionals, and State are currently set up the longest race in high school track, the 3200, is ran at the hottest part of the day. This doesn't make any logical sense.
As Class 1 & 2 teams compete at Sectionals, and 3,4,& 5 teams head to Districts this weekend temperatures are expected to be in the 90's by the time the 3200 rolls around in the mid-afternoon sun. Why are we setting these kids up to roast in that heat? The kids aren't ready for it, and there's no way to prepare them for 9+ minutes at race pace in the heat. It is honestly dangerous, and I wouldn't be surprised to see some kids drop out, or kids who were projected to advance fail to qualify because of the conditions. I know the old saying is "everyone is running in the same conditions" but heat doesn't effect everyone the same, and a 3200 runner is going to feel the effects more than a sprinter. You can argue that these same athletes race in the same conditions during XC season, but that argument doesn't really hold up. By the time XC season rolls around kids have had three whole months to acclimate to the sweltering Missouri heat, and this is not the same for Track. Here in St. Louis, we've gone from having snow on the ground a month ago, and freezing rain just a few weeks ago to this forecasted 90 degree weather on Saturday. They just flat haven't been running in anything remotely close to what we are expecting the next few weeks.
Now with that being said, I'm sure you all are wondering how would we fix this? In the message boards I've seen a couple of options being tossed around and I picked the two that I thought would work the best for the athletes.
Option 1: Move Back the Start of the Meets.
This one is my personal favorite. All the meets in the State Series begin in the morning and end well before dark. Why do we do this? Almost all regular season meets start in the afternoon and the 3200 and 4x400 are almost always ran under the lights. Taking these kids who haven't ran the 3200 in the sun all year, and moving them to the hottest part of the day right when meets start to actually matter is ridiculous. Last year (albeit due to weather delay) the State Meet finished under the lights. What happened as a result? Austin Hindman broke the State Meet Record, and the Class 4 Boys 3200 was one of the fastest 3200 races in State History. The argument against this option is travel time. The 5 Class system has lead to many teams having to travel a considerable distance to get to their postseason meets. While I understand that moving the meet start time back would mean they would get home later, all meets in the State Series are run on the weekend, so I don't really think any harm is done by arriving home late.
Option 2: Move the 3200 to the First Event
This option has the 3200 start at the same time as field events. Here is a mock time schedule for Districts:
10:30: 100 prelims
10:45: 100/110H prelims
11:15 200 prelims
Regular schedule following except for a 20 minute break between the 200 final and 4x400.
This schedule isn't perfect, which is why I prefer to move the meet start time back and keep the the current order of events. I moved the 4x800 due to the possibility of kids running both the 3200 and 4x8. I also swapped the 100 and hurdle position so the 100 people would have more of a break between before the 200. With the strong possibility of prelims being eliminated for next year, the District model would be the same as Sectionals which is shown below:
10:30: 100 final
10:45: 100/110H final
Regular schedule following except for a 20 minute break between the 200 and 4x400.
For State you could do it the same as Sectionals, but since the distance races are split between the two days anyway, you could just swap the positions of the 4x800 and 3200 in the current schedule and get the same result. The 3200 would run in the morning, and the 4x800 in the afternoon.
I really think there needs to be a change made regarding this, and I know there are a lot of people out there who agree. Coaches should contact their MSHSAA representatives and express this so a conversation can be had when they meet to discuss changes this summer.
If you have any comments or even a better solution please drop by the discussion board let us know.