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CIF may merge area track meets

By Patrick Dillon

@PDillon_SGN

porterville – The Sequoia/Sierra Valley Championship Track and Field Meet that was held at Exeter Union High School on May 10 might be one of the last. With the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Central Section’s mission of getting competitive equality across all high school sports this meet might be combined into one of four area meets.

“It is just to bring this sport into line with all the other competitive equality sports that we have instead of basing it on school size,” said CIF Central Section Commission Jim Crichlow.

Under the current system there are three different area meets where the large schools compete at. The three area meets are divided into the north, east, west and south sections. Then there is the Sequoia/Sierra meet that invites the rest of the schools.

The proposal that the CIF sent to the Central Section Track Advisory Committee involves merging the Sequoia/Sierra Meet into the other area meets by the 2018-2019 school year.

Currently, track and field is one of only two sports where the school size determines where they will compete, with the other sport being cross country. Under the school size system all sports would be moved up or down depending on the enrollment.

Yet under the competitive equality system individual sports at a school earn points based on their success. Win a league title, a section title and on and that sport receives points. Once that sport at a particular school reaches 100 then they are moved up a division. On the other side if a team receives zero points over a certain time span then they are moved down.

However, within the area meets there are no proposed divisions at this time. It seems having everyone on the same level of competition is what the CIF wants. The hope is that their best athletes from every area will advance to the Masters Meet. Under the proposed area meets each one will have three automatic qualifiers with some at large births.

“That is what the proposal is, we want to get the best people there,” said Crichlow. “If a kid is good then he will be at the meet.”

However, not everyone is on board with this new system being implemented to track and field. Exeter Union High School’s coach Darin Laskey, who is part of the Central Section Track Advisory Committee, is opposed to the merger.

“I’ll fight it and continue to fight it,” said coach Laskey. “The CIF is saying it’s in the name of competitive equality but no one can explain what it is.”

With all the schools being combined Laskey said he believes that the chances of a smaller school winning a team title in each area are extremely diminished. For example, Exeter Union High School’s enrollment is about 986 students. Under the proposed area meets Exeter compete in the same meet as Redwood High School, which has about 2,008 students.

Then there are schools that could go up against a school who is four times their size. For instance Yosemite High School, with an enrollment of 656 would be put in the same area meet as Buchanan High School, which has an enrollment of 2,601 students.

“The problem from my point of view is that they are preaching competitive equality across the board and these kids are not going to feel like their competitive equality is being honored,” said coach Laskey.

Track and field is one of four sports that are student population driven, according to Laskey. The other three are cross country, wrestling and swimming. Being that all four of these sports are individually based competitions that help a team, there is the possibility that a large school might have four of their best athletes in each event, which fills all three of the automatic qualifying spots.

Laskey said he does agree with the proposal’s premise that the best athletes will be able to go onto the Masters meet but that is dwarfed by the concerns over large schools taking all the qualifying spots.

The committee and the CIF still have another year to finalize the details of merger before the 2018-2019 school year begins. There are no committee meetings planned as of press time and a crucial part of the decision was tabled at the last meeting on April 4. In 2018 the Central Section will be expanding to bring in a total 19 schools, which could cause issues with too many teams at one meet if the decision is to go with three instead of four area meets.

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