Archive for Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Fly Route

May 24, 2007

You just can't see the results without wondering if there might be a better way.

Eudora got somewhat of a raw deal when it came to track regionals, or at least it seems that way at first glance.

It was unfortunate for several seemingly-deserving Eudora athletes who saw their dreams crushed while kids they usually have no problem beating advanced to state.

The problem was most evident in the boys distance races. Cody Burns and Joey Chino got flat-out robbed. Burns was fifth in the 1,600. He didn't run his best race, but he didn't run a bad one either. He would have easily qualified in any other region.

When all the state qualifying times from Class 4A's four regions are lined up, Eudora's is the hardest by far. The four top times all came from Santa Fe Trail in both the 1,600 and the 3,200. There was a seven-second gap between the fourth place runner in the 3,200 at Eudora's regional and the first place runner at any other regional.

It was a 1.5 second gap in the 1,600.

How can that be fair?

Well, it's not. But it doesn't pretend to be either. De Soto had one its best meets ever, qualifying 14 athletes to state. Had it been anywhere other than Royal Valley, a handful of those kids wouldn't have gotten in. Some others would have, however.

Royal Valley didn't have very good distance events, but had great hurdlers and three of the best javelin throwers in the country.

Yes, the country.

Eudora's girls 3,200 relay team finished second at Santa Fe Trail in 10 minutes, 20.30 seconds. It made for an easy trip to state at that region, but Eudora would have been hanging on for dear life at the Clearwater regional, where the fourth place team finished .01 slower.

So what can be done? NCAA athletes just have to meet a certain mark to earn a bid to the national championships, regardless of what region the athletes come through. Maybe that would make more sense -- just compile the 16 fastest times, no matter if eight come from one region and none come from another.

I don't think so, however. The regional system used to determine who goes to state is obviously flawed, but there is no real answer. The state meet can't be expanded any more -- just make the trip to Wichita for this weekend's meet and that much will be obvious. And qualifying people solely via time would take the personality out of it. It would water down the regional and make it nothing more than a race against the stopwatch. Placings really wouldn't even matter, so what's the drama in a late sprint? What's the drama in any of it?

It's heartbreaking seniors who worked as long and as hard as Burns and Chino did weren't able to take one last victory lap, but I don't think it should be incentive for change.

I didn't get to see either of those seniors run Friday, but it had to have been an awesome race, no matter the outcome. It was a race that likely wouldn't even have happened had state bids been doled out differently.

It's not always nice. It's not always fair, but the current set-up is designed to generate the best regional meets possible. As frustrating as that can be at times, I think it's the right solution in the long run.

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