From The Editor — February 2003: The year collegiate track came back to life

I’M REALLY PROUD OF THE COLLEGIATE COACHING COMMUNITY. While many of them still have serious issues with the new Regionals concept (see p. 36), they’re simply sucking it up and apparently eager to make the proverbial lemonade from what they perceive as lemons. It would have been easy for them to go on a pissing-and-moaning jag but instead I’m getting a real sense of their pulling together to make the new plan work.

Count me among the biggest boosters of the concept. Partially because I think it’s going to add another exciting set of meets to the schedule, for sure, but mainly because of the ripple effect it’s going to have both before and after that last weekend in May.

There’s nothing worse than some old fool babbling on about how great things were “in the old days,” but please, indulge me here.

It’s the return to the way the collegiate sport was run a decade and more ago that makes the Regionals setup such a wonderful development. The Nationals itself is going to be better and so are all the meets during the regular season. After too many years of finding my interest in that side of the sport waning, I’m now eager to go to collegiate meets again.

No longer will we be subjected to the season-long inanity of the “provisional qualifier.” Any athlete of national caliber is going to get the requisite advancer to the Regionals the first time he laces up his shoes, with no special effort required. Coaches aren’t going to be flying their teams all over the country in search of that elusive 4:08 mile that the Regionals require. Instead, the focus can return to actual competition (what a concept!).

But it’s at the Nationals where we’ll see real competition ramped up. NCAA track finals remained great through the bad years, but the prelims sucked and the field events were usually even worse. No more! Although there’s still the potential to screw up the heats by relying too much on time and not enough on place, we’re back to three rounds in the 200, 400 and 800! Heats in the 5K! Wahoo! Ask any old salt what one of the highlights of an NCAA was and he’d tell you it was the semis of the 800.

But it’s the field events that will really come back to life with the reintroduction of a proper qualifying system. No more silly flights generating competitions that lasted hours and hours, with the significant jumps/throws bearing no relation to the flow of the competition.

Mark 2003 down in your calendars as the year collegiate track came back to life.

THE NEW FALSE-START RULE (see p. 32) is getting all the headlines, but I think it’s far from the most significant rules change we’re going to see this year. The sprinters of the world did a good job—even though they have failed so far—in mounting opposition to the new stricture but I just wish the vaulters had come up with an effective lobby against the new rule they’re facing.

Few have noticed, apparently, but the length of the pegs on which the crossbar rests has been cut from 75mm to 55mm (about 3 inches to 2). Bars are going to be tumbling with far more regularity now. What the heck was the IAAF thinking?! If anything, the pegs should have been made bigger, not smaller. Last time I looked, the idea was to have the bar stay on, not fall. For an organization that purports to be doing things—like the false-start rule—to make the sport more watchable, this is a step completely in the wrong direction. What’s next, restricting the length of the pole to 10ft.?

The sprinters are going to be able to adjust to the new false-start rule easily, as we saw when the NCAA made its change years ago. But last time I looked, there was no way to adjust to a bar that comes off more easily. Bad move.