The boys and the girls have reached a common ground in state qualification for track and field.
But the reactions are anything but common.
“Every coach I’ve talked to has had pretty much the same feeling — that this is a huge improvement for the boys, but the other end for the girls,” said Mike Parker, girls’ coach at Iowa City West.
State-qualification meets (districts for boys, regionals for girls) are 4 p.m. Thursday throughout the state. Here’s how qualifiers are determined for the state meet May 19-21 at Drake Stadium in Des Moines:
The top four placewinners in each event from each meet in 4A, top three in 3A and 2A and top two in 1A are placed on a preliminary qualifying list of 24.
Then, the 12th-place performance will become the standard for other qualifiers. Any district/regional placewinner whose performance is better or equal to that 12th-place performance will come onto the list, and others will be eliminated.
District/regional champions are automatic qualifiers and cannot be bumped.
“I hope I do,” said Cedar Rapids Kennedy boys’ coach Dennis Roloff.
“I think this is an improvement for the boys in that the best people will qualify. In the past, there were some very poor (district) performances that made it to state and some excellent performances in other districts got left at home.”
Last year, the boys qualified strictly by district place. The girls had automatic qualifiers (two from each regional in 4A, 3A and 2A, one from each regional in 1A), with the rest of the field filled out by best remaining performances throughout the state.
Now, technically, the 13th best performance could be staying home.
Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union assistant director John Overton has taken many calls from girls’ coaches on the subject.
“A lot of them think this is a terrible move for the girls, but an improvement for the boys,” Overton said. “We’ve been trying to achieve a level qualifying method between the boys and the girls since (we started having the co-ed state meet in) 2006.
“I don’t know if this will work or if it won’t work. I’m anxious to find out. The (track) advisory committee meets every year, so I’m sure this will be on the agenda again.”
Benton Community girls’ coach Marty Thomae is on that committee. He’s not wild about the change, but won’t pass judgment yet.
“A lot of people liked the old system better, but we have to give this a chance, and wait and see how it works,” he said.
Iowa City West and Iowa City High have been girls’ track giants for more than a decade. Both are part of an eight-team 4A meet at City High.
“Let’s just say there’s a good chance that the fifth-place 3,000-meter girl could run 10:50 at our meet, and if she’s not the 12th best kid in the state, she’s going to sit at state and watch a girl from somewhere else that can barely break 12 minutes,” Parker said.
“I know the objective is to qualify people from all over the state, and I understand that to an extent. But there are going to be a lot of quality kids from our region, fifth-place kids that have worked hard and trained hard and aren’t going to make it.”
Thomae and Parker agree that their regional strategies will change this year.
“Now, to qualify, you have to be so precise,” Thomae said. “You have to run your very best. There’s not a lot of wiggle room.”
Parker said, “You can’t run soft in anything. You’ve got to put basically your state lineup together for regionals.”
Bud Legg, information director of the Iowa High School Athletic Association, said the list of state qualifiers should be released Friday night.