Well, 7 weeks ago, on March 12th, the Outdoor season in Georgia was in full swing heading into week 6. Over 25 HS Friday night and Saturday invitationals were all set to get under way as well as 8 MS meets. MileSplit GA was lined up to cover 2 huge meets onsite with video, The Eagle's Landing Chick Fil-A at Eagles Landing Christian and the prestigious 2 day Big Orange Relays held at Parkview HS. In addition, the New Balance Indoor Nationals was set to begin in the famous 'Armory' venue up in New York, where we had several Elite athletes, like Kimberly Harris of Buford and Jada Jones of GAC, who had not even began their Outdoor seasons, gunning for National titles, .
Then, COVID-19 began to sweep the country like a wildfire, setting off alarms in nearly every state and nationally. The GHSA released a preliminary statement on 3/12 around 2:30pm but revised it a couple of hours later, following the governor's lead after his press conference, announcing that all Spring sports were under suspension until further review 2 weeks later in order to protect the student's health and welfare.
When the NBA suddenly suspended their season after a Utah Jazz player tested positive, the NCAA shut down Conference Championships and March Madness. The domino effect began. Throughout March, on the HS level nationwide, student-athletes and coaches began to face the reality that Track & Field and the other Spring sports were going to be cancelled. It has been tough for all of us, especially the seniors, those who love the Sport, and some whose livelihoods depended on it, like timers.
Let's talk about Sectionals. Whoever or whichever group/sub-committee from the Coaches Association back in (2011/2012?) came up with the idea of having Sectionals in Track and Field was a genius. One of the drawbacks from qualifying directly from 'Region' Championships to State for many years was that only 2 athletes moved on. This hurt the State meet competition (particularly in the 1600/3200m) as so many elite athletes, who placed 3rd and 4th in events at Region (and maybe had a tough day), got left out, athletes who would have easily medaled at State, scored big points for their teams, and had a chance to redeem themselves. Meanwhile, athletes from weaker regions advanced to State and were over matched in the prelims, giving them a poor State Meet experience.
Although Sectionals do not have the same vibe/buzz as Region Meets do (no team points), with the advent of the new Sectional meets, the top 4 athletes in individual events and top 4 relay squads automatically Q'd for Sectionals. This provided an avenue for the elite athletes in the metro ATL area to have an extra chance, as well as to allow top 4's from weaker regions an opportunity to put it all on the line again. Sectionals basically became the new State Meet qualifiers, with the top 8 from each event able to punch their tickets to what was then the 'Georgia Olympics' and GHSA Girls State Meet in Albany.
Fast Feet was fortunate enough to time 1-2 Sectionals every year since their inception, and we got to observe the impact this had on the Sport. The competition is more intense, but somewhat more measured than Region Meets. In the shorter events like the 100/200/400m, 100/110/300h and 4x100 relay, one still had to 'bring it' that day, stay disciplined enough to not false start/get DQ'd and watch your '6'. Field events (especially the PV/HJ) had a tendency to drag on early, but, more recently, once a clear top 8-10 was judged, the competition ended. The distance events, especially the 1600/3200m were like a dance; all that mattered was qualifying, and it was funny to watch (especially the guys) checking their rear views coming down the stretch to make sure they were in the top 8. Almost no one really pushed it except those on the bubble. The 800m races were more tightly contested, but it was a bit more of the same.
MileSplit GA was set to do something new this Spring, covering 3 Sectionals! Sadly, now, all we are left with are empty, locked down tracks and a void of race videos and photo galleries. The weather this Saturday was almost perfect, a little cool early, but sunny, 4mph winds, 0% chance of rain, and highs in the upper 60's in the metro ATL area by 4pm, with sprints set to start at 3:30pm. Perfect weather, except for perhaps the 100/200/4x100. Instead, all we are left with is 'Sectional Sadness' - 12 empty venues, no student-athletes full of hope, no coaches leading them on and off the field, inspiring athletes to Q' for State and leave it all on the track, no dedicated parents, some of them driving for hours, following their kids and cheering them on as they'd been doing since MS and perhaps earlier in Club meets.
It's sad, but true. Let's hope and pray Georgia gets to have a Fall Cross Country season and have a full, robust Outdoor Track season in 2021.
Latest USATF GA Statement on Club Track
Junior Olympic Program status: Still too early to make any determinations. National Office should be prepared to give an update in a week or so. Associations should continue to follow the recommendations of their local health authorities and notify me, Carolyn and Quentin if Junior Olympic Associations meets cannot be conducted as scheduled.