The Beauty Of Championship Racing In March

McEachern's girls winning 4x200m relay team at the Cobb County Meet

I have long said that track and field is the best sport because it's pure competition. There's no travelling or arguing about whether or not a foul should have been called or not. There's no fumble where the ball either bounces your way or not. There's no PK shootout at the end of a time game. It's just straight up who gets to the line first or throws the farthest or jumps the highest. There's no subjective nature in our sport, it's 100% objective. DQ's aside, which are a discussion for another day, it's about who does the best on that day, no matter what.

But I also often hear complaints about how the state meet isn't fair because an athlete might run the fastest PR in March but not end up winning a state title. And I think that's just not true at all. When we've got a sport where it's all about pure competition, then a championship meet is the best way to crown a champion. Head to head competition on the same day, with the same conditions, is just fun. We can do virtual meets all the time, and those are fun for different reasons. But when you just line up the best of the best qualifiers, sparks fly. It's why we saw so many top performances at the state meets last year, and why Wingfoot often brings out even better performances a week later. 

But others will also argue that our sport should be like swimming where you can qualify for state by  time instead of place at the region and sectional meets. I also disagree with this simply because swimming is done inside in a controlled environment and track and field is outside in the elements. you could convince me to have time qualifiers for an indoor state meet if we ever get one, but not for an outdoor meet. Some kids have the money to fly out to a meet like Arcadia and get perfect conditions and other kids don't. Not to mention there are other factors involved, like some kids get lucky with tailwind at regular season meets, and some kids don't. The list goes on, but it's not important. 

So this all is what leads me to my main point - mid season championship meets are just awesome. And since Saturday and Monday are the two big days where we see most areas (cities, counties, etc...) doing their championship meets, this seemed like an appropriate time to bring this up. While some argue that these meets don't count for anything other than bragging rights, I would argue that they still serve as incredibly important services in multiple ways.

First of all, the most obvious thing to point out is that it is a championship style meet and you get to fight for team points with a higher purpose other than simply trying to PR. We don't often get to do this in our sport as regular season meets frequently are more about being a time trial or PR fest if the conditions are right. Yes we still compete, but with far less stakes in any other area besides time. But make it a championship meet, and all of a sudden the points you score mean something more. That's just fun and something we really only get at region and state beyond these meets.

Another purpose it serves is giving athletes experience with multiple rounds in the form of prelims and finals. Track and field is great because we have to compete for place to advance. You need to be top 4 at region, then top 8 at sectionals, and then maybe even top 8 again at prelims at state. Competing for place is great, as I already mentioned, but it's also so much fun to focus on measuring yourself correctly in multiple rounds. We do this at all levels of our sport from the High School State Championship series, to NCAA championships, and to the US trials and the Olympics. Track and field is about surviving and advancing the rounds to get to the final round of competition. So getting practice with that in the form of some sort of prelims and finals format in the mid season championship is great for the athletes to practice and prepare for the state meet series of qualifying rounds.

And finally, it serves as a way of developing rivalries. Everybody needs somebody to root for, and it also helps to have somebody you want to beat. Friendly rivalries are just a great thing to have in our sport, and local area championships provide that for us all. It's not great when those rivalries turn ugly, but when done in a friendly manner, everybody wins. Because wanting to beat your rival from another school helps you dig deeper and discover something you didn't know you had in you. Again, it's the racing for place that brings out the fastest times, not the racing against the clock. Over and over we see that when kids are competing for place, they run faster than they ever knew they were capable of. And these area championships give that to them. They give you a reason to fight harder against the pain during a race. Or dig deeper to get that discus out there just a few feet further. Or find the courage to reach higher than ever before in the pole vault. The championship atmosphere brings that out in all of us. And these mid season meets do exactly that for the athletes.

We've already seen some great performances on Saturday at these meets. And most of them conclude tonight with what will likely be even more great performances. Let's all go out there and have some fun with these things. They're practice for what's next in so many ways.