Column writing is never an easy task.
But, penning one where you are taking an individual, or a group, to task becomes a greater task. And, when that group or individual is someone for whom you have a huge amount of respect, then the task becomes nearly impossible.
That, however, is the responsibility I bear with this column.
Three years ago, a plan was presented to the Secondary School Activities Commission by its track committee where the number of individual medals that would be distributed at the State High School Track and Field Championships at the University of Charleston's Laidley Field would increase from six places to eight places in each of the 18 events sponsored by the association.
Reasons were given, research was provided and a compromise was presented that would allow the cost of the awards presented to remain the same despite the addition of 25 percent more medals.
Three years later, however, change has yet to be seen at the largest sporting event conducted by the SSAC during the final months of the school year.
Research shows us that every state touching the Mountain State-Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and Kentucky-score eight places at their state track and field championships. The power-that-is (a.k.a. the SSAC) dictates that its regional meets must take place at a facility with at least seven lanes-Ritchie County High School-but would prefer to have all of its qualifying meets held on eight lane surfaces.
When your goal is to award only six places, what does it matter where the regionals take place? For that matter, why bother bringing 16 individuals or relays to our state capital? Advance the six fastest times or distances and let them have at it in a track meet that would take a whole lot less time than what we enjoy today.
Is it a matter of cost?
Can the association that is, by an act of the state legislature not by law, be so strapped for funds that it cannot afford to increase the number of awards it presents?
Be that the case, should it not be thinking about returning to the one-class system of our past instead of looking for ways to advance losing teams to its championship round?
That concern was addressed when the committee suggested that the first place medal in each event remain its present size while the seven remaining medals be somewhat smaller, allowing the overall costs to remain in-line with those of the past.
Competing at the state meet isn't just about winning team titles, but about capturing one of the 18 individual/relay crowns up for grabs during the two-day event. Athletes that are fortunate enough to receive one of the six medals presented can be seen wearing them throughout the meet and at their respective schools when they return.
And, other than the state wrestling tournament and cross country championship, no other event sponsored by the SSAC brings athletes from as many of its member schools than track and field.
The time has come for action to speak louder than excuses and for the SSAC to join its brother associations around the country and award eight places at its 2013 State High School Track and Field Championships.