Safety went out window at regionals

Have you ever witnessed an event that left you scratching your head in disbelief?

That was the case for this sports writer after spending two days covering regional track meets at Chuck Schofield Memorial Stadium and the Erickson All-Sports Facility last week.

First, I came away from both sites impressed with the hard work and dedication of the individuals-mostly volunteer-that stood out in weather better suited for wildlife and worked so that the hundreds of young men and women would have an opportunity to qualify for this weekend’s state track and field championship at the University of Charleston’s Laidley Field.

But, any association that forces its athletes to compete in the conditions that I witnessed over that two-day period should be ashamed of itself.

Maybe, if one of those in charge of high school sports in West Virginia would have bothered to come to one of the local sites and spent some time dealing with the issues they were forcing those athletes to endure, they would come away with a different opinion.

Two incidents made me wonder if those in charge really had the best interest of our youth in mind when they mandated that regional meets had to be held on the day that they were scheduled.

One occurred in the pole vault when a young man’s pole shattered during an attempt because he couldn’t grip the pole because it was so wet it caused him to slide down the pole while in mid-air.

The other happened during the long jump.

While attempting to plant his takeoff foot on a rain-soaked wooden board, the athlete’s foot slipped, causing him to slide into the pit with his head narrowly missing being slammed on the board.

Both incidents ended without injury, but both could have just as easily resulted in life-threatening or career-ending, injuries.

All because those in charge fail to understand that the same weather that forces cancellations in both softball and baseball and moves the state tennis tournament indoors, is just as dangerous for those athletes that elect to compete in track and field.

What makes it even harder to understand is the fact that weather forecasts showed that these conditions were going to exist hours, even days, before the meets were held.

Those same forecasts showed that, had the meet directors been allowed, moving the meets to Saturday would have resulted in those competing having better conditions in which to compete and thus having a better opportunity of advancing to this weekend’s state meet.

I understand that hindsight is great, but this kind of situation has become the norm instead of the exception with high school sports in our state.

Athletes are the last ones that are being considered when decisions – like having two of the southern most football teams in our state travel to Wheeling to play a state championship – are being made.

It’s long overdue that they become the first consideration.

Contact Jim Butta at jbutta@newsandsentinel.com