Some Key Points to Ponder Regarding our Current Qualifying Process

Some Key Points to Ponder Regarding our Current Qualifying Process

Chris Ruff
Chris Ruff

May 21st, 2012, 3:43 pm #1

After reading the thread below and speaking to some of the coaches actually on the advisory committee, it is obvious that our current system isn't perfect. As usual, the governing system we have allows us to continually make changes that both level institute the optimal conditions for performance while at the same time, remaining fair to all.

Currently we have a 2 division CIF that complicates our meet to a staggering degree. However, I also feel that our current format is efficient, if not perfectly fair and ideal. As long as we are crowning 2 divisions of "winners," we will have an imperfect format, when compared to other regions in our state.

Some History: Early in the 50's and 60's(perhaps even the 70's) we had a CIF meet that was composed of Classes A,B, & C. Sometime after that and into mid to late 90's we had one CIF meet with one winner in each race and one winner in each team competition. With other sports dividing into 3-5 divisions and crowning CIF champions in all of them, naturally our sport started receiving pressure to accommodate multiple divisions as well. The "small school" coaches had some very valid concerns as far as their potential of ever winning a CIF title in a sport with 16 events, while having student population grossly disproportionate to the "large schools." Keep in mind, that there were quite a few schools well over 3000 students in those days, with the smaller schools rarely placing as a team in the top 3. There were exceptions to this rule; for instance, Serra and UC had some very formidable teams in those days and I believe won a few titles between them(just from my memory, so please don't freak if I forgot anyone.)

I sat in the crucial votes of the time when we changed to the 2 division format and listened to both sides(I was the head coach at Helix at the time)argue their points. Representatives from both views had completely valid points with no real perfect solution to the process. The only alternatives were to have a system similar to the one we have now, or to mirror the Southern Section and have CIF Prelims/CIF Finals(by division) followed by a Masters Meet Prelims and then a State Qualifying Masters Finals. The problem with the Masters Meet system as we found out by trial and error, was that we had to fit 4 championship meets into a 2 week window. Were were having CIF Prelims(D1 & D2 at separate sites)on Tuesday followed by CIF Finals(D1 & D2 races separate but at same facility) on Saturday, then repeating the process the next week with everyone running against everyone for qualifying purposes on Tuesday, and finally to the next Saturday for our Stat Qualifying Masters Meet(with one heat in each regardless of division).

It didn't take long for the majority of the coaches to determine that adding an extra week and 2 extra championship qualifying rounds to an already taxing season, did not favor optimal performance for many athletes. The format we have now, with a few tweaks since, is the format you see today.

Hopefully the above summary helps some of the coaches(there are quite a few)that weren't here during those decision making years, understand the complexities that led to the decisions that have us in our current format.

After talking to a prominent coach Saturday while lamenting the extreme difference in quality of the distance fields between divisions in the 1600, I personally think we need to review the way the heats are set up for distance races. While sprints certainly less affected by "strength of talent in on particular heat," distances races are drastically affected by strength of the field, leaving our current system with a glaring weakness.

Possible Alternatives: We could run the distance races(1600 & 3200) with both divisions combined and simply take the top 12 times alone. Even if we took heat winners that would only take up 4 auto spots in the A final and would fill the remaining spots by time alone.

Pros: There would be level playing track for both divisions to duke it out for "A" heat qualifying, rather than one elite kid trying to run 4:18 on his own to compete with the DI heats while the pack follows at 4:28 in his race.

I constructed a Hy-tek file that is used in the Grossmont Conference that has a combined prelims between two leagues as well as a combined finals. The system seems to work very well there, but we're talking about 11 schools, not 85. Additionally, in the Grossmont Conference System, you can qualify from CIF from either the A or B heat by being top two in your league, regardless of heat.

The current system ABSOLUTELY diminishes the ability to get to the state qualifying heat for many distance runners stuck in inferior qualifying fields.

Cons: If we combine both divisions it would virtually eliminate the ability for an athlete to determine how fast he/she would have to run to make finals within his division; this is a point many of you are not considering. If we have 4 heats of the 1600 on Saturday with the divisions intermixed, how is a runner supposed to gauge where he is within his/her division? Right now, the fastest runner is in the last heat within his division, having the luxury of seeing how the first race pans out prior to his race. If we combine divisions within the same race, it will be a an all-out effort by everyone instead of a calculated effort for those on the boarder line. The elites will rarely exert a full effort, but the rest of the field will be forced to throw the hammer and hope they advance. Many of the kids that make the division finals now, would over exert, not knowing where they fall in the qualifying and miss making the final all together.

Hope this discussion goes on for a while and some more people contribute ideas. This is just me brainstorming. If you do contribute, try to add something constructive with possible solutions rather than just whine about other contributor's ideas. The idea is to come up with solutions, not insult others' ideas.

Hope to hear from many of you.



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Cameron Gary
Cameron Gary

May 21st, 2012, 4:39 pm #2

I competed in the 1970s system and coached at Helix in the early 80s system, so I can understand where you are coming from. Seeding the distance races does have some merit given the extended tactical nature of those events. I know we can't make everyone happy but given the current environment and the number of teams, divisions (etc.)...the current system is the best compromise. I also believe having a joint venue for qualifications (as Dennis and I alluded to in earlier posts) is fairest.
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bill bourke
bill bourke

May 21st, 2012, 4:46 pm #3

After reading the thread below and speaking to some of the coaches actually on the advisory committee, it is obvious that our current system isn't perfect. As usual, the governing system we have allows us to continually make changes that both level institute the optimal conditions for performance while at the same time, remaining fair to all.

Currently we have a 2 division CIF that complicates our meet to a staggering degree. However, I also feel that our current format is efficient, if not perfectly fair and ideal. As long as we are crowning 2 divisions of "winners," we will have an imperfect format, when compared to other regions in our state.

Some History: Early in the 50's and 60's(perhaps even the 70's) we had a CIF meet that was composed of Classes A,B, & C. Sometime after that and into mid to late 90's we had one CIF meet with one winner in each race and one winner in each team competition. With other sports dividing into 3-5 divisions and crowning CIF champions in all of them, naturally our sport started receiving pressure to accommodate multiple divisions as well. The "small school" coaches had some very valid concerns as far as their potential of ever winning a CIF title in a sport with 16 events, while having student population grossly disproportionate to the "large schools." Keep in mind, that there were quite a few schools well over 3000 students in those days, with the smaller schools rarely placing as a team in the top 3. There were exceptions to this rule; for instance, Serra and UC had some very formidable teams in those days and I believe won a few titles between them(just from my memory, so please don't freak if I forgot anyone.)

I sat in the crucial votes of the time when we changed to the 2 division format and listened to both sides(I was the head coach at Helix at the time)argue their points. Representatives from both views had completely valid points with no real perfect solution to the process. The only alternatives were to have a system similar to the one we have now, or to mirror the Southern Section and have CIF Prelims/CIF Finals(by division) followed by a Masters Meet Prelims and then a State Qualifying Masters Finals. The problem with the Masters Meet system as we found out by trial and error, was that we had to fit 4 championship meets into a 2 week window. Were were having CIF Prelims(D1 & D2 at separate sites)on Tuesday followed by CIF Finals(D1 & D2 races separate but at same facility) on Saturday, then repeating the process the next week with everyone running against everyone for qualifying purposes on Tuesday, and finally to the next Saturday for our Stat Qualifying Masters Meet(with one heat in each regardless of division).

It didn't take long for the majority of the coaches to determine that adding an extra week and 2 extra championship qualifying rounds to an already taxing season, did not favor optimal performance for many athletes. The format we have now, with a few tweaks since, is the format you see today.

Hopefully the above summary helps some of the coaches(there are quite a few)that weren't here during those decision making years, understand the complexities that led to the decisions that have us in our current format.

After talking to a prominent coach Saturday while lamenting the extreme difference in quality of the distance fields between divisions in the 1600, I personally think we need to review the way the heats are set up for distance races. While sprints certainly less affected by "strength of talent in on particular heat," distances races are drastically affected by strength of the field, leaving our current system with a glaring weakness.

Possible Alternatives: We could run the distance races(1600 & 3200) with both divisions combined and simply take the top 12 times alone. Even if we took heat winners that would only take up 4 auto spots in the A final and would fill the remaining spots by time alone.

Pros: There would be level playing track for both divisions to duke it out for "A" heat qualifying, rather than one elite kid trying to run 4:18 on his own to compete with the DI heats while the pack follows at 4:28 in his race.

I constructed a Hy-tek file that is used in the Grossmont Conference that has a combined prelims between two leagues as well as a combined finals. The system seems to work very well there, but we're talking about 11 schools, not 85. Additionally, in the Grossmont Conference System, you can qualify from CIF from either the A or B heat by being top two in your league, regardless of heat.

The current system ABSOLUTELY diminishes the ability to get to the state qualifying heat for many distance runners stuck in inferior qualifying fields.

Cons: If we combine both divisions it would virtually eliminate the ability for an athlete to determine how fast he/she would have to run to make finals within his division; this is a point many of you are not considering. If we have 4 heats of the 1600 on Saturday with the divisions intermixed, how is a runner supposed to gauge where he is within his/her division? Right now, the fastest runner is in the last heat within his division, having the luxury of seeing how the first race pans out prior to his race. If we combine divisions within the same race, it will be a an all-out effort by everyone instead of a calculated effort for those on the boarder line. The elites will rarely exert a full effort, but the rest of the field will be forced to throw the hammer and hope they advance. Many of the kids that make the division finals now, would over exert, not knowing where they fall in the qualifying and miss making the final all together.

Hope this discussion goes on for a while and some more people contribute ideas. This is just me brainstorming. If you do contribute, try to add something constructive with possible solutions rather than just whine about other contributor's ideas. The idea is to come up with solutions, not insult others' ideas.

Hope to hear from many of you.


I think this is a wonderful discussion point that deserves more consideration. I too am not sure what the right approach is and can understand the difficulties in weighing the pros and cons for each scenario. What is obvious for me now, as someone who never ran competitively, is your best times are a result of all the ingredients in the race itself. I remember when I was younger watching the famous milers, like Eamonn Coghlan, where they always mentioned the rabbit setting the pace. Even at that level of professionalism, there is a psychological catalyst provided (in this case by the rabbit), that creates an environment for the best times possible. Having said all this, I think the pros of combining the two divisions, outweigh the cons, and will produce the best environment for optimized results of all.
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Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

May 21st, 2012, 5:16 pm #4

I think divisions were created to mitigate the large schools v the small schools in sports like basketball, football, etc. Kind of a leveling of the playing field with D1 having more athletes to choose from over the D2 schools. Track seems different. Doesn't matter whether your school has 1000 kids or 200 kids, a runners times or marks are just that, regardless of who they run against. I say put the fastest against the fastest regardless of where they go to school. We need to represent San Diego at the highest levels with the best athletes in every event.
I don't believe this level of competition should be "everyone gets to participate". CIF is the best of the best and ONLY those who are the best/fastest should advance. How could it possibly be fair that a runner in D2 who runs a slower time than a runner in D1 moves on? No times are influenced by the size of your school. D1, D2, anyone can put a rabbit into the race. However, now that the kids can run with stopwatches attached to their wrists, that doesn't really seem necessary anymore.
I'm glad this subject is being addressed.
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Cameron Gary
Cameron Gary

May 21st, 2012, 5:26 pm #5

I have coached at small schools as well as large, it helps tremendously when you have a large pool of talent in any sport. Per the CIF division list, El Camino has the largest enrollment. The "A" heats are traditionally much more heavily represented by the larger schools. And Long Beach Poly? How about an enrollment of FIVE THOUSAND kids (2K more than our largest - El Camino - at just over 3K). Vista Murrieta has over 400 kids come out for track every year. With that many kids you stand a pretty good chance of finding SOMEONE with talent.

Having the numbers isn't everything. But it sure helps...
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Chris Ruff
Chris Ruff

May 21st, 2012, 5:53 pm #6

I think divisions were created to mitigate the large schools v the small schools in sports like basketball, football, etc. Kind of a leveling of the playing field with D1 having more athletes to choose from over the D2 schools. Track seems different. Doesn't matter whether your school has 1000 kids or 200 kids, a runners times or marks are just that, regardless of who they run against. I say put the fastest against the fastest regardless of where they go to school. We need to represent San Diego at the highest levels with the best athletes in every event.
I don't believe this level of competition should be "everyone gets to participate". CIF is the best of the best and ONLY those who are the best/fastest should advance. How could it possibly be fair that a runner in D2 who runs a slower time than a runner in D1 moves on? No times are influenced by the size of your school. D1, D2, anyone can put a rabbit into the race. However, now that the kids can run with stopwatches attached to their wrists, that doesn't really seem necessary anymore.
I'm glad this subject is being addressed.
nobody is being passed over for a slower runner in Div2 etc. If there were not 2 divisions, there would be 9-12 finalist. The current format only allows for 9 from each division it doesn't pass over any "deserving athlete." That athlete wouldn't be in finals regardless of their being a division 2. What is a problem is that the weaker division's elite athletes (not always D2, but most of the time), do not get the opportunity to face the best competition in prelims, which inhibits their ability to preform. By your theory, with them having "watches strapped to them" their dual meet should be PR's every race too, as if the level of competition doesn't have something to do with overall performance.
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Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

May 21st, 2012, 6:09 pm #7

I have coached at small schools as well as large, it helps tremendously when you have a large pool of talent in any sport. Per the CIF division list, El Camino has the largest enrollment. The "A" heats are traditionally much more heavily represented by the larger schools. And Long Beach Poly? How about an enrollment of FIVE THOUSAND kids (2K more than our largest - El Camino - at just over 3K). Vista Murrieta has over 400 kids come out for track every year. With that many kids you stand a pretty good chance of finding SOMEONE with talent.

Having the numbers isn't everything. But it sure helps...
ha ha ha ha lol lol Thank you for finally answering the much debated question. So now I finally know that size (of the school)does in fact matter!
sorry but just couldn't refrain. lol lol lol lol
BY FAR THE BEST POST I'VE EVER SEEN ON THIS MESSAGE BOARD. THANK YOU FOR THE LAUGH
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Don Mario
Don Mario

May 21st, 2012, 6:11 pm #8

I think divisions were created to mitigate the large schools v the small schools in sports like basketball, football, etc. Kind of a leveling of the playing field with D1 having more athletes to choose from over the D2 schools. Track seems different. Doesn't matter whether your school has 1000 kids or 200 kids, a runners times or marks are just that, regardless of who they run against. I say put the fastest against the fastest regardless of where they go to school. We need to represent San Diego at the highest levels with the best athletes in every event.
I don't believe this level of competition should be "everyone gets to participate". CIF is the best of the best and ONLY those who are the best/fastest should advance. How could it possibly be fair that a runner in D2 who runs a slower time than a runner in D1 moves on? No times are influenced by the size of your school. D1, D2, anyone can put a rabbit into the race. However, now that the kids can run with stopwatches attached to their wrists, that doesn't really seem necessary anymore.
I'm glad this subject is being addressed.
The same people in the A heats right now would be in the A heats anyway.
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Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

May 21st, 2012, 6:50 pm #9

I have coached at small schools as well as large, it helps tremendously when you have a large pool of talent in any sport. Per the CIF division list, El Camino has the largest enrollment. The "A" heats are traditionally much more heavily represented by the larger schools. And Long Beach Poly? How about an enrollment of FIVE THOUSAND kids (2K more than our largest - El Camino - at just over 3K). Vista Murrieta has over 400 kids come out for track every year. With that many kids you stand a pretty good chance of finding SOMEONE with talent.

Having the numbers isn't everything. But it sure helps...
Its just funny to look at how a lot of the top athletes have came from smaller schools
jordan hasay
mac fleet
sammy silva
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Coach Miller
Coach Miller

May 21st, 2012, 8:22 pm #10

I think divisions were created to mitigate the large schools v the small schools in sports like basketball, football, etc. Kind of a leveling of the playing field with D1 having more athletes to choose from over the D2 schools. Track seems different. Doesn't matter whether your school has 1000 kids or 200 kids, a runners times or marks are just that, regardless of who they run against. I say put the fastest against the fastest regardless of where they go to school. We need to represent San Diego at the highest levels with the best athletes in every event.
I don't believe this level of competition should be "everyone gets to participate". CIF is the best of the best and ONLY those who are the best/fastest should advance. How could it possibly be fair that a runner in D2 who runs a slower time than a runner in D1 moves on? No times are influenced by the size of your school. D1, D2, anyone can put a rabbit into the race. However, now that the kids can run with stopwatches attached to their wrists, that doesn't really seem necessary anymore.
I'm glad this subject is being addressed.
I know for team sport playoffs, schools can fill out a petition to OPT UP in diviion level. I know some football teams decide to move up a division for more comp or to avoid a stacked year in their division.

Is that a possibility at our meet? A DII school opting to compete in DI?

Just a thought
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