Fair competition for Massachusetts States Track


In the Massachusetts MIAA State Regional Meets and All-States…

For some years now (since about the time all regions started using auto timing in the 90s) we have advanced competitors from heats to finals in the 100, 200 and 100/110 hurdles based on time not on place, a practice in opposition to the NFHS rulebook which indicates that place should be given preference over time.

Why does NFHS prefer place over time? Because if we have even-seeded heats and one heat of the 100 runs with a 3 meter per second head wind and another with no wind and the athletes in the second heat all run faster, it’s not fair that they should make the final over the second heat athletes. It’s not a level playing field.

We advance competitors from regionals to All-States based on this principle of head-to-head competition over time - four from each region - with a loop hole for fast times in competitive regions. Let’s be consistent and fair and advance competitors from trials to finals at regionals and all-states based on place first (with 3 heats, say top two from each heat and then two next best times). It’s the fair way to do it.

When athletes advance from regionals to All-States, we seed them with their Regionals performance. This too is unfair. The CW D1 100 girls ran the final into a 1.7 meter per second headwind on Monday due to the orientation of the Fitchburg State finish straight which runs northeast to southwest. On the other hand, the CW D2 meet at Westfield State which runs the finish straightaway from the southwest to the northeast likely ran with a tailwind or at least no headwind. They now have three of the top 11 seeds at All-States, from a Division that across other less-wind-influenced events typically has more of the lower seeds at All-States.

Additionally, in the distance events, we see athletes running into significant wind (or rain in some years some facilities or greater heat when some regional meets are on a different day, even indoors at Reggie when they have the temperature cranked to 80 on Friday night but on Saturday morning it’s only 60) conditions at one facility who are at a disadvantage for advancing. How much wind was Lenox’s Carpenter running with by himself at Westfield that stuck him with the slow heat of the 2 mile at States? I know Devoney and Farry, both with significantly faster seed times than their finish performances in the girls 2 Mile at Fitchburg were running into a variable 1-3 meter per second head wind, as evidenced by the sprint trials wind gauge readings taken immediately after.

Why are we privileging athletes in advancing to All-States and gaining preferred lanes in the prelims or preferred sections based on the conditions at facility where they competed? We should discontinue this practice - it’s not fair to the athletes.

Instead we should seed athletes at All-States with their best performance of the season - their seed mark with which they entered regionals - OR their regionals mark - whichever is BETTER. It’s the fair way to do it and a simple change to make.

I’d love it if one my fellow coaches can share these simple changes with the MIAA and Dick Baker. Let’s make our sport even better.


First of all, I am assuming this is not sour grapes. I understand where you are coming from, unfortunately in this sport where we decide everything on number facts, it is hard to adjust to the things we can not control.

Fair? There is no way we can get that much control on this. Let me ask you why do we have different qualifying times for each division? Should we not have a set time or distance for each event? I have seen over the years many qualifying times that just don’t make sense and they athlete never really rises to that time at Divisionals or States? Should we NEVER allow handheld time as that is the most unreal time there is?

I do not think we should have place as the factor for who goes on and who does not. For just your point- if you are stuck in a lower heat why should you go forward into finals if your times is not the better one?

But here is another question- why do we run semi’s in the 200? At New England they run one. This use to be the practice for the 300 Indoors and they finally saw the light- one race.

Many have commented on the difference “rules” at each league and district and division in the state. It would be nice if we were on the same page all season long.

In the end each athlete has to handle what they are given- either by competition or weather or wind. You can not be in the EAST and second guess the wind in the WEST or in the WEST and guess that the East had a late afternoon time to run … Never going to be perfect!



First - you have a rep on the MIAA State T&F Committee and should email them as well as your tournamnet directyor who also have influence over such decisions.

Second - what is fair can be argued. I too favor place over time inadvancing in the sprints as a general concept and head to head competition. The problem lies in that the seeds for divisionals can be all over the place based on hand timing at dual meets. It’s for this reason I think that m,any prefer advancing on FAT time on the day. That does create then problem outdoors where wind can be a major factor from heat to heat. ot sure which would create the most fairness.

As far as seeds to All State and condtions from site to site - certainly there are differenes in weather that can create issues. Burt think of competitive balance between divisions as well - it can help or it can hurt - more competitive can help get a time but can also mean you have to use m ore of the tank tyhan a less comptitive division. Two sides to every coin. While it’s impossible to create an equal playing field in divisionals across the board, it is known it is both it’s own championhip and a qualifier for the next week so you need to think about seed time for the following week. While head to head competition is always preferable which would mean trial to finals in all events that would necessitate other changes like a multi day meet whioch cant be.

Nothing is ever perfect. You do the best you can with what you have.


But here is the problem with your reasoning. What happens when one of the heats is not timed automatically and times are interpolated? Or why is seeding done in a serpentine fashion when it should be, at least, across so the fastest seed gets to run against seed 5 or seed 6 (depending on how many heats) instead of seed 10 or 12?

I think if you are going to run a competition, head to head competition trumps time trials. Sure, hand times are all over the place but say a guy gets a 10.6 hand time. So what. He is still going to have one of the top times automatically, don’t you think? It only gets a bit dicey when you get a lot of 11.1 and 11.2 hand times and they tend to be down the performance list a bit. Some benefit should be given to the top seeds and place over time is the most effective and fairest way of getting the best runners to the final.

Here is my final thought. If I am entering a runner and his or her hand time is faster than the auto time, I am going to use the hand time. Now we are talking apples vs apples as far as matching times.

Best solution is not allowing hand times for seeding or adjusting hand times by .30 or even more instead of the normal .24, which was established as the conversion factor for auto times, based on having 3-4 timers timing each individual at the finish line. When one timer ends up timing all six 100 runners in a dual meet, those times are not even close to being accurate. So make it tougher on hand times adjustments and qualify on place and time.

I think that DirectAthletics can do that without a problem.

By the way, you need to get smaller fingers or a bigger keyboard. Tough trying to figure out what you are typing…