The CHill Zone of T&F: Conway's View From the Finish Line

NCAA Championships – All About the Format

Jun 14th, 2015
8:19 pm PST

Sprinter ShadowThis year there were two things to talk about when looking at the NCAA Championships. One was the competition – and this year’s competition was as stellar as ever! The other was the format as the powers that be thought it was a good idea to split the meet into TWO separate meets – a men’s meet and a woman’s meet. Personally I would prefer to focus on the competition, but spending the week attempting to enjoy the meet I have to give my two cents on the format.

For my money the format sucked. The announcers kept making reference to the fact that the athletes got a full day of rest – and yes that’s true. But you could’ve simply inserted a "rest" day in ANY format and accomplished that! As a matter of fact, the Olympics and World Championships do just that and it IS great for the athletes – no new revelation there.

Funny, however, that I didn’t hear any other comments about how great the format was – probably because there weren’t any. First off the meet felt "segregated" splitting up the men and women. And it missed that excitement of having the men do something awesome, then having the women come right back with their own sterling performance. Can you imagine the men’s 4×1, with the women coming back minutes later with their performance? Double excitement! Or how about those two 100’s back to back, or the 200’s? That would have created excitement that would have rocked the stands themselves!

No, it was like the meet had a damper put on it in that regard. A wait and see quality – wait til tomorrow to see what the women would do. Kind of like how books are made into movies but split into TWO movies viewed a year apart. Just as you get into the story you have to wait a year to get the conclusion! Really? Why can’t we just get the whole story at once?

Then there was the pacing of the meet for the athletes – why is it everyone wants to try to please TV, but no one ever seems to think about the athletes? Yes they got a day of rest (we could’ve given then that anyway), but then they had to compete with almost no rest once the competition started! If you were a sprinter or hurdler and involved in relays your day was: warm up, compete, cool down, warm up, compete, cool down, warm up, compete, cool down, warm up, compete, cool down – all within a window of roughly 90 minutes! As a former athlete and coach I can tell you that’s hell! And both 400’s and 4x4s showed the strain and were subpar. Recovery time for sprinters and hurdles was half of what it should’ve been. A disadvantage to teams like Florida, Texas A&M, USC. An advantage to teams like Oregon who already gets home field advantage – another days conversation.

So, yes I thought the format sucked. Can you imagine segregating the Olympics or World Championships like that? A segregated Games? Anyway. There was the competition. And as I say repeatedly it’s the competition that makes track and field marketable. Not street races, or segregated meets. The competition! When you get the best together and have them compete great things happen – period! You don’t need studies, metrics, polls or gimmicks. Just get the best to compete – and that happened in this meet in spite of the format.

Stars of the meet? How about Marquis Dandy 27′ 8"w/58′ 1"w jump double – winning both! Jenna Prandini 22’4 "/10.96w/22.18 jump sprint triple – gold in the 100, silver in the other two! Andre Degrasse 9.75w/19.58w winning sprint double! The 4×1’s were HOT – fast and deep. This was arguably the best assemblage of sprint talent ever in this meet – and they were divided up into two days instead of being put on display together!

My favorite sprint? Tough call. I think the women’s 200. Great race, lots of moves within the race, and an exciting finish! But my favorite race overall was the women’s 800. Natoya Gould set a HOT pace but the field didn’t panic. It was super talented foolish Raevyn Rogers who methodically tracked her down and ran away with an awesome 1:59.71 victory. I’m dying to see what edited at Nationals in two weeks.

And in spite of the format, that’s how I leave this meet, wondering how all this talent does heading into Worlds and just which ones will get that opportunity to perform on the biggest stage. I’ll be looking at several of these athletes over the next couple of weeks.

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One Response to “NCAA Championships – All About the Format”

  1. Ron says:

    I agree with you that the format leaves something to be desired, however, track and field is on life support in this country. Anything that can be done to increase fan interest is welcomed. The ESPN ratings were extremely high, in fact, the highest ever, so that’s good news.

    On another matter, I have several issues how the NCAA operates. For example, how does the Oregon 4X400 men’s team run the sixth fastest time and is left out of the finals. They ran four tenths of a second faster than Ohio State who was placed in the finals. I know the first two finishers in each heat and the next two fatest times go to the finals, but that makes about as much sense as putting new shoes on a dead horse. How about the eight fatest times advance. You shouldn’t be penalized because you are in a faster heat.

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