Start of the 2020 Boys Cross Country State Race
Photo by Jacob Musselman
Could Indiana move to a three-week state tournament for cross country?
It's an idea that's been tossed around, and one that gained some traction this fall as some of the state's best teams rested their top runners in the first week of the postseason. Columbus North and Carmel were the top two boys teams in the state this year, but neither won their sectional as their fastest runners sat out.
Despite much discussion from fans across the state, Indiana Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches (IATCCC) president Rick Sluder says there's been no talk of altering the cross country tournament since Paul Neidig took over as IHSAA commissioner earlier this year.
"There's been no movement from the IHSAA on this topic - at least mentioning to the IATCCC" said Sluder, "Now, do I expect changes there will be changes in the next 1-2 years? Yes"
Condensing the traditional four week postseason to three would drastically cut down on the number of teams and individuals advancing out of sectionals. Under the current format, more than half of the runners advance out of most sectionals.
No other sport under IHSAA jurisdiction sees that many competitors move beyond the first round of the postseason. In track's three week tournament, less than 20% of runners advance out of sectionals. Swimming's postseason only has two rounds, with the winner of each event going to the State Finals.
One concern with reducing the number of advancing teams and individuals would be the negative effect on participation at small schools. Some schools struggle to field a full team of runners, but the prospect of advancing in the tournament is motivating. With less teams moving on, that goal could become less realistic.
Vote below, should the state tournament stay at 4 weeks or should it shorten to 3 weeks?
A solution for smaller schools could be a move to the ever divisive class system. Indiana is one of the few states to still run a single class state tournament in cross country. Splitting into two classes would turn some programs that struggle to make it to the State Finals into powerhouses.
Of the 48 boys and girls teams to compete in the state meet this year, only seven came from schools with an enrollment less than 1,000. Only one team (Wheeler's girls) came from a school with less than 700 students.
Any changes to the postseason are still theoretical at this point. Columbus North Boys Coach Danny Fisher says that while change could be coming, there hasn't been any official word on the topic.
"From what I hear it is in the works and we could see changes as soon as next season." Fisher said, " For us, that decision and how it is structured is out of our control. What is in our control is taking advantage of every opportunity to race anyone, anywhere, anytime and preparing ourselves to be ready for anything when we toe the line"