FEATURE San Diego Expanded Divisions, Might State Follow?


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Every year, probably for 102 years in the case of track, it seems there is a group of coaches and parents who want to expand to more than one division for the state championship.

They look at football, basketball and other sports and wonder why the state doesn't do like Texas or Illinois and have track championships in multiple divisions.

When the San Diego Section went to three divisions for approximately 125 schools last spring, one of the reasons for expanding was COVID-smaller crowds meant a safer environment.

But those who want multiple divisions at the state level thought they saw an opportunity to re-address the issue. When San Diego continued with three divisions this spring, those murmurs, low as they might be, surfaced again.

There isn't even a sliver of interest for expanding track divisions at the state level.

"No, not at all," was how CIF-State Associate Executive Director Brian Seymour answered if the expansion by San Diego might have a ripple affect to the state level.

"Multiple sections have multiple divisions in their section playoffs-they do what they feel they need to do to service their section.

"The state has had a single division for track and field for 102 years."

Not that expanding to multiple divisions hasn't come up.

"At different times, people in wrestling, track and swimming have brought up multiple divisions but we've had very few discussions over the years because everyone appreciates the uniqueness of standing on the podium after winning the 100-meters, 136-pound weight class or the 50-yard freestyle," said Seymour.

"Take a step back. By the time a student-athlete has advanced through league to divisional to masters to state, they've reached the pinnacle, they've advanced to that rarified air of competing in the meet of champions."

He said team sports like football, basketball, and this spring baseball and softball at the state level are different from individual sports like track, wrestling, and swimming.

"It's a totally different concept where you're dealing with things like competitive equity on the team level," said Seymour.

Even Valley Center track coach Mike Cummings of the San Diego Section said while expanding to three divisions was in response to those smaller-enrollment schools that never had a chance to win a team championship against the larger schools, there is no move afoot to push for expanded state playoffs.

"The (California) State Meet can't be beat," said Cummings. "It's an incredible meet, where you have the best competing against the best. There is no interest here in changing that."

But they did change at the section level, which both Seymour and Cummings explained is up to each section.

So, Saturday's prelims are already different from a year ago when there were three sites with 18 athletes in each event, boys, and girls.

Instead, there are 27 individuals (not relays) in each event with the top nine advancing to one site, Mt. Carmel, for the championships.

Division 2 will be held at Canyon Crest Academy, Division 2 at University City, and Division 3 at Mount Miguel with all three starting with field events at 10 a.m. and track at 11.

The top nine performances out of the division prelims will be in the A heat, while the next nine are in the B and the third nine in the C heat, all competing at the section finals on May 21 at Mt. Carmel HS.

When the top 27 advances to the championships, it is almost certain the top nine overall will go head-to-head, regardless of division. Each division will be scored separately for team awards.

"The top three marks overall automatically move on to the State Meet," said Cummings. "The state qualifiers can come out of any heat. Additionally, anyone who qualifies with a state at-large mark but isn't in the top three will also advance."

So, you could win Heat C in the boys 800 at 1:54.00 but stand fourth overall and you would still make the bus to Clovis by bettering the at-large standard of 1:54.52.

Cummings explained going to three divisions in more detail.

"The people who didn't favor two divisions mostly were Division 1 coaches who had nothing to gain because they were already competitive in Division 1," said Cummings of the switch in 1998. "For the first few years, Division 1 kicked Division 2's tail but eventually, Division 2 got stronger and stronger until they're right there at the top with Division 1. Division 1 is deeper. I expect the same thing will happen with Division 3."

That division already has a handful of athletes who, like Francis Parker distance runner Kenan Pala and Madison sprinter Amirah Shaheed, will almost certainly not only qualify for State but could easily win overall against Division 1 and 2.

That division could also have individuals, who, if they were in the other two divisions would not have even qualified.

But, the key is, no matter what a section does, it doesn't mean expanded state championships in the foreseeable future.

Steve Brand is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to MileSplit.

Photos by James Huenink.