Luke Graham.

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Luke Graham.

Luke Graham: New track format makes little sense

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Luke Graham

Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Luke here.

The Colorado High School Activities Association is at it again.

Earlier this month, the governing board for high school athletics approved a new track and field format set to start next year.

Instead of having state championships for each class, there will be an all-class state championship.

Rankings - at least in Class 4A and 5A - will determine who gets to go to state. Classes 2A and 3A will continue to hold a regional meet the week before the state competition.

The state meet, most likely held in Jefferson County, will turn into a three-day event instead of the traditional two.

Of course, there are positives and negatives to the decision. There are in everything that CHSAA is forced to decide on. A positive is we'll get true Colorado state champions. It will allow an athlete such as Class 3A Buena Vista's Mason Finley to show he really is the best in the state. Finley - only a junior - set the Colorado discus record with a throw of 202 feet, 10 inches earlier this year. He has a legitimate shot to set the national high school record of 234-3 before he's done.

But - as is usually the case with decisions made by the Front Range organization - the Western Slope suffers.

Schools such as Hayden, Soroco and Steamboat will have a tough time. Weather puts the area schools at a disadvantage to begin with.

Hayden and Soroco - while the two teams will qualify athletes with the regional concession CHSAA made - will have a tough time ever again having a state champion. Steamboat will probably have a tough time qualifying athletes for the state meet.

Those are harsh realities for three schools with rich track and field histories.

But it's something CHSAA felt would make the sport more competitive. Of course there was opposition from this side of the state. Coaches from Soroco to Steamboat to Grand Junction opposed the changes.

It didn't matter. Schools like Montbello, Overland, Chatfield, Cherry Creek, Heritage, Littleton, Monarch, Boulder, Fairview and Longmont, among others, didn't oppose it. It's the big guys versus the little guys.

Add into that the change from a two-day event (Friday and Saturday) to a three-day event (Thursday, Friday and Saturday), and it's tough to see how schools - especially the smaller ones such as Hayden and Soroco - benefit.

Three days means another night in hotels, a longer trip to the Front Range and another strain on athletic budgets.

CHSAA certainly doesn't have an easy job. No matter what decision the organization makes, there always will be people opposed. That's the nature of the business.

But it's rare you can talk to a coach on the Western Slope and have them say the governing board doesn't have some kind of bias against schools west of the Continental Divide.

It doesn't seem fair. But fairness, it seems with CHSSA, isn't something the Western Slope's accustomed to.

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