Joel Reichenberger: Cheering for a story
April 30, 2011
Steamboat Springs — One of my favorite journalists, Joe Posnanski, now with Sports Illustrated, said it best when he said journalists don't root for a team or a player. They root for a story.
That's maybe not quite as true in a small city like Steamboat Springs, where we writers get to connect so deeply and so often with the community and the people and kids we cover, but nevertheless it's a comment that often proves true for me and might be the reason I've been wrong about something in this column several times in the past couple of years.
The Colorado High School Activities Association changed its rules for the Class 2A state track meet this season. In the past, all Class 2A teams attended a regional track meet and the top three finishers in each event at that meet earned the right to compete at state. Competitors who hit certain marks — times, distances or heights that would establish them as among the very best in Colorado — also earned automatic tickets to state regardless of how they did at regionals.
Now the regional track meet has been de-emphasized, and those who record the top 18 marks throughout the season go to state.
Class 2A state track is now chosen the way Class 4A, where Steamboat Springs High School competes, has been for years.
I've thought it was a terrible idea, a horrible way to fill the state meet.
This past week, talking with Hayden and Soroco athletes affected by this rule, I realized perhaps it's not so bad. Turns out, they love it. It takes the pressure off the end-of-the-season regional meet and truly brings the best 18 athletes in a given event to state, no matter what part of the state they're from. All 18 competitors could come from the same region if they were good enough, or none could come from a certain area.
I've voiced my opposition to this method at least twice in this space, and I think I know why.
I've always loved the regional track meet because it makes for a great story. I love that, in the old system, some kid can gut it out in the 3,200-meter run, upset someone else and earn his or her way to state. I love that for those not good enough to guarantee themselves spots, the dream isn't dead until the race is over. I love that there is drama and intrigue and that athletes at end-of-the-season events are racing one another, not some statewide list on a computer.
I love the story, and a win-or-go-home situation always makes for a great story.
The athletes themselves apparently disagree.
I probably won't entirely change my stance. I still love the way things were in 2A, with guarantees for the best and hope for the rest. But I don't know how I can advocate for that anymore when I know how happy the athletes are with the new system.
It wasn't anything personal, guys and gals. I've just been cheering for the story.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com