At the LHSAA Annual convention today in Baton Rouge, Principals voted in favor of changing the order of track and field events to the format used by the National Federation of High Schools. This will take effect this summer and be in place for the 2024 season.
Several long-time head track and field coaches in Louisiana took to their sport's sounding board-The Louisiana High School T&F Facebook page-to vent and voice their displeasure over the vote.
Last year, the 4x800 was held 90 minutes before the start of the other running events to give those athletes time to recover. Now, according to St. Joseph's head coach Charlie Daigle, the 4x800 will be held at the beginning of the meet and there will be no mandated time between the 4x800 and the start of the other running events.
|Current T&F Event Schedule||New T&F Event Schedul (start 2024)|
|4x800 relay (90 minutes recovery)||4x800 (No recovery period)|
|100/110 hurdles||4x200 relay|
|4x400 relay||4x400 relay|
Mansfield head coach Mychal Word, who led Mansfield to the school's first state championship in 35 year a year ago, is not happy with the change.
"I usually don't complain," Word posted on the Louisiana High School T&F board, "but I don't like this at all! I don't think it's adequate time for sprinters to recover, and still not benefitting a kid who runs the 400 and the 800. I believe our schedule was balanced already. It changes things for sure, especially for schools who are in smaller divisions and doesn't have the luxury to have a plethora of athletes to choose from. It also takes away any athlete who runs the 100, 100 hurdles, and 4x200."
Word, who began his ninth year of coaching high school track and field-five as a head coach, is not alone.
West Monroe's Dwain McDuffie was not happy with the rule change either.
"I don't like the 4x800 kids getting so little rest now," McDuffie said. "The state meet will be fine, but normal meets it won't be 45-50 minutes."
But that's not the only thing.
"I don't like that 100 meter runners will have to turn around and run the 4x200," McDuffie said. "Normally, they are warming up right before the meet-doing handoffs and starts. Then immediately, those same kids are going to run the 4x100."
Finally, McDuffie, who has been coaching high school track and field for 30 years, doesn't like the fact that the 800 and 3200 is not a viable option with the new schedule.
C.E. Byrd head coach Juan Plaza, who has been coaching high school track and field for 29 years, spoke with his athletic director before the convention on the three proposals related to track and field. The principals at the LHSAA Convention voted differently on all three proposals than Plaza would have liked.
Plaza was most disappointed with the schedule change.
"I believe coaches are going to be in favor of any schedule change that benefits their kids," Plaza said. "I get that. As long as our kids get adequate recovery time, I have no issues with it. The new schedule seems to hinder your 100, 4x100, 4x200 kids. Of the 12 running events, those three events are among the first six scheduled events. It's not enough recovery for quality performances."
Plaza also is not in favor of a schedule that does not include recovery time after the 4x800, citing it does not give 1600 runners enough time before that event.
St. Joseph's head coach seemed to be in the minority on the subject.
"Awesome," Daigle posted about the result. "I told my principal to vote for it. Better schedule all around for sprinters and distance. Other than the 100 before the 4x200. If a kid can't run a 100 and come back and run a decent 4x200 in 20 minutes something is wrong anyway."
Former athletes and high school track and field coaches in other states chimed in on the hot topic Friday evening.
"The 800 is super close to the 3200," Zachary Burns, a former distance runner posted. "So glad that my racing days are over because that would have been brutal."
B.J. Parish is a track and field coach at Bentonville West High School in Arkansas.
"This is awful," Parish posted. "I coach in Arkansas and have been envious for years of Louisiana's event schedule. I hope they change it back."
Plaza, commenting on the thread, hit the nail on the head.
If the majority of track and field coaches, many of whom have decades of experience coaching high school track and field, "why in the world would principals vote in favor of this?"
Plaza thinks it is an issue of ignorance and apathy.
"Either they don't know, or they don't care."