"The State Champion Gold Medal Winner is..." Kansas high school track and field is back, with some minor changes expected.
At long last, high school track and field is back in Kansas!
Welcome to the 2021 season. Like many things, perhaps one of the positive outcomes of the global pandemic this past year is that we have come to appreciate the things we have had in the past. There's no doubt that for high school athletes, it's the honor of wearing your school's jersey, and for track and field fans, the excitement of watching your hometown compete.
So, what's it going to be like as Kansas kids get back to the track and the field?
I had the chance to ask a few questions of Kansas State High School activities Association Executive Director Bill Faflick and track and field administrator Mark Lentz about how the state's organizing body is approaching the track and field season.
We all need to remain vigilant to COVID-19 protocols, but we continue to creep back to a form of normalcy. Here's the full conversation that took place; the answers by KSHSAA were provided jointly by Faflick and Lentz:
Kansas MileSplit: Well, you must certainly feel excited about the prospects of having a track and field season this year. How confident are you right now that we can proceed with a 2021 season?
KSHSAA: The KSHSAA is confident that it is appropriate to begin the season and cautiously optimistic that the season will provide opportunities for students in our member schools to learn and grow through regular season activities. Postseason will only be possible if we continue to embrace the risk mitigation protocols designed to minimize the impact of COVD19 in our schools and school communities.
What are the precautions that KSHSAA advises for schools to follow this season? I assume spectators will be allowed to attend meets?
The very same precautions remain in place as we begin the spring season, just as they have been in place for schools all year and for fall and winter activities. It is critical that each participant monitor their personal health, self-assess on a daily basis and stay home if they are not feeling well. They should contact their health care provider if they exhibit any signs or symptoms of COVID19. For those participating as athletes, coaches, and spectators, universal masking is still a requirement, as is social distancing. And, consistent hand washing and equipment/facility cleaning are important for personal items and public facilities. In regards to spectators at track events, it is expected all spectators remain in areas separate and apart from competitors, and that they wear masks and socially distance. By attending events, patrons agree to these simple rules, and help the competitions continue.
As of now, are you proceeding with the idea that Wichita State University will host all six classifications again? If so, has there been any discussion about the potential need to split the state meet into 2 or 3 locations, similar to what cross country has done for years? What would possibly trigger the need for multiple locations?
At the time of this response, we are planning on all classifications at Wichita State, but not necessarily all at the same time. There are many factors that are currently being considered which will contribute to final decisions in this regard, and those include facility availability, staffing availability, spectator limits, and the continued trend towards improved health across the state.
I have heard coaches talk about how exciting a three-day state meet would be, as some other states are currently doing (Colorado, for example). Is that something that has been discussed for Kansas? If so, what are the factors that go into considering such an idea; is it logical for Kansas?
There are talks every year about modifying the format for the state track and field meet. For this year, we anticipate a format change due to COVID, but it does not seem prudent to have the same participants away from home for an extra day. In addition to the extended exposure impacting health, another day puts an extra burden on school budgets and event staff. Before any such decision is made, additional discussion with all stakeholder groups is necessary and our member schools would collectively agree the benefit surpasses the challenges. At this point, the meet format is not broken, but we always seek ways in which the experience can be enhanced for students in our member schools.
This season will be like no other, I think. Because of the pandemic, this year's upperclassmen were freshmen and sophomores the last time anyone competed in a Kansas high school track and field meet. And coaches have two classes -- freshmen and sophomores -- who have never competed in a high school meet. Please share your perspective on that, considering there are a lot of unknowns and opportunities for new stars to shine in this sport.
While this season will be different, just like the entire school year has been unique, the opportunity to participate as a member of a school team this spring will help all feel a return to some semblance of normal. And, the regular rhythm of a season full of track meets will help prepare all students for the anticipated championship season. Even if the championship meet may look a little different depending on necessary changes, the pursuit of the ultimate goal of standing on the podium will provide learning and growth opportunities for all students and generations of pride for school communities.
Finally, what message(s) would you like to give to Kansas athletes and coaches as they get back to competing in track and field this spring?
Have fun! Enjoy the season and appreciate each opportunity you have to participate this spring. As you continue to author the incredible legacy of Kansas Track and Field, work hard every day in pursuit of that opportunity to pursue gold at the state meet. All athletes and coaches know there is no secret to success...you must work hard, work smart, and rely on fundamentals. This year, those fundamentals also include navigating the COVID environment with strict adherence to those protocols intended to keep you healthy and keep you competing. The KSHSAA has been looking forward to seeing championship performances since our last track and field championship was awarded nearly two years ago, and know this year will be remembered for your tenacity in overcoming adversity.