SCHSL Executive Committee turns down indoor proposal

COLUMBIA -- Bob Jenkins, a founding member of the SCTCCCA, said today (Wednesday) he’s “disappointed for the young people of this state” regarding the State High School League’s decision not to sanction indoor track and field.

“We had 78 schools last year and 77 this year who said they would like to have indoor track for their students,” Jenkins said. “It’s ludicrous to me that we don’t have one. Someone is out there spiking the punch.”

Jenkins told scrunners.com the SCTCCCA isn’t asking that every high school in the state participate in indoor track and field, but only those schools that want to compete.

“Nobody has to do this sport. We’re only asking the High School League and the Executive Committee and the Activities Committee to allow those schools that want to participate.

“No one can tell me that this is not a viable request,” Jenkins said.

Ed Boehmke, cross country and track coach at Eastside High in Taylors, said the SCTCCCA is modeling its indoor track and field program after the North Carolina program which this winter held more that 300 “Polar Bear” meets across the state.

A polar bear meet is held outdoors, using indoor track distances which are typically shorter than outdoor events.

“It works well for them and usually the weather in North Carolina is colder than in South Carolina,” Boehmke said in a recent column that appeared in scrunners.com.

Ron Lopresti, president of the Pennsylvania Track and Field Coaches Association, said indoor track has been a huge success in his state.  It started in 1963 in the Philadelphia area with coaches holding meets “wherever they could find a facility.”  At times, that included outdoor venues, he said.

In 1975, the association held its first indoor state meet, and four years later girls joined the sport through the Delaware Valley Girls Track Coaches Association, he said.

“The sport has spread throughout the state, although it is still more prominent in the eastern part of Pennsylvania,” Lopresti said.  Meets are held at area colleges that have indoor facilities, including Lehigh University and Haverford College and Ursinus College.  The state meet is held at Penn State where this year more than 200 schools competed.

“The sport is basically run by the coaches who officiate the meets, thus keeping costs down,” Lopresti said.  “Those schools which sponsor indoor track have had great success and they dominate the outdoor state championships in the spring.

“Many outstanding athletes have come through our indoor program, including several who became Olympians.” he said, adding that indoor athletes do very well at the New Balance Indoor Nationals and many have also become outstanding college athletes.

The SCTCCCA has been trying off and on for the past 10 years to get the sport sanctioned by the League.  Jenkins said the SCTCCCA hasn’t received an explanation from the League on why its latest request for sanctioning indoor track and field was turned down. Instead, the League sent a brief letter to the SCTCCCA coaches stating only that the committee denied a request “to sanction Indoor T&F as a competitive sport of the 2012-2013 season.”

Joe Keenan, president of the League’s executive committee, hasn’t responded to a message left on his home phone Wednesday night by scrunners.com asking him to comment on the committee’s decision.

John Jones, track coach at Spring Valley High and a member of the SCTCCCA Hall of Fame, said the committee typically doesn’t elaborate on its decisions.

“I think the League has a policy of not explaining votes that they take behind closed doors,” he said.

Jones said there appears to be a communications issue between the South Carolina High School League and the executive committee that governs the League.

“The High School League will always tell you that it wasn’t them who turned it down, it was the executive committee.”  He said the question becomes what kind of information is being given to the executive committee.

“It’s not a fair fight,” Jones said. “The High School League has the committee’s ear, but they won’t let us come in and talk to them.  I don’t think we’re getting the information presented in the way we would like to see it presented.”

Going forward, Jones said the coaches and school principals who support indoor track will continue to push for direct communication with the League’s executive committee.

“We will address it again at our summer meeting and vote on it, and once that’s done our president will send it to the High School League for consideration again,” he said.

In the meantime, Jones said he will approach his athletic director at Spring Valley about establishing indoor track as a club sport at the school, similar to the route taken by high school swimming and lacrosse, both of which are now sanctioned by the League.

“If we have to, we will maybe get three of four other schools and ask the High School League what we need to do to start club teams and go from there.”

Jones said the coaches aren’t the only ones who should be concerned about the executive committee’s decision not to sanction high school indoor track.

“The people who should be upset by this decision are the parents of all the kids who aren’t getting to participate and the principals of all of these schools who are being told no, you can’t do a sport at your own school.”

Meanwhile, in Jones’ and other track coaches’ view, the students continue to suffer.

“I’m disappointed for the high school kids of South Carolina,” Jones said. He said the decision means many students “will be sitting at home in December, January and February instead of being engaged in an after-school activity.”

Jones said many of the students who would benefit from having an indoor track season come from single-parent homes, “and having that mentor, that coach around them helps them in a lot of ways.

“It’s just a shame that they are going to be denied that opportunity,” he said.

“We have a reasonable request out there and we have not, in my opinion, gotten a reasonable answer,” Jenkins said. “We’re simply asking for permission for those of us who want to do what’s best for young people and do what’s best for our sport to have the opportunity to do that.”

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