Considering our humble beginnings, cross country in South
Carolina has become the largest one day State Championships in the state. At the end of last year's meet (the 49th)
the South Carolina High School League, who is responsible for all state
championships in the state, had crowned 239 teams and individuals and teams as
state champions in cross country (133 boys and 106 girls).
The South Carolina Track and Cross Country Coaches Association, who has directed the meet itself for most of these years, has recognized 3,585 All-State athletes (top 15 in each race). Over 19,000 boys and 15,000 girls have crossed the state championships finish line.
In 1970, the very first "official" year, the State Meet was
one race. It was an "Open" race meaning
that all classifications ran together.
It was only for boys, only 2.25 miles and 12 schools competed of
which only 10 had teams of five runners. The
meet had 69 runners and was won by Sumter. In the meet's next 11 years, the largest
number of participants was 114. There were
qualifying meets that eliminated some of the runners, but the numbers were
still relatively small and still in one boys' race. The girls had their first championship in
1976 with just 31 runners. The number
remained under 100 until 1981.
The girls had only one "Open" race also.
In 1980, the numbers started growing. The SCHSL had three races for the boys - a 4A race, a 3A and a 2A/1A race. Qualifying became a part of everyone's schedule, but still the numbers in the State Meet grew, more than double the number of participants from the year before. The 2A/1A meet only lasted three years. The numbers doubled again when they got their race back in 1992. That meet split in 2016 and remained until the development of the 5A. By then the number of runners in the state meet had grown to almost 650 boys, an almost tenfold increase from our beginnings. This of course does not include another 650 that did not qualify.
The girl's meet did not get their second race until 1989. This race increased the number of girls to over 200. Their third race, 2A/1A started in 1995 and put the number of participants to almost 400. This number climber to almost 500 in the next few years until the girl's races split again for a short while with a 1A race in 2010, which lasted until 2015. The number of runners grew to 566.
The largest state championship was in 2016 when we had 1,205 finishers. The next years dropped because of the loss of the 1A meets and stricter qualifying, but still over 1,000 in last year's meet.
The number of finishing teams has also grown over the years due to the popularity of the sport. The first meet in 1970 finished 10 boys' schools. This number grew to 16 until 1982 when the qualifying procedure that year dropped the number in the 4A race to 10. That year only the top two teams from each region could qualify and not every region even had two teams. This procedure was quickly changed and the number increased back to 15. The first girls meet had only four teams finish and took until their fifth meet to get over 10 (teams).
Obviously, the numbers that qualify determines the number of teams that finish the state meet. However, the nature of the sport will allow many teams competing at the same time. Moreover, with the additions of more and more classification championships, the number of teams grew. The most to compete was in 2016 and 2017, the only two years we have had nine races, when 165 teams competed and finished at least five runners. That number will surely increase as the 1A schools begin to develop and keep teams.
Over the 49 years of the state championships, 2,607 boys teams and 2,054 girls schools have competed in the state meet - 239 of them earning the honor of being state champions.
The 2019 State Meet, our 50th, promises to have
about the same number of teams and runners as last year. The numbers in this article were compiled
from all of the results of our State Meet.
These were painstakingly retyped by the Eastside Cross Team a few years
back and are now on line at SCRunners.
From these I have gathered all types of statistics. Chris White, the current president of SCTCCCA, has compiled all of these stats into a very limited 50th State Championships meet program. If you enjoy data or you just want to see how your school could possibly place among all of the others, please make plans to purchase one of these. The program will have the top 10 times by classification, the number of All-State athletes by each school, the number of wins and runner-ups by each school, the state meet records of all winning coaches, and many other stats that I am sure you will enjoy.
Editor's note: Former Eastside cross country and track Coach Ed Boehmke was the head boys and girls track and cross country coach for 38 years. His teams won three state championships, seven state runner-ups, and numerous region championships. He has been the meet director for the Coaches Classic, S.C. State Championships, and the Chick-fil-a Games, as well the Greenville County Cross Country Championships and the Greenville County Track and Field Championships. He started the girls' division in 1977. He has also hosted state and regional Junior Olympics in both track and cross-country. He is very active in the S.C. State and Cross Country Coaches Association having held every elected and appointed position in the organization, including serving as president from 1988 - 1992. He has been selected to five different Hall of Fames - Berea High School Athletic, USATF/S.C., Greenville Track Club, S.C. Track and Cross Country Coaches Association, and the S.C. Athletic Coaches Association. He retired from teaching in June of 2016 but still continues to be a meet director at Eastside and is still responsible for directing the 3A and 4A state qualifying meet in cross country.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author. It is the hope that these thoughts, though maybe controversial, will open dialog between coaches, athletes, meet directors, and the S.C. High School League to find insightful and meaningful ideas to promote improvements in the sports of track and cross country.