Column: Ed's Ramblings - Time to Speak Up - Only the Best

Guest column by Ed Boehmke, coached for 38 years in South Carolina

These views of the guest column are solely of the writer and not of Read more of Boehmke's ramblings at

This is the third part of the article that was published on SCRunners Friday morning.

III. Time to Speak Up - We Want Only the BEST 

It has been a crazy opening to school. Classrooms around the state remain empty or there are very few students in the seats. Online learning is very prevalent, but education is proceeding at the best rate that it can. 

Athletics are also proceeding. The South Carolina High School League (SCHSL) has decided to shorten the fall season and limit the number of contests to seven weeks. This also decreases the number of rounds in the playoff system. 

Column: Ed's Ramblings, A Special 2020 Cross Country Season 

Luckily cross country does not have a system involving brackets, but the number of teams who can qualify for the state meet has been reduced to 12, which will in turn have an affect on our qualifying process. Pre-Covid seasons allowed all schools to enter a state qualifying meet at various sites around the state and a certain number of those teams would earn the right to compete at the State Championships the next week based on their performance at the qualifier. The State Championships were limited to about 18 teams depending on the classification. For the most part, this system worked very well to ensure that the best teams would be in the State Championships. Although, there are instances that a few teams that could have finished in the top 15 at the State did not qualify and some teams that did qualify never would have if they had been at another qualifying site. 

The State Championships must be reduced to twelve (12) teams per classification and each classification race must be held before another classification arrives at the site. Therefore the state meet will have 10 (or nine) races spread apart by hours and possibly over two days. 

This year we have been told that we must now come up with a system to qualify for the qualifier, so the real problem is how we get to the qualifiers! The South Carolina Track and Cross Country Coaches Association (SCTCCCA) has developed a plan that will insure that the BEST twelve teams get to the state meet. A few weeks ago, over 100 cross country coaches from around the state met in a Zoom meeting to discuss this plan. Chris White, president of the SCTCCCA, spent many hours compiling data from region, state qualifying and state championship results from the past years to show how the plan would work and how that it ensures that the BEST 12 teams get to Columbia for the State Championships. This Zoom meeting was recorded and is available to watch here. After a thorough explanation and answering many questions the plan was proposed and seconded. A google vote was done and the proposal passed 99-2. Click here for the link of the entire Zoom meeting

Chris has edited the video (you can view that video here by clicking hereand send it to all of the classification presidents with the hope that they will send it to all of their schools' AD's and Principals. Each classification is having a Zoom meeting the week of Sept. 14 to vote on this proposal or to vote on others that we (The SCTCCCA or our coaches) may not have seen or may not have had the opportunity to express our opinions to our AD's before a vote is taken. 

Please watch the video but let me take a few lines to try and explain the proposal.

Throughout the season, teams will run in meets and their performances will be sent to SCRunners.

Each athlete's times will be entered into the SCRunners database. The database then averages each runner's performances. The top five individual averages per team can be added to get a season average for your team. It will always take your top five averages, not necessarily the averages of your top five runners. Starting in October, the SCTCCCA will take these averages, and publish a ranking list by classification.

Season calendar | 2019 state meet coverage

Watch Ava Dobson's state record race 

On Sunday before the qualifying meet, the SCTCCCA will take the top 24 teams per classification from this list. During the seeding process, teams that are near the bubble (top 24) will be considered with further conditions such as head-to-head competition and difficulty of courses. During the presentation, Chris carefully outlined how this would be done. On Friday or Saturday Oct. 30 or 31, these 24 teams will race in two races (evens in one race, odds in another) and the top six teams from each race will qualify for the state. Individuals from non-qualifying teams have also been considered in the plan. 

The first thing that I would like to stress is that this is NOT a selection process. This proposal uses hard, accurate data to rank the teams based entirely on your team's performance throughout a season. The top few teams will qualify regardless of how we decide to select them, but the ones around the cutoff will be scrutinized against other teams they have run and the courses they have run on. The second thing that I would like to stress, is that this will eliminate teams that have athletes running well over 30 minutes at qualifiers where they should have never been. This plan brings back some dignity to the races and causes them to not be an "open" race for a coach to bring their athletes. Your team will have to perform well throughout the season to make it to the State Qualifier. 

I hope that I haven't confused you and no matter how clear (or unclear) I have made this, it is imperative that you watch one of the two videos. Email Chris or one of the officers if you are unclear about something or you need further explanation. 

Prior to the Zoom meeting to explain this proposal there were a few coaches that were adamantly opposed to this plan and had a plan of their own. It is obvious from the vote that these minds were convinced that this plan is the BEST plan to get the BEST teams to the state championships. There is still one alternate plan that was addressed in the Zoom meeting, with data to support why it was not as effective as the new plan, but it is still showing up on the SCTCCCA message board. I do not know if the coach that wrote this has since watched the video, but I would like to take a few more minutes to give an example of why this or other similar plans would not work to the benefit of the sport. 

It is obvious from the vote that these minds were convinced that this plan is the BEST plan to get the BEST teams to the state championships.

His/her plan was really simple. Each region holds a championship race and the top two qualify for the Qualifier. First problem - some regions have only one or two teams in them. So, in these cases, you run the meet you qualify just because you are second or better (or last or better)! And then other regions with five or six teams in them are racing for two spots. Geography should NOT be the first condition to qualify. Second problem - some regions are just not as good as others and the teams that would be eliminated are better than most of the teams that would qualify. Chris gave one example in the Zoom meeting. Wando was third in their region championships and was second in the State Championships. I'll give you another. In Region 1-2A the top six teams finished in the top seven at the state Championships and ALL seven of them placed in the top nine! 

Basically we need to decide what type of quality we want at the State Championships. I have been told by a few AD's that the SCHSL philosophy is really only concerned with who wins and is runner-up at the state meet. If we want to follow that philosophy then let us do brackets and have a dual meet state championship like most of the rest of the sports, although this would be a financial disaster for the SCHSL. That, of course, is not my belief or that of most of the cross country coaches in South Carolina. It is an honor to make the State Championships, an even larger honor to be in the top ten at the state meet and a career honor to as to the number of times a team makes the top ten. What we want is the best teams, regardless of the numbers into the State Championships. This proposal is simple, data driven and achieves our philosophy. 

So what can you do? 

1) WATCH the video if you have not done so. Parents and athletes, I encourage you to watch it also and talk to your coach and encourage him to support the plan. 2) Send the links (or this article) to your AD. He/she will probably have no idea about this proposal until they have their AD's meeting next week. This proposal needs some explanation and very often the AD's meetings are pushed for time and other items that they will consider as more important than our proposal. Remember that the virus shutdowns occurred during the AD's Spring Meeting and they may not have completed all of their agendas there. Also there are few, if any XC Coaches that are AD's to talk and support this proposal. 3) GO AND TALK TO YOUR AD. Answer any questions he/she may have. Encourage him/her to vote for this proposal. 4) Ask your AD if your region is planning to have an AD Zoom meeting this week. If so, ask him/her if you could talk to all of them during the meeting to make sure that they have seen the video, answer any questions and encourage them to vote for our proposal. 5) Call your coaching friends and do the same thing. 6) Take it on yourself to call other AD's. 7) Tell you AD that if he receives any other proposals to share them with you. At their classification meeting have him contact you immediately if there are questions about our proposal or if any others are presented. 8) Ask your AD to be vocal about our proposal at the classification meeting. 

The 5A classification meeting is Sept. 15 at 9 a.m. The 1A is also Tuesday at 1 p.m.. The 4A's and 3A's meet at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m, respectively on Wednesday. The 2A's meet at 1 p.m. on Thursday. You must act on the items above THIS week. Especially if you are a 5A coach. That meeting will set the precedent for the rest. And remember that passing in one classification does not guarantee it passing in others. 

This is our chance for change. A lack of action on your part may leave you at home for the qualifier. I have even heard from one AD that he would support only region champs advancing straight to the state championships! What a travesty that would be! Do what must be done for our success. Be vocal and be determined! Don't let Covid-19 have another victory and ruin the cross country season for many of our quality teams and athletes. 

This is our chance for change. A lack of action on your part may leave you at home for the qualifier.

EXTRA RAMBLE- Congratulations to Brian DeRoberts and his staff at Hillcrest High School for a very successful meet this past Saturday. With few exceptions all of the athletes, coaches and fans followed all of the protocols and rules. Hillcrest Athletic Director Tommy Bell worked tirelessly supporting his coaches and taking pictures and videos showing the runners and fans cooperation. I hope that we continue to be mature and above our political and personal opinions to ensure that the season is completed with the State Championships in November. 

Fight Like Wyatt meet coverage can be viewed here 

Guest column by Ed Boehmke, coached for 38 years in South Carolina

These views of the guest column are solely of the writer and not of Read more of Boehmke's ramblings at