Track rule changes affect local teams

Published 9:22 pm Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The track and field season for local teams begins Saturday, but don’t expect to see any running, jumping or throwing of heavy objects unless you’re willing to drive out of the county.

New AHSAA regulations have made it impossible for teams to hold meets locally, at Clanton City Park, as has been done in the past and have priced one school, Maplesville, out of the sport altogether.

In the past, local coaches officiated meets at the park in order to meet the minimum number of meets teams were required to participate in before sectionals. But a rule change states that AHSAA-registered officials are required for all meets.

“It’s just an attempt to have improved officiating,” AHSAA Assistant Director Alan Mitchell said. “We want to have the same standards in track that we have in other sports.”

So, meets featuring more teams at better facilities have become necessary. The problem is the drive required to get to these meets and the steep entrance fees.

“We can’t afford it,” Maplesville athletic director Brent Hubbert said. “We can’t afford to take a bus somewhere because track doesn’t make money. We might try again next year, depending on the economy.”

Athletic programs are charged $1.20 per mile to use school buses. That rate is set by the state Department of Education. So, Billingsley’s trip to the Homewood Invitational on March 28 will cost about $140, for example. And that’s not including entrance fees and meals for the athletes.

Isabella athletic director Lanny Jones said entrance fees are typically about $100 per team, or $200 for both and boys and girls team to compete.

Some of the money made by host schools is used to pay for officials. Five officials are required for meets with more than seven teams, and officials must be paid $50 each per day.

And, like Hubbert said, track doesn’t pay for itself unless you’re the school hosting meets. Visiting teams aren’t given a share of money made off admission charges if any money is made, and sponsorship dollars aren’t available as in, for example, baseball, where home teams can put signs for businesses on their outfield fences.

Teams must compete in at least two meets in order to qualify for the section meets on April 24-25.

Other local track teams will compete despite the increased costs: Billingsley and Isabella will compete in the Oak Mountain Ice Breaker on Saturday, Billingsley and Chilton County will compete in the Pelham Speed Meet on March 12, Chilton County and Isabella will compete in the Homewood Invitational on March 28 and all three teams will compete in the Pelham Invitational on April 11.

Thorsby will also have boys and girls track teams, but their schedule wasn’t available at press time.

Several local athletes fared well in the sport last year. Maplesville’s 4×100-meter relay team of Nick Andrews, Brian Frith, Drek Gardner and Marcus Wilson turned in a second-place finish for Class 1A in the state meet, and Maplesville’s Brad Pike was second in the javelin throw.

All those athletes have graduated, but Billingsley’s Jay Tyus, who finished second in the state in the 110-meter hurdles, will be back. So will Thorsby’s Mary Gasson, who qualified for state in four events last year, and Marcus Bray, who qualified for three.

Hubbert said he’s not upset about having to give up the school’s track team because he’s not sure it was a necessity.

“In our situation, our kids may need some time off. They may not want to do it. No one has asked me about it.”