KEEPING TRACK - Bring Back the Mile

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KEEPING TRACK - Bring Back the Mile

Written by Rod O'Donnell on 23 January 2018.

“Bring Back the Mile – America’s Distance,” is the name of an organization dedicated to doing exactly what its name infers. The opening words of the mission are: “Return the mile to prominence on the American and worldwide sports and cultural landscape by elevating and celebrating the mile to create a movement.” The virtues of using imperial measurements in our sport have been pointed out in previous “Keeping Track” articles.

I would like to see another idea promoted that would help restore track to a place of prominence. “Bring Back the Dual Meet,” would restore what was once an integral part of the track and field landscape on the high school, intercollegiate, and international levels.

Internationally, the Russian/United States meet was conducted from 1958 through 1985, alternating locations between the two countries. In 1962, the two countries met at Stanford. A crowd of 150,000 witnessed the two-day battle between the two super powers.

Collegiately, dual meets were once common on team schedules. Competition between the USC and UCLA, Stanford/Cal, Ohio State/Michigan, and Oregon/Oregon State were held annually, and were considered important to the integrity of our sport; unfortunately today, the vast majority  of universities have chosen to compete in non-scored invitationals. This trend has not helped track maintain the stature that it once held.

An exception to the practice of avoiding head-to-head competition is the annual dual meet tradition held between Army and Navy in cross-country, indoor, and outdoor track. If a fan wants to experience excitement, intensity and fierce competition, look no further than these historic battles. They provide indisputable evidence that our sport can be as exciting as any athletic event.

Unfortunately, trends that begin on the collegiate level filter down to high schools. The absence of dual meets is now the rule on most schedules, unless a league mandates otherwise. Even if it is required, many coaches approach the event as an unimportant burden, by choosing not to run their best athletes, placing them in off-events, or telling their teams that the event is meaningless. As a result, the average spectator loses interest, and this damages our sport.

Would bringing back dual meets restore track and field to the previous level of prominence that it once held in the American sports scene? Not completely, but it would certainly play a key role in accomplishing this goal.
The following guidelines could be followed to help “Bring Back the Dual”:

1.    The meet should last NO LONGER than three hours. This is the average attention span of most spectators.

2.    If it is a co-ed meet, provide an adequate number of officials. Multiple clerks and starters are keys to seeing that the meet is conducted smoothly and quickly.

3.    Allow all members of your team to compete. If this is not possible, because of large numbers, hold junior varsity or separate-gender meets, conducted on different days or alternate weeks.

4.    Present the meet in the same manner that would be done if 20 teams were participating. This includes opening concession stands and having a well-informed public address announcer who will keep the fans informed of team scores and individual performers.

5.    Provide a meet program. This is easy to produce and should include an order of events, meet records, past team winners, and the date and location of upcoming meets.

6.    Inform the media in advance, and report the results to them.

7.    Conduct the meet at mid-week, or skip an occasional Saturday invitational. Parents and athletes will welcome a week-end event that is completed by early afternoon instead of the 6-7 hour, multi-team event that allows 2-3 entries per event. This is especially true on those frigid March and April days that are common in the Midwest.

8.    Schedule schools that are rivals in other sports. Present the winning team with a rotating trophy. This helps create a tradition.

9.    Eliminate trials in the running events, by having timed finals in the heats. Limit field events to four attempts in the weights and horizontal jumps.

10.     Give the first 100 fans a small gift. (Pens, towels, coupons, etc.)

11.     Run a 50/50 raffle, with a drawing after the 4 x 400 relay.

12.     Make the meet a special event.

Swimming and wrestling continue to hold dual meets. In the latter sport, a state dual championship is now conducted in Ohio.

Head to head competition was once a staple in track and field in both high schools and universities; this attracted large crowds, and the meets were exciting to watch. Many years ago, at the Oregon/Washington dual meet, an elderly woman approached the winning coach with several disparaging words because her team had been defeated in the bitter rivalry. What a different time it was! How awesome would it be if we could rekindle that kind of spirit today.

Yours in track,
Rod O’Donnell

Read more of Coach O'Donnell's articles on -
Preparing for the upcoming Track Season -

Keeping Track -  CROSS COUNTRY -

Keeping Track - Number 7 -

Attending a Running Camp -

Can we do anything else to alienate sports fans -

Keeping Track - National Governing Body for High School Sports (NFHS)  - 

 Keeping Track - Cross Country -

Keeping Track - Frank Shorter -

KEEPING TRACK, Two Iconic Coaches-

KEEPING TRACK -  Caldwell Story -

KEEPING TRACK - Furman Elite Training Group -

Keeping Track - 2 Divisions for 120 Lacrosse teams?

Boy's Division II and Division III -

Boy's Division I -;utm_campaign=july+2015+news&utm_medium=email


KEEPING TRACK - Football and Track Athletes -

 The Ohio High School Athletic Association State Cross-Country Championships -

Cross Country -

 Track Faces Challenges that could have adverse effects thus causing severe damage -

Marketing Track & Field -

Student Athlete’s Questions -

The Need to Speak Up -

A new book by John McDonnell -

KEEPING TRACK - From September-October 2013 print RUNOHIO -

Random Thoughts -

Another Division I institution has dropped its men’s track program -

 Ohio University Athletic Department's Worst Decision -

Life Lessons from Cross Country -

Ten Pledges for Cross Country Coaches -

London Olympics -

 Improving as a Coach –

You Only Go Around Once -

Dear Jesse Owens –

West Virginia State Cross Country Championship –

SPIRE Institute -

Why is the OHSAA Treating Cross Country Different than All of the Other Sponsored Sports?

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