ESCANABA - An adjustment to the format of the U.P. Track Finals is under study and we could see a change in the future.
U.P. track coaches were surveyed last Saturday about the 3200-meter run, which is the next-to-last race on a busy 17-event card that is billed as the best day in Upper Peninsula sports.
Kingsford athletic director Al Unger asked coaches for their opinions, indicating the possibility of moving the 3200 to the day's first event. Putting Division 1 and 2 runners in the same race - boys and girls separate - was also in the survey.
Dennis Grall, sports edtior
"It was overwhelmingly yes to combine D-1 and D-2," Unger said in a telephone chat this week. "That's a pretty good deal."
About 100 coaches received surveys in their meet packets, and two-thirds returned the survey.
Unger said there was also support to move the 3200 to the opening race, which would start at 10 a.m. (EDT).
"I've been thinking about this for a couple of years and ran it by several coaches," Unger said of shifting the 3200, which is a two-mile run of eight laps.
The 3200 is scheduled to start at 4:25 (EDT), with a two-hour time frame for the six races. The 1600 relay, the day's final event, is scheduled to start at 6:40 (EDT).
Unger said several coaches pointed out the 3200 is held in its normal place during the regular season, which is a concern because athletes run up to four events in a meet. His response? "This is unlike any other meet, it is not the same as a regular meet."
By combining D-1 and D-2, with runners wearing colored bibs to determine their division, there would be four 3200 races over 90 minutes.
The 3200 relay would follow the open 3200 for the next 90 minutes, giving athletes plenty of rest time before the full track portion begins at noon.
"That is probably more than they will ever get during the regular season," said Unger.
Some runners and fans may say the crowds won't be as large for the first race, but they are already depleted under the current format.
Fans tend to leave Flivver Field when the open 3200 begins as most athletes have completed their events and not many people get excited about watching athletes run a total of 48 laps, with really just the last 200 meters providing any excitement.
Just when the excitement and tension is building for the team championships, the 3200 takes out the steam. Yes, the 1600 relay provides an exciting finish, but after two hours of sitting around, it is hard even for that dynamic race to restore the enthusiasm.
Unger has already contacted MHSAA officials about the idea, and was told it is a local decision with prior approval.
"Who knows, if we take baby steps," Unger said. "We might as well get some people talking about it. Maybe something will happen. We've got the ball rolling."
The coaches have provided their input to Unger, and it has been positive. What do the fans and athletes think?
Contact Kingsford athletic director Al Unger at firstname.lastname@example.org to express your views.