Dr.J. on Running


State Outdoors

Corrupting Effect of Class System

Published June 10, 2002 in The Syracuse Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

At last week's State high school track and field championship in Henrietta, I witnessed another manifestation of the corrupting effect of the class system of athletic competition.

As Elmira's Molly Huddle led Saratoga's Nicole Blood and Homer's Tracey Brauksieck past the stands on the second lap of the 3,000-meter championship race, a spectator urged Blood to stay with Huddle. Another athlete objected from the stands: "Why should she? She is going to win the Class-A title anyway".

Since Huddle attended the small parochial school of Notre Dame, she wore a C/D-label on the back of her shirt. Blood attended Saratoga, a large school district earning her an A-label. Brauksieck attended Homer, a mid-size school, hence her B-label.

High schools in New York State are classified based on the number of students - unless a gathering of athletic directors vote them into a higher class! At the State Championships a bunch of State Champions were crowned, one for each class, not to mention Federation champions, at the rate of 3 or 4 champions per event. Time and space ceased to be the equalizers in a competition of equals. Instead, also-rans were crowned as Champions, simply because their schools were much bigger or much smaller than the winner's.

As the race unfolded, Huddle gradually increased her lead on her pursuers, and won the race in a new State record of 9 minutes 21.37 seconds. Blood followed in 9:38.04 and Brauksieck in 9:38.38. All three were crowned champions at 3,000 meters.

The reaction of Blood's teammate is symptomatic of the apathy that the class system instills in our youths. "Everyone is a winner" is a clich that the class system takes literally. To crown three or four champions per event seeks only to pad resumes and trophy cases, and makes a mockery of the athletes sweat and blood, the true price of victory.

The time has come for the track committee to abolish the class system and to hold one true State championship that brings together the best athletes, and awards medal to the winners in each event. Then, the sectional meets can act as qualifying meets for the State championship. Athletes and relay teams that achieve the qualifying standards advance to the State meet, regardless of the size of their school or their section.

In the meantime, Blood returns to Saratoga High School next fall, as Huddle moves up to college competition at Notre Dame and Brauksieck goes to Penn State. I extend to both seniors my heartfelt thanks for the excitement that they brought to our trails and tracks, and I wish them Godspeed in the maze of NCAA regulations.

© 2002 The Post-Standard.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Syracuse Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created TrackMeets.com, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at jabbour@i2sports.com.