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Officials get in the way of a good meet

Spokane coaches were still fuming on Friday because both the Mt. Spokane boys and Mead girls were disqualified in the prelims of the 1,600-meter relay Thursday night.

The Wildcats are the second-fastest quartet in the state, the Panthers two-time defending champions.

Both, who easily qualified for the finals, were eliminated because a runner took more two strides stepping on the inside line of the lane.

That’s just par for the course when the state meet is on the Westside of the state, where it seems officials go out of their way to make sure everyone knows the meet is about the officials and not the kids.

Now it’s true rules are rules and cheaters should be penalized but there is a little bit more to this.

This is a rule that can have some wiggle room.

First, did the team gain a real competitive advantage? Mt. Spokane sure did, just eking out a win by a whopping 15-plus meters.

Second, think about it. Yes, the coaches teach kids not to run on the lines, but they’re never judged on that during the season. It’s close to impossible to get enough adults to help run a track meet these days, and believe me, there aren’t enough officials to cover the far corner. It’s not like the no-jewelry rule, which is old and clear – and can easily and uniformly be enforced – even if has to connection to an advantage

Third, there is an official out there, watching all eight lanes. Really, that official can see all eight lanes and still tell if there is any jostling going on at elbow height? And this is at night, in the shadows.

One coach said, “I’ve judged before, when you see a kid take two steps on the line, look at another lane. You’re not there to DQ kids. You should be looking for if runners get too close together and there’s contact.”

Put the red flag up, but then let common sense take over. How much advantage did Mt. Spokane get? The answer is none. Throw in a warning so that’s not a deciding factor in a photo finish.

And another Spokane area  person pointed that those DQ’s came from the same official, while one in another corner didn’t seem to be quite as intent on finding violations.

Track and field is a sport that is dying and as a response officials seem to go out of their way to help it along. Eliminating state contenders really helps.

And don’t get me started on the way a security person treated an overly-enthused relay member as she cheered on a teammate outside of the designated area. There is no call for that, but then again, over here it’s about the officials and not the kids.


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Jim Allen Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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