Billed as the National Scholastic outdoor track and field championships, last weekend's inaugural meet at Birmingham High failed to live up to the standards of a national meet.
The meet was poorly publicized, disorganized and lacked quality athletes in several events. Still, let's hope that it will be held again next year. The meet is a good idea whose time has come, but there are steps that should be taken to make things smoother.
First, move the meet back a week.
This year's affair was held on the same weekend as the Golden West Invitational in Sacramento, a firmly established meet for seniors.
By holding their meet on the same weekend, the National Scholastic organizers are going to have a difficult time attracting the top athletes. If the meet were moved back a week, it would be in conflict with the International Prep Invitational in Elmhurst, Ill., but it would have a much better chance of luring at least the top athletes from the western United States.
Second, move the meet to a nicer location.
Nothing against Birmingham High. It is a fine track and field facility, but the combination of heat and smog in the San Fernando Valley in June is something that no athlete enjoys competing in.
Possible sites are Camarillo High or even Santa Barbara City College, where the track is about a quarter-mile from the surf.
Finally, make the meet a one-day affair by having finals only. Dispense with qualifying trials and simply invite the best available athletes in each event.
If the organizers are afraid that they might snub someone by limiting the number of entrants in races measuring 400 meters or less to eight or nine individuals--depending on the number of lanes on the track--run an A and B section in those events, like they do in big invitationals in Europe.
Track and field's popularity in the United States is waning, and one of the reasons is that many meets simply last too long. The average sports fan does not have the patience to sit through two days of preliminaries and finals. A one-day meet that lasts three to four hours would be much more suitable.
Sudden impact: Alycia Burnham of Rio Mesa High was all set to attend UC Santa Barbara next fall, but after finishing third in the girls' 100-meter low hurdles in the state championships, schools such as UCLA and Nevada La Vegas have expressed interest in her.
Burnham, the sister of former Rio Mesa sprint great Angela Burnham, won the 1990 Southern Section 3-A Division title in the 100 lows but placed only fourth this year in 14.76 seconds.
She improved steadily after that, however, placing third (personal best of 14.45) in the Southern Section Masters meet, winning her qualifying heat in a wind-aided 14.41 in the state meet, and running a wind-aided 14.27 in the final to place third behind Phetima Woods (14.08) of Duarte and Michelle Johnson (14.24) of Vacaville.
Burnham also has personal bests of 45.3 in the 300 low hurdles and 18 feet, 3 1/4 inches in the long jump.
Kudos: Bill Duley, the Agoura High track and cross-country coach, did another fine job of coaching the middle-distance and distance runners this season.
Agoura senior Deena Drossin, who has a personal best of 10 minutes 19.63 seconds in the 3,200 meters, won her second consecutive state title in that event, and senior Tiffany York ran 10:47.13 in the same event earlier this season.
However, Duley might have done his best coaching with lesser-known runners Kristie Camp and Laura Hayward.
Camp, a sophomore, was a sprinter until this season when she ran 2:13.21 in the 800 meters and 5:05.65 in the mile. Camp advanced to the state preliminaries in the 800 and placed second in the mile in the National Scholastic outdoor championships. Hayward, who ran 11:43.07 in the 3,200 as a sophomore last year, improved to 11:08.81 this year and placed fifth in the Marmonte League finals.
Drossin is bound for the University of Arkansas and York is headed for UC Irvine, but with Camp and Hayward returning, the Charger girls' distance program appears to be in good shape.
Untapped potential: Taft High senior Cornell Hill competed in football, basketball and track during the school year, but it would be interesting to see how good he could be in the latter sport if he concentrated on it year-round.
Hill, who leaped 23-9 in the long jump as a junior, placed third in the state meet long jump with a personal best of 24-4 1/4.