Two-day regional meets — evoking nationals or peeving athletes?

Once upon a time, the USATF West Region Masters Championships was a one-day meet. Folks came from three or four states to compete at places like Los Gatos High School (near San Jose) or Cerritos College in Norwalk (near L.A.). But in recent years, under the direction of USATF West Region Coordinator Mark Cleary, the meet has been a two-day affair. It hasn’t pleased everyone. Before last weekend’s meet, for example, one record-holding athlete wrote me: “We are not going to the meet because it is two days unnecessarily and because the scheduling is ridiculous. How many prelims will be run for the 100 and 200 in ‘one of the most competitive meets in the country?’ Doesn’t look like the women or men will need any.”

Ron Lee cleared 1.75 (5-8 3/4) to win the M45 title at West Region -- not long after 9 a.m. Sunday. (Photo by Ken Stone)

In fact, many fields were thin Saturday and Sunday at Mark’s meet at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa. All races were run as finals-only. Mark told me his meet had 160 entrants.

That’s not bad, but not nearly what it could have been. The concurrent Western States International Masters Invitational (a three-day meet at UC Davis) no doubt siphoned off several dozen entrants. And the still-hurting economy prevented some athletes from traveling to Southern California from West Region states Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada and New Mexico. But the meet has been bigger in the past.

Was the two-day schedule — or the fact nearly all events were contested in the morning — also to blame for the low turnout?

I attended the West Region meet only Sunday. (I had other plans Saturday.) But I wouldn’t have made the long trip both days anyway. Gas is expensive, and the morning schedule wasn’t my cup of tea. (A way-too-early-for-me 6 a.m. wakeup time is bad for my body clock.)

Other athletes shared my concern.

Several expressed anger that the meet was spread over two days, upping everyone’s cost, when it could have accommodated the same events in a single day. Others were upset at having to get up early (or stay overnight in a motel the night before) because of the early start time.

I buttonholed Mark on Sunday and asked: Why two days?

And also: Why the morning schedule?

Mark’s reason for scheduling events in the morning was plausible: Afternoons in SoCal can get toasty. Turns out that weather was delightful both days this year (mostly temps in the 70s under overcast skies), but the schedule was set weeks ahead of time.

So why the two-day meet?

Mark says it’s because “serious athletes” want a multi-day meet. He says his two-day regional meets prepare athletes for masters nationals (a four-day meet most years). And he insists he won’t change to a one-day schedule despite the extra expense to athletes — and himself. He also said USATF regional meets nationwide are moving toward the two-day model. Perhaps.

But a two-day meet means doubling all costs — track rental, officials’ stipends and phototimer services. Mark noted the “hundreds of hours” he spent preparing for West Regionals, but didn’t tell me the costs involved. I doubt anyone gave him a 2-for-1 deal.

Two- and three-day masters meets can be successful, of course. Witness the Western States meet and the annual Hayward Masters Classic. But those are special cases, and have a different appeal. Regionals are supposed to accommodate all interests. And sometimes they don’t.

So a poll:

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July 14, 2010

15 Responses

  1. A. Parry - July 14, 2010

    My preferrence is for a one day meet also. It does reduce my traveling costs from Arizona. However, I am currently boycotting California (due to their boycotting of Arizona) and have NOT attended several meets including the Regionals and will not be at this week’s Nationals. In all I would have spent close to $2,000 attending California meets this year. California looses again!

  2. Karen Vaughn - July 14, 2010

    I don’t relish the two-day meet, but let’s first look at some facts. Over the last 20 years only 5 West Region meets have been one-day events. (1996, 1997,1999,2000,2001). That’s 75% on the two-day side.

    I’ll be fair. During its 45 year history, 9 of these meets have been one-day events. Now we’re up to 80% on the two-day side.(http://www.mastershistory.org/West-Region/West.pdf)

    Conclusion: It’s mostly been a two-day meet.

  3. Kenneth Effler - July 14, 2010

    I recently attended the Independence Meet/USATF Eastern Regional meet in Valatie, NY. This meet was a two day affair as well, but was inclusive to the entire track/field community. Saturday afternoon/evening consisted of the multi events and an open track meet for youth/open/masters. The following day saw the Eastern Regional USATF meet which had both open and masters divisions.

    While having both open and masters events available both days seemed to be a bit of over kill, it was refreshing to see all three levels of track/field (youth/open/masters) competing together at the same venue.

    The meet was well run on the day I attended (I competed in the pentathlon) and except for a transcribing mistake with my pentathlon score (my 30.82 200m time was entered as 38.82), I really enjoyed the event.

    I would think a 2 day format for regional USATF meets would be acceptable to most if it included all divisions (youth/open/masters).

  4. Mickey Miller - July 14, 2010

    On the forum regarding starting times at the Masters nationals in Sacramento we have people complaining about not enough long distance races being run in the morning, in order to dodge the heat of the day. Then when a director schedules all the races in the morning as Mark Cleary did in the West regional, we have people complaining about THAT.

    No wonder meet directors question whether its worth it to even put on a meet for Masters.

  5. Terry Parks - July 14, 2010

    I personally like the two day events for the regional meets, since I do more than one event. Also, I think the two day event is good practice for Nationals and the Worlds, which will be multi-day affairs. It is very hard to try to double in one day for some events. The Hayward Classic served as the Northwest Regional Championship and was a two day event, and the recently completed Western States Masters was three glorious days. I think after competing in these two meets, I have a better feel for how to prepare for more than one hard day of competing. The Pacific Associations Championship was a one day event where I did the 400/800 double and I don’t think that I would like to try to double the 400/800 double in a one day event again any time soon.

  6. Mellow Johnny - July 14, 2010

    The two day meets are great for distance runners who double. The Hayward Classic and Portland Masters Classic are always two-day meets regardless of whether they are either the NW Regional or Oregon Assn Championship meet.

    I looked at the schedule Mark put together for the West Regional and thought it was ideal for a distance runner in my opinion.

  7. Jeff Davison - July 14, 2010

    The two-days was not originally Mark’s idea.
    So please do not blame Mark.

    The West Region Meet has been held from 1975 to 2010
    (five states are part of the West Region):
    25 of 36 of the meets have been a two-day event.

    Please note that in 1989 (Sacramento area)it was held at two-locations and ran from 6 AM to 11 PM to make it a one-day meet. This would make it difficult to compete in several events. (Mark did not run the 1989 meet).

    Holding the meet in two-locations is not a very good
    idea either.

    Also very important: Several So Calif Officials have requested that this be a two-day event.

    Since Mark has run the meet there has been typically 200 to 300 athletes, which can make
    a very busy day for the officials.

    As a side note: The last couple of West Region meets had Don Chadez (Flash West) as the Timer, and he has done a fantastic job as timer !

  8. Karen Vaughn - July 14, 2010

    Yup. So much for my math! Yes, it’s been held 36 times. But I counted 9 one-day meets (2001,2000, 1999,1997,1996,1990,1989,1985,1981). Still, some people just don’t like the two day meet.

    Yup. My hubby’s original official’s check-in time both days was 6:30 a.m.! But he says the one-day Cerritos meets were rougher.

    Whatever happens next year, one versus two days, someone will not be happy.

    So, thanks to OCC for hosting the event. It’s hard to find venues that will accommodate masters meets.

  9. David E. Ortman (M57) Seattle, WA - July 14, 2010

    It is interesting that for many years there usually has been no separate stand alone NW Masters Regional Meet. Instead it piggy-backs on top of an existing masters meet.

    As noted above, when the NW Masters Regional meet is held in conjunction with the Hayward Classic or Portland Masters meet it is a two-day meet. Other NW associations have indicated that they do not have support from their track officials to put on a two-day meet, but would be willing to consider a one-day meet.

    It is odd that from a pure time standpoint, the NW Masters Regional meet is really two half-day sessions: Sat. 9:30am (M/W10,000m – WDiscus) -1:50:pm (the M400m – MDiscus) / Sun. 9:30am (W5000m – WJav) – 1:20pm (M4x400m Relay)

    Pros of a one-day meet:
    * A lot easier on the wonderful officials.
    * Like a shark, you can survive doing a lot of events on one day if you keep moving
    * One less overnight stay
    * No need to perform stiffly on the second day.

    Cons of a one-day meet:
    * Some doubles (e.g. 400m and 400m Hurdles) are just not doable
    * Many double conflicts between track and field events taking place at the same time.

    Pros of a two-day meet:
    * More opportunites to do more events and likely better performances

    Cons of a two-day meet:
    * Getting up the second day.
    * Bad event scheduling still occurs. The 200m is usually an hour AFTER the 400m Hurdles. Not an easy double. The 100m and the Long Jump usually overlaps on Saturday. Likewise the 200m and Triple Jump on Sunday forcing one or two jumps, then go run, then go back and try to jump.

    The Northwest Region Masters T&F website is:
    http://nwmtf.oregonathletics.org/

    [Note: The National Senior Games held in odd number years require that you “qualify” at a State Senior Games the year before. Some State Senior Games are two days (e.g. South Dakota), while some are one day (Washington). Although one can usually qualify in other states’ Senior Games. It is asking a lot to try and qualify in several events all on a single day at a one-day state Senior Games.

  10. Mellow Johnny - July 15, 2010

    I know there’s been some criticism by some that the NW Regional Meet should be a standalone meet and not simply piggyback on an already existing meet. Some don’t like the idea that that ultimately takes away one opportunity to compete.

    Personally, I have no problem with it as the 3 meets I’ve participated in for the NW Regional Champs (Hayward, Portland, Seattle) all are great meets and the volunteers and officials do an excellent job- therefore ensuring the NW Regional meet will be a great one.

    Last year, with no Hayward Classic, the Portland Masters Classic served as both the Oregon Association Champs and NW Regional Champs.

    Will the NW Regional Champs meet be in Seattle next year (when it was two years ago it was in fact a 2-day meet)?

    Seems that that is next in what now appears to be a 3-meet rotation for the regional champs.

  11. Mark Cleary - July 16, 2010

    The logic for having the Region Championship be a two day meet is simple. You cannot get ready for a 4 day National Championship off of a one day meet. The West Region Championship is the only two day meet in the Region ( there are other one day meets). There are plenty of events both days–if someone does not want to stay overnight they can make it a one day meet for themselves–but for those serious athletes trying to properly prepare for Nationals the Region meet will stay a two day affair as long as we can afford to do it that way. Someone metioned for the officials the two day format was actually easier then the one day format years ago at Cerritos College–the reason why– the meet director before me ran the meet about two hours behind schedule and half the people got frustrated and left–We run a quality meet and it’s ontime– All the people I talked to at the meet were very appreciative and commented on the quality of the meet.I find over and over again this blog just makes much a dew about nothing–let’s just enjoy are sport and stop complaining.Life’s too short.

  12. Andrew Hecker - July 17, 2010

    Thanks for bringing up old news, but I’ll gladly retort. I was the meet director of that one-day West Region meet at Cerritos Mark just complained about. I consider that meet a success story. We ran 339 registrants through that day. Multiply that across 4 days and its a meet ~ the size of Nationals. Every single one of them registered at the meet in person. Among those entrants were many elite athletes intent on making one final attempt to make a mark–they appreciated the easiness to get into the meet. It shows even elite athletes accept the concept of Same Day registration. 12 of them got to the Trials or Olympics on marks from that meet–I would hope that vouches for the quality of the event. You were the only one who has complained about the line I had at registration but yes, that and the ambitious schedule did slip a little–it was my first meet as a solo meet director. I made some mistakes. I was very short of people at the beginning. I have since made adjustments to my scheduling techniques and as you yourself have observed my meets now run on time. You might be able to see from some of my comments elsewhere on this blog that I’ve gotten to be rather analytical about scheduling techniques expanding from that first foray into meet directing.

    Mark, lets report the fact accurately. That meet, at its latest, got about 45 minutes late–published start time to actual start time–time we also made up so the meet finished on time. I had very few people leave, trackable as the number of people who entered an event but did not show up at the start line. Most who did leave were in the 200, which has been a constant at every track meet I have put on since. Its apparently a common thing for some sprinters to sign up for the 1 and 2 then split after the 1 no matter what the schedule says. I just looked through the paperwork–yes, I keep that stuff. I had 9 people not finish their 200 out of 11 very full heats that day, including a DNS by Karen Vaughn who commented above, a multi-eventer who has been known to drop out of an extra race occasionally. Karen, did you do that out of frustration with the meet schedule? Four of those 9 were in the elite Men’s race, so maybe those guys weren’t used to how Masters meets only announce a start time, rather than heat times–a very young Lionell Larry was doubling back after the 400. I would have to say “half the people got frustrated and left” is a gross mis-statement of the facts.

    Over the years, I’ve played with different schedules. Its a double edged sword. Its good to be on time, but sure puts egg on your face when it isn’t. My observation is that most people seem to prefer a slow moving scheduled meet, rather than a fast moving meet with no schedule. Mark didn’t even have a schedule for this year’s SCA meet–its real hard to run late that way. We will get complains no matter what we do.

  13. Andrew Hecker - July 17, 2010

    I’m going to mention that two more of the West Region meets; 1992 at Chabot and 1995 at Los Gatos HS were essentially one day meets. I did take advantage of the second day which at Chabot was the Steeplechase and I think Hammer. 1995, it was only the Steeplechase because the High School didn’t have the facilities. The long throws were over the hill at Gary Kelmenson’s facility.

    And 1990 was a very memorable one-day meet, scheduled to start in early evening at a locked stadium. When it did start an hour late, several of the few volunteers had left. Even starting late, under disastrous conditions, we got the meet done in one day, though I hope I never seem a meet like that again.

    I didn’t leave my memory back in the 1960′s so I still remember this stuff.

  14. Mark Cleary - July 18, 2010

    Andy, the 2 hours behind scedule was the average of the other meets you were in charge of- one in particular that I remember was at West LA College–many of the 800 field left and it pretty much killedf the field. I was not the only one that complained about the way your meets are always behind scedule–the SCA office fielded many calls over the years–they don’t call you to complain.My point is we have had meets that run ontime and are run at a higher standard ( enough officials)competant timing service just to name a few improvements–no the only thing left to complain about is wether the meet should be a one day or a two day meet–oye Vey ! As you know you will never please the entire master community. I got involved 8 years ago to improve the way the meets ran and I think that mission has been accomplished–

  15. Mike Tyrwhitt-Drake - July 20, 2010

    I have just experienced the frustration of the 2 day meet issue. Last month I entered the South East Sports Festival Track and field meet in Frostproof Florida the meet was scheduled to be held over the weekend of the 31st July/1st August. I was under the impression that the masters and open events were to all be held on the 31st of July and have confirmation of entries from both the Florida Sports Foundation and Coach-O online registration which only show the date 7/31. Yesterday I was checking the masters performance lists to see who Iwould be running against and noticed that the masters semi-finals for my events (100m and 200m) were scheduled for 7/31 and the finals for 8/1. To date there are only 23 total masters and open athletes registered for the meet and registration closes on 7/25. I will have to withdraw from the meet as I cannot afford the money or time to dedicate 2 days for 1 minute 20 seconds of running. I think this is a ridiculous schedule.

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