By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer
The University Interscholastic League has pulled a backflip.
After being deluged with complaints about its decision Wednesday to cancel regional track meets amid swine flu concerns, the governing body for Texas high school athletics has rescheduled the state track meet to June 5-6 and reinstated the 20 preceding regional meets to run May 12-20.
The rescheduling allows UIL to follow a state recommendation to postpone all athletic events until May 11, and keep intact the standard qualification process for the state meet.
On Wednesday, the UIL announced the postponement of all sporting and academic events. But no decision drew more ire than the decision to forego regional track meets and automatically qualify the athletes with the top four marks in each event for state.
That move upset coaches and athletes, who train all season under the impression that the top two finishers in regional meets advance to state — and any marks recorded prior to regionals are academic.
“At that time, we were simply trying to save the state track meet,” UIL Executive Director Charles Breithaupt said in a statement. “When our staff had the time, opportunity and information they were able to make this happen. We had numerous calls in support of the original decision as well as calls to return to the regional format.”
Bovina Athletic Director Dale Fullerton said he couldn’t even get a phone call through to the UIL Wednesday, and Muleshoe Athletic Director David Wood said, “We knew they’d catch a lot of flack” for the decision.
Area coaches expected the UIL to face a wave of criticism and told many of their athletes the season was over … unless it wasn’t.
“We went ahead and told them as it was announced,” Bovina track coach Eric Montemayor said, “and we made the little caveat that it may and probably will change, and it has.”
Montemayor said the focus on regionals means athletes who have big leads at area meets hold off to conserve energy for other events and minimize the risk for injury.
“They’re winning the meet,” said Montemayor, in his second season at Bovina. “There’s no need for them to try to set a school record.”
The UIL has also rescheduled the Academic State Meet to May 25-26.
“We also know that additional conflicts may occur because of these changes,” Breithaupt said. “However, we believe this schedule represents the best opportunity for the most students.”
Wood, who coached the Mules to the school’s first state football championship, is concerned because of offseason all-star football and basketball games that may conflict with the state meet or get pushed further down the calendar.
“Now it goes into the kids’ summers, and some of those kids have plans,” Wood said. “It’s cutting into their other schedules, but you’ve got to live with it.”
Montemayor is hopeful any necessary all-star games will be rescheduled, because many participants are elite athletes in some track and field events.