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Tuesday, May 12, 2015: Has the state track meet lost some of its zip?

   Leading off today: I've waffled on the premise for a good number of years. And I expect to keep waffling until someone a bit wiser than me provides the definitive answer to what a editorial asked Tuesday:

   Has the New York state meet lost its appeal?

   Kyle Brazeil, the website's New York editor, posed the question and made the case in the affirmative in pretty substantial detail. As often happens on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and alternate Sundays, I agree the state's season-ending scholastic track meet has lost a chunk of its appeal, but I'm not ready to concede Brazeil has fully nailed down the cause.

   It's definitely worth the time of track and field fans to read Brazeil's editorial in its entirety. If you choose not to, the Cliff Notes version goes something like this: Many of our top athletes are simply opting not to go to the annual state meet -- the 2015 version is slated for June 12-13 at SUNY Albany -- for one of three reasons:

  1. Proms and graduation
  2. Burn-out, disinterest and "senioritis"
  3. Invitations to elite events
   The proms/graduation issue has been a constant since roughly the time of Adam and Eve, and you could probably make the case the rate of burn-out, disinterest and senioritis has held pretty steady over the years.

   That leaves the third issue, and Brazeil explains how we're heading for a high number of top performers skipping states for other competitive opportunities. If I recall correctly, the Golden West Invitational bringing together many of the country's elite scholastic athletes was often held the same weekend as the NYSPHSAA championships and picked off some pretty good New York prospects from time to time when it was more or less the only elite alternative.

   More recently, The Dream Mile has come along and has joined a handful of other high school events as part of the New York Relays -- again on the NYSPHSAA weekend.

   And there are other complications. Though the Prefontaine Classic is May 30-31 in Oregon, it conflicts with the Section 1 state qualifier. As speedy as he is, Mount Vernon sprinter Rai Benjamin cannot be in both places at once and apparently has opted for the scholastic 200 meters at the Pre.

   Brazeil says Northport distance ace Mike Brannigan (more on him later) has mentioned that the high school mile at the Pre is also on his schedule, but the Section 11 state qualifier does not conflict. On the other hand, Brannigan has also talked about qualifying for The Dream Mile.

   Writes Brazeil: "It seems to be an argument between the possibility of a Sub-4 Mile, and the possibility of his first State Title. A tough decision."

   The MileSplit editorial also cites the possibility of others facing a potential schedule conflict. Coupled with several outstanding female sprinters who've opted to train and compete outside the high school structure this spring, it's indisputable that the meet in Albany will be missing some genuine star power next month.

   Brazeil summarizes thusly:

   "If everyone keeps leaving to find better competition, of course it will water down the competition even further. It would seem as if the Spring State Meet is a Juniors game to win, as they find the least amount of conflicts, the least amount of incentives to leave, and the most to gain by attending.

   "At the same time, it makes you think: Does winning a State Title against diluted fields mean as much as it used to? You be the judge."

   I've long raised the same question, but I got there in a different fashion.

   As much as I like the non-stop action at the annual wrestling tournament with the Division I and II championships going on side-by-side, the title "state champ" doesn't carry the same weight as when there was only a single division. It's like the old days of boxing when there was a WBO champ and a WBA champ -- and the Don Kings and Bob Arums of the world tried their hardest to

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keep them apart.

   Track and field also went the two-division route. And with boys and girls at the same meet, you're looking at more than twice as many champions being crowned than at wrestling, though the majority of events do play down to an overall champ. My problem with that is that a middle distance runner might not be competing for an overall championship until first enduring a couple of rounds of the 400, the 800 and some relay duty in his or her division.

   If you're blessed with options, would you rather run seven or eight times in barely a 24-hour window or fly west for the Pre, with its max of three rounds in the 200 and a nice bag of swag from the sponsors?

   Wrestling and track are individual sports offering opportunities during the regular season for athletes at the smallest schools to compete against the talent at big schools, so a chunk of the perceived fairness issue goes out the window; I wouldn't expect a Class C basketball or soccer title team to compete successfully against a Class AA foe very often, but a Division II hurdler or long jumper has more than just a puncher's chance against his or her Division I counterpart. Less so in the relays, obviously, but still a chance.

   Following up: I mentioned Mike Brannigan earlier in the blog. What I really should have done is mentioned him earlier in the week.

   In the course of recapping some of Saturday's action at the Loucks Games, I missed Friday's highlights -- including a gem of a run by the Northport senior. He added to an already impressive resume with a state record in the two miles.

   Brannigan won the 3,200 meters in 8:42.92, and the conversion bettered the 8:48.11 by Josh McDougall in 2004.

   Brannigan holds the Suffolk County record in the 1,600, but the Loucks performance was his first state individual record.

   Lancaster update: Lancaster students will vote May 27 on a new nickname and mascot. With the Redskins name shelved by the school board this spring, the new identity will come down to a choice between Alphas, Legends, Dragons, Pride, Jaguars, Red Hawks and Knights, The Buffalo News reported Tuesday.

   Lancaster students were invited to submit design and name ideas last month, and votes in the middle and high schools whittled down the candidates.

   If the first-round vote is close, a run-off election will be held the following day.

   An official retirement of the old mascot is planned for June 15 at the high school.

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