WORTHINGTON -- If the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) should choose to add another class in track and field, you can count Worthington co-head coach Cory Smidt as in favor of the idea.
“It’s always difficult to get (to state). It takes a lot of hard work,” Smidt said. “It’ll make me look like a better coach maybe.”
Smidt’s coaching credentials are already well-established, of course, but there’s no denying that three classes instead of two should enhance possibilities for every prep program in the state. And perhaps no program would welcome another class more than WHS, which has for years has gone against a bunch of bigger schools, that they seldom see in the regular season, for state meet bids.
In 2018, for instance, Worthington was able to qualify for state in just two boys events -- the 4x800-meter run (Adam Koller, Christian Lietz, Ammanuel Ojha and Andrew Huber) and the triple jump (Sean Souksavath) -- despite enjoying a consistently winning year in regular season meets.
There were 18 schools in Class AA this season. Going up against the likes of Chanhassen, Mankato East and West, Marshall, Chaska, Jordan, New Ulm and Shakopee -- to name a few -- can seem like a big hill to climb any year.
The proposal will go to the MSHSL board of directors for their consideration in October.
If track and field moves from two to three classes in the future, the sport will follow in the direction cross country has taken. Earlier this year, a third class was voted in for the fall running sport in time for the 2021-22 campaign.
Luverne High School coach Pete Janiszeski, who leads both the cross country and track and field programs for the Cardinals, is ready for a third cross country class even though it may make his team’s state meet chances less secure.
Luverne is on the upper end of the Class A field now. If it is moved to Class AA, things won’t get any easier.
“There’s never going to be a perfect solution,” Janiszeski said. “We could be one of the bigger Class A schools or we could end up one of the smaller double-A schools.”
Janiszeski, who was president of the cross country coaches association a few years ago, said the hardest thing about re-drawing section assignments is making fair assessments with respect to the size of schools.
One thing he’s happy about, though, is that when the new class is added, it won’t be harsh on the number of competitors able to advance. There will be two fewer individuals qualifying for state from non-state qualifying teams, but the overall number of athletes will increase.
According to the advisory committee report for track and field, the 96 largest schools by enrollment will be placed in Class AAA if an additional class passes. Class AA will consist of the next 128 largest teams, and the remaining schools will make up Class A. As before, the top two athletes and top relay teams in each class would advance to state, as well as those competitors reaching the state standard.
Smidt points out, however, that even with another class, getting to state will always be difficult.
“The competition will always be there,” he said. “I just think the kids at the end of the year might make it to the state meet if things are spread out a little more.”