COLUMBUS - Several changes to the high school cross country postseason will take effect this fall after the Ohio High School Athletic Association's Board of Directors approved a list of proposals from the OHSAA Cross Country Subcommittee earlier this week.
The changes alter how schools are placed into divisions and how qualifying teams and individuals advance to the regional and state tournaments.
"The subcommittee's task was to look at several concerns that were brought to the OHSAA's attention," Dale Gabor, the OHSAA's administrator for cross country and track and field, said. "These changes will result in a more consistent and fair tournament structure, which has been in place for other OHSAA sports. I was very pleased with the committee's thoroughness and ability to look at the issues from all sides."
First, the board approved a proposal that reversed its 2012 ruling which changed how schools are placed into their respective cross country tournament divisions (I, II or III). The 2012 proposal called for a school's girls and boys enrollment to be combined, so that a school's girls and boys teams were always in the same tournament division. That method achieved its goal of reduced travel costs for schools and eased the burdon on schools that have one person serving as the girls and boys coach, but it resulted in competitive disadvantages for some schools if one of their squads was forced to compete up a division.
Second, the board approved changes to the representation process by which schools and individuals advance from the district tournament to the regional tournament, and then onto the state tournament. Previously, the four regional tournaments across Ohio all fielded the same number of teams in each division, meaning that in some cases, teams from one district were sent to a regional tournament across the state. This was done so that the same number of team and individual state qualifiers came from each regional (top four). The changes approved by the board this week result in regional qualifiers being comprised only of teams from that specific district (see chart below), which means the four regional tournaments will have a unique number of qualifiers in line with the number of the teams within that division in their district. Thus the number of state qualifiers will different from each regional based on how many teams in each division are competing there, which is the case in other OHSAA sports, in accordance with the representation formula.
In addition, the board approved an increase in the number of state tournament team qualifiers from 16 to 20 per division. The maximum number of individual state tournament qualifiers (runners who finish in the top 20 overall who are not on an advancing team) coming from each regional would be four times the number of qualifying teams in each division from that regional.
"This system will more fairly assign schools to the regional tournaments and more fairly determine the qualifiers to the state tournament," Gabor said. "It keeps schools closer to home for regionals and uses the actual number of teams in each division at each regional site to determine the number of state qualifiers coming from that site. And we are pleased to increase the number of state tournament qualifiers so more student-athletes and schools can experience the state tournament, which is among the biggest and best in the country."
It was also noted that at all regional tournaments, head coaches in charge of the girls and boys teams for a school will be compete at the same regional.
The subcommittee was comprised of OHSAA staff, three members from the state board of directors and 10 members who are school administrators or coaches.