COLUMBUS  Ohio’s seventh- and eighth-grade track and field athletes will soon have their chance to shine on the big stage just like their high school counterparts.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced earlier this month that it will hold the inaugural state track and field meet for middle school athletes. OHSAA commissioner Dr. Dan Ross announced the meet, noting that it has been discussed for several years by the OHSAA’s Middle School Committee and was officially approved by the OHSAA Board of Directors at its October meeting.

“Many people might not know that the OHSAA oversees seventh- and eighth-grade sports too for member junior high schools,” Ross said. “We have been looking at ways to expand our involvement with middle schools and expand opportunities for them to get involved in a tournament setting."

Unlike the OHSAA high school state track and field meet, the middle school event will not take place at Jesse Owens Stadium on the Ohio State campus. Instead, the meet will be held May 13 at Lancaster High School. approximately 40 minutes southeast of Columbus.

Another key different with the middle school meet is that there will not be district and regional meets through which athletes must advance in order to qualify for the state meet. Instead of asking seventh and eighth graders to compete in two additional meets, qualifiers will be determined by times, distances and heights compiled throughout the season and posted on BaumsPage.com, a site that posts results for cross country and track meets from across the state.

The OHSAA will take the top 16 performers in each event and the cutoff for qualifying is midnight on May 6. Running events must be timed under the Fully Automatic Timing (FAT) system, which requires that the timing device for a race must be activated automatically by a start signal rather than manually. Finish times must also be captured digitally in order to eliminate any human errors or delays from the process. Results must also be accurate to at least the 1/100th of a second.

Athletes will be able to qualify for the state meet in up to three events and there will be 10 running events and five field events at the meet.

By providing this chance for middle schoolers to compete against rivals from across the entire state, Ross said, the OHSAA will be able to extend the lessons and ideals it attempts to impart to high school athletes to middle school competitors as well.

“This will accomplish both of those goals and show them that when they compete in an OHSAA tournament event, ideals like sportsmanship, respect and camaraderie are the most important lessons to be learned,” Ross said.

Schools must pay a $10, per-event fee for each athletes who compete in the meet, with field events beginning at 11 a.m. and running events beginning at 2 p.m. with two seeded heats per event.   

Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
or andy.harris@thesuburbanite.com.
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB