PIAA track meet set for Memorial Day weekend with adjusted format

The (Wilkes-Barre) Citizens Voice (TNS)
Bob Lombardi

This spring's Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Track and Field Championships will have a different format, but will continue to qualify the same number of athletes.

Wednesday in a teleconference meeting, the PIAA Board of Directors approved recommendations by the Track and Field Steering Committee to hold the championship meets on separate days for each classification at Shippensburg University's Seth Grove Stadium to stay within the COVID-19 guidelines for outdoor gatherings.

The Class 2-A meet is scheduled for Friday, May 28, and the 3-A meet is set for May 29. The format includes preliminary heats for the sprint races up to 200 meters only held in the morning and the remaining events held as seeded finals through the afternoon.

"Shippensburg deserves a big shoutout," PIAA executive director Robert Lombardi said. "They have been exceptional to work with and very accommodating trying to work through many of the issues thrown at us with housing and sanitizing. We can't thank them enough and we appreciate their support."

Traditionally, the PIAA Championships attracts approximately 2,600 athletes for the girls and boys two-day meet. The revised format allows for 1,300 athletes each day with the competitors leaving the facility after completion of their competition.

"The rationale to why we are looking to go to a single-day event per classification is it keeps us under the occupancy numbers, but allows us a full complement of qualifiers," PIAA Chief Operation Officer Mark Byers said. "After losing a season last year, we felt it was as best we can do to provide an opportunity to invite as many qualifiers as possible."

The PIAA is also planning to provide two spectator tickets for each athlete who qualifies for his or her day's meet. That number, which could change, keeps the championships below the 5,000 allowed at Seth Grove Stadium.

Athletes will still qualify automatically or by exceeding the state standards.

"We feel that number is manageable," Lombardi said. "We have averaged around 1,300 athletes per class and we think we can handle that with the number of rooms Shippensburg is providing and the time schedule."

The schedule for each day starts at 9 a.m. with the 3,200-meter run and the morning field events. There is an afternoon break following the 200 preliminary races and the finals are scheduled to start at noon with the girls 100 hurdles. The meet is tentatively set to conclude at 3:30 p.m. to allow time for the facility and campus to clear.

Goal is to have full brackets for other spring sports: Playoff formats for the other spring sports seasons are expected to be finalized soon. The goal, Lombardi said, is to have full brackets for each sport.

The next board meeting is tentatively scheduled for May 26 with options to hold one as early as May 5 if needed.

"We are proceeding with hopefully a full bracket," Lombardi said. "This is our Zoom month, where we will travel around to the districts and see if some of their schools would open facilities for mid-way games. That is going to be the straw that breaks the camel's back, so to speak. If we have the availability to host places that we can host games then we would like to do everything we can to get a full complement of qualifiers and bracketing for the spring."

Basketball changes possible: The board also listened to, but tabled until the summer meeting, a motion to change the format of the PIAA Basketball Championships, recommended by the steering committee.

In the proposal, the state playoffs would start on the Tuesday and Wednesday of the first week instead of the normal Friday and Saturday. It would also move the semifinals to a Friday and Saturday to cut down on the quick turnaround and travel for teams that played semifinal games Monday and Tuesday and advanced to the state championships that start two days later.

There is also a recommendation to set the championship games with the same classifications for boys and girls tournaments. Both Class 1-A and both Class 4-A finals would be played Thursday, both Class 2-A finals and Class 5-A finals would go Friday and the weekend would conclude with both Class 3-A and both Class 6-A finals.