If Desert Vista coach Chris Hanson was in the same position last season, he'd have to look at two of his six female pole vaulters and say, "Sorry, but you can't compete at the state meet."

These are the same six athletes who finished in the top seven in the Class 5A Division I state meet and are now competing in college.

It's enough to drive any coach nuts.

"I am very frustrated with this and it is like we are not being heard," Hanson said. "How am I supposed to go to an athlete and/or their parents and say, ‘Great effort? You earned a state qualifying distance, but you can't compete at state.'

"We will cross that bridge when we get to it, but as a coach I have to decide whether it is even worth a kid trying an event if I know they can't crack our top four, but might make the top eight in state."

The Arizona Interscholastic Association is coming under scrutiny again - football and soccer coaches have been the most adamant - for making state-wide decisions that seem to go against what the majority in the sport wants or feels is the right way to handle the state by-laws.

In the track case, it is the fact that a school can only take four athletes per event to the state meet. It doesn't matter how many meet the qualifying standard, only four can compete at state.

In other words, two of last year's Desert Vista pole vault participants would have had to watch from the stands instead of helping set a national standard when all six cleared at least 11 feet.

"It is pure discrimination against certain schools with Desert Vista being one of them," Hanson said. "It's basically hurting kids that go to Chandler, (Mesa) Mountain View or Desert Vista because we have athletes who excel in our sport and we have a lot of depth.

"I am sticking up for track athletes not just Desert Vista athletes. There are plenty of programs out there that will be hurt by this."

The AIA's David Hines, who is the state tournament director for track, said the rule had been in place in years past but recently that had not been the case.

"Over time, coaches held kids (who already qualified) out of region meets and brought in other kids to qualify them for state," he told the Arizona Republic. "Coaches with a lot of kids now had five, six or seven in an event.

"Honestly, we are following the (National) Federation rule. The way outside qualifying was set up and the way it evolved, we needed to reel it back in and do what we normally did. Usually, those really good kids make it in another event."

Another factor that has bothered Hanson is a majority of the coaches spoke out against it back when it became public in July.

They again voiced their displeasure at the annual coaches' clinic in January. Apparently it was never enough, as the track committee went ahead with the revisions.

"When I first saw it I thought it was just a proposal and everyone got together and said we can't let this happen," he said. "We didn't think it would go through because it was so farfetched. I don't know. Maybe there are some coaches out there who wanted it to happen, but it didn't seem that way.

"When the football coaches came out against the AIA (and put together a petition to have more say so) I shook my head, but now I understand. The AIA, in my opinion, is not listening."

Events that this could really come into play for are the Thunder pole vault and throwing events, and high jump and distance running events.

Desert Vista has long been a power in track in part because the team's quality of depth. Its fifth best competitor in an event just might be good enough to finish in the top eight in the state.

"It is just unfortunate," Hanson said. "I know they are trying to cut corners by shortening meets and having (all of the state meets) at one place, but how much time would a few extra competitors add? I don't know.

"But I do know it takes away the chance to succeed from these athletes."

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com


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