For the first time ever, a cross country jamboree competition took place on Tuesday among CAAC Blue teams.
A similar format has been utilized by CAAC White schools since that division was formed, by the CAAC Red and Gold divisions some years, and by the CMAC and other leagues since the end of the 20th century.
But dating back to its days as the Capital Area Conference, the CAAC’s division of high schools with the largest enrollment in the Lansing area always continued to compete in dual meets where only two or three schools were involved at a time (usually on four or five straight Tuesdays) prior to its season-ending league meet around Oct. 20.
“Many of us felt that we race too much in high school cross country and wanted to set up a schedule that allowed our athletes to be better prepared for the important meets at the end of the season,” Grand Ledge seventh-year girls coach Fred Hutchinson said.
East Lansing’s 31st-year girls coach Bob Brown agreed.
“A number of our coaches thought this new format would give us more time during the season for training – to do more serious workouts that we were unable to do before,” Brown said. “It would also give us the choice to attend more invites if we want.”
Invitationals allow for competition against more high school teams on a given date, and sometimes teams from different parts of the state.
“We also looked at a reduction in busing and other ancillary costs for our athletic departments in running the dual meet format as a secondary benefit of the change for our league,” Hutchinson said. “Our athletes will also be able to be in class more as a result of this change. We are trying it this year and will make a decision after the season about whether or not to continue or how we might wish to modify the format.”
The CMAC, CAAC White and many other leagues sponsor three league jamborees two weeks apart and usually weigh them equally in determining a league champion and final standings.
“I never liked jamborees because you see the same kids over and over again,” East Lansing’s 23rd-year boys coach Pat Murray said. “So we came up with a compromise of two meets.”
The CAAC Blue decided on a format utilized by college teams in the MIAA, a league of NCAA Division III schools that includes Albion, Alma and Olivet College among others. Just one jamboree is held in late September and it counts as one-third, while the league meet a month or so later counts as two-thirds toward determining the league title and final standings.
But there are things about dual meets Brown will miss.
“I will miss going to the various school’s home courses,” he said. “Also, we’re not going to have hardly any home meets any more unless we schedule with a non-conference school.”
The Lansing schools – Everett, Eastern and Sexton – have done something like that by scheduling dual meets with one another that won’t count in the league standings.
Another thing Brown will miss in the dual meet format is bus rides. East Lansing will only make two bus trips this fall due to budget cuts.
“The whole meet day experience, including bus ride to and from the meet, was something I enjoyed,” Brown said. “It was a chance to spend time with the kids.”