Al Stumpf, the NJSIAA Track and Field Tournament Director, has heard grumblings from disgruntled coaches all season about the scheduling conflict between the Meet of Champions and the multiple National Championship meets this weekend, and he vows to do what he can to ensure it doesn't happen again.
To refresh your memory, the NJSIAA Meet of Champions is scheduled for this Saturday at Franklin High School. The New Balance Nationals is scheduled for this Thursday (June 16) through Sunday (June 19) at Franklin Field in Philadelphia. The Nike Nationals is also scheduled for June 16-19 at Hayward Field in Oregon, and the adidas National Championships are June 17-19 at Irwin Belk Track at North Carolina A&T in Greensboro, N.C.
This scheduling conflict is something that's never happened before, and has resulted in several of the state's top stars having to choose between meets. As a result, several of the top names in the sport will be absent from the Meet of Champions
Stumpf isn't happy about the situation, and said every attempt will be made to make sure something like this doesn't occur in the future.
"It's very unfortunate,, and I wish this never happened,'' said Stumpf. "It's a conflict that we will address at our end of the season track and field committee meeting. We will discuss ways to avoid this from ever happening again. I feel bad for all that athletes that had to make a choice between the meets.''
So, how did we get here?
First off, after years of the state sectional championships being held on Memorial Day weekend, the NJSIAA, citing a shortage of officials and additional site workers, pushed the sectionals a week later last year. That resulted in the Meet of Champions being held on the third Saturday of June. That same schedule remained in place this season.
"Before Covid, we had 965 registered officials in New Jersey, now we have just over 600, so finding enough officials to work all the sectionals, plus finding people to work the meet by taking tickets and other things at each site was very difficult,'' said Stumpf. ''So the sectionals were moved back.''
Another difference this year is that the National Championships, held at the end of June last year, returned to its usual dates on Father's Day weekend this year. The national meets were held later last year because of the uncertainty of possible Covid restrictions.
Stumpf said by the time national dates were announced, it was too late to make changes to the state tournament schedule.
"We had our dates for our state meets finalized at the start of the school year, and the dates for nationals weren't released until late March,'' said Stumpf. "Moving up the Meet of Champions to the middle of this week (the meet was held on Wednesday for several years until 2017) would impact the end of the year events at schools such as senior awards night and/or graduations,. A good example of that is if the Meet of Champions were today, athletes form Voorhees and North Hunterdon would've had to choose between their graduation ceremony and competing at the meet. And we couldn't move it back because in our constitution all of our state tournaments must conclude before Monday (June 20). Like I said before, every effort will be made to make sure that we don't have this conflict again.''