Issues at OHIO State H.S. Cross Country, from RUNOHIO

RUNOHIO is our partner in the state of Ohio, as part of the RunningNetwork. There has been a controversy in Ohio State high school cross country, and RUNOHIO, a long time commentator on cross country, track and field and road racing in the state of Ohio asked us to distribute this piece to our readers. They feel it is important for coaches, athletes, parents and officials to see the whole story. 

I picked the photo below because, for me, it is the essence of our sport. The coach, the team, the race. Keep it simple. The politics is what hurts many of the activities, whether they be sport, or other parts of life. 

ArcadiaXC NXN.jpg
NXN, photo courtesy of Nike communications

Info:  Please share the following with your local Ohio cross country high school parents, coaches, Athletic Directors, Principals and Superintendent.

At the Cross Country clinic last November, Dale Gabor (OHSAA cross country/track representative) said a few small school superintendents in 2012 were behind the push for combined enrollment to be used for cross country; even though in 2011 the president of the Ohio Cross Country and Track & Field Coaches Association said he and the members of the association was against combined enrollment.

He said a few superintendents didn't want to spend the extra money to send one cross country team to one location and the other team to a different site. It was pointed out by a coach during Mr. Gabor's presentation that it seems what they are saying is that they did not want to spend money to send their girls team to a different site, yet they spend money for preseason or exhibition games for a number of sport teams. It was also pointed out that most schools don't run more than 10 meets when they are allowed to run 16 during the regular season - so those schools should have money to allow their team to compete in their appropriate "normal" division.

It was pointed out that only a few got the combined enrollment rule passed but Mr. Gabor indicated a supermajority of the coaches would need to vote to change it.

The OHSAA went against a letter authored by the president of the OATCCC (dated April 16, 2011) to the OHSAA Board of Directors which stated  "The OATCCC Executive Board through numerous discussions have narrowed the critical issues in cross country down to two items: (1) separating schools who have the same coach for both boys and girls programs whether both genders are in the same or different divisions, and (2) travel distance. In order to assist the OHSAA Board of Directors in resolving what we believe to be the more resounding issues the OATCCC is fully committed to working with the OHSAA. It is quite clear though that our membership finds the idea of using a single divisional assignment for a school not in the best interest of the student-athletes and their coaches in the sport of cross country. Moving programs out of their natural division creates competitive advantages/disadvantages and does not solve the problem."   Read full letter -

The OHSAA is not following their BYLAW 2 -- CLASSIFICATION AND ORGANIZATION Section 1 -- Classification of Schools 2-1-1 Classification and representation to tournaments will be calculated every other school year. The classification will be calculated in a school year beginning with an even numbered year for use in the next two school years. Boy's classification shall be determined by the total number of boys enrolled in grades 9-10-11. Girl's classification shall be determined by the total number of girls enrolled in grades 9-10-11.

The issue with funding and sending teams to their normal postseason competition based on their true "Normal Division" should not be a concern as cross country is allowed to have 16 regular season competition and most schools do not have more than 10. Many schools seem to have the financial ability to allow their baseball team to play preseason games and even postseason exhibition games. (They are allowed 4 such games).

I coach at Bishop Watterson High School where we had 62% girls and 38% boys two years ago when the OHSAA decided to treat cross country different than all of the other sports the OHSAA sponsor.  I am one of the 500 schools where I am the head coach of both team, yet I have assistant coaches which can cover a team if we are at different site, which we have chosen to do so in the past.  One of the smallest schools in the state, Granville Christian has an assistant coach so this concern does not apply to us or Granville Christian and most other schools.  Also according to BYLAW 3 -- ADMINISTRATIVE RESPONSIBILITY AND INSTITUTIONAL CONTROL 3-2-2 - when a male coach is assigned to a girl's team, an adult female (non-high school student) should be present at the contest. When a female coach is assigned to a boy's team, an adult male (non-high school student) should be present at the contest). -   Thus, if a school followed this BYLAW there would not be a problem...

As a result of the gender disparity, our boys were moved to Division I from what would have been our normal Division II postseason competition.  64 schools in the State had more boys than us and competed in Division II while our school with only 277 boys was forced to compete at the Division I level.

The two main issues I hear back from coaches I have talked with over the past two years:

1)  A number of schools did not provide additional coaching when the school added girls cross country.  Still years later the schools do not want to hire a coach for the girls team whether it be a head coach, assistant coach or a part time coach. (The OHSAA has offered a State Championships in cross country for 86 years for the boys and 37 years for the girls).  The lack of a girls coach could result in a lack of proper supervision at practice and not having a coach available to go to one teams postseason competition.

2) When girls cross country team was added at some schools, the school did not provide adequate funding for the girls team.  Thus, when a school's boys team was sent to one location and the girls team was sent to another location for their postseason competition, a few superintendents complained to the OHSAA that they didn't want to spend the extra money to send their teams to their "appropriate" competition location.  Instead they wanted to send both the boys and girls team to the same location (this is not used in any other OHSAA sport offering and yet schools seem to have the financial resources to send some of their teams to exhibition contests before the season starts or at the end of the season).

I have heard from some coaches and athletes/parents that the two above issues seem like they could be a Title IX complaint from athletes/schools which were negatively affected.

This year a "Normal Division III" girls team was forced to run against a school which should be a Division I team.  The Normal Division III girls team was forced to moved up because of a higher number of boys at their school and the Division I girls team was allowed to move down because a smaller number of boys at their school.  This has never occurred before in a OHSAA postseason competition.

RUNOHIO feels schools should compete in their "Normal Division" like all other OHSAA sponsored sports.  But, if a school wishes to be in the same division the school should be allowed to move their lower divisional team up a division to run with their other team which is in a higher division.

More on this issue -

Please share this with your parent, coaches, athletic directors, principals and superintendents.

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