Like cassette tapes and Atari, the pole vault is in danger of becoming obsolete.
The pole vault has been classified as a non-scoring event for the indoor and outdoor track and field seasons by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) in light of updated national standards regarding the size of the padding area that cushions the pole-vaulters.
The pole vault will still be run among the 13 indoor and 18 outdoor events at county championships in the Baltimore metropolitan area, and at the regional and state championship meets. But individual results will not count toward team scores.
"It's a safety factor," said Freddie Hendricks, the director of the state indoor track tournament committee.
The change was mandated by the National Federation of State High School Associations, which ordered schools to enlarge the pits where pole-vaulters land.
Generally measured about 16 feet wide by 18 feet deep, the landing pads must now be expanded to 19 feet, 8 inches wide and 20 feet, 2 inches deep.
The federation introduced the requirement after three athletes died while competing in the pole vault earlier this year. Two of them were high school students.
Hendricks said the reasoning behind the non-scoring status is threefold.
First, very few schools have landing pads that meet the new national federation's standards. Winters Mill track and field coach Jim Shank estimates that 20 percent of the schools in Maryland comply with the regulations.
Allowing athletes at those schools to practice while freezing out athletes at other programs would be unfair, which is the feeling among area coaches.
Second, the cost to upgrade the padding areas is exorbitant. With estimates ranging between $3,000 to $10,000, few public schools have the room in their athletic budgets to support such an expansion.
And third, administrators are naturally concerned over the spate of deaths. A study that researched 34 pole vault deaths concluded that 32 could have been prevented if the pits were larger.
"Of course, that prompted the powers-that-be to make things safe," said Hendricks, who is also the track and field coach at Mervo. "If the pits have to increase in size, we have to make adjustments."
The decision seems to have an equal number of supporters and critics among coaches. Glenelg coach Mike Selmer said the change will hurt pole-vaulters hoping to attract scholarship offers from colleges.
"There are going to very few pole-vaulters to get that money if the state is not going to support them," he said. "I think Maryland is on its way to phasing out the pole vault completely."
But South Carroll coach Rob Pennington said the risk of death outweighs the potential for athletic scholarships.
"Sooner or later, someone's going to get hurt," he said. "I don't think anyone wants that on their conscience to say, `Could I have changed that?' "
Counties in the metro area are doing what they can to keep the pole vault active. Anne Arundel has legal pole vault areas at four sites to be shared by all 12 public schools.
Century and Winters Mill will be the practice sites in Carroll, while in Howard, the padding area from Reservoir was moved to Centennial, a more centralized location in the county.
Baltimore City does not have a pole vault area for its schools. Baltimore County has six sites: the 5th Regiment Armory, Dulaney, Eastern Tech, Hereford, Parkville and Woodlawn.
Like Selmer, some coaches believe the pole vault will become the state's next javelin, an event that hasn't been endorsed by the state for at least 50 years, Hendricks said. But he is guardedly optimistic that schools will find the funding to upgrade their pits and help return the pole vault as a scoring event.
"If it comes back, we need it to come back right away," he said. "The longer it's out, it's out."
There are only eight weeks to county and conference championships. Here's one view at how the races are shaping up. (Harford County does not have a county championship meet.)
Anne Arundel County: Annapolis is the favorite to repeat as boys champion. The reigning Class 3A-2A state and East regional champion graduated three of its top four scorers, but returns a solid nucleus under first-year coach Charles Gross.
Meade, which finished second in the county meet, and Southern, which won the 2A state crown in outdoor track, will be tough obstacles.
On the girls side, Broadneck and Chesapeake will likely resume their battle for the county championship, which the former won for the first time in five seasons last year.
Severna Park, which always is bolstered by depth, could surprise observers.
Baltimore City: As trends go, so do the Mervo boys and the Western girls squads.
The Mervo boys have captured four consecutive titles and six of the past seven. With standouts at nearly every event, the Mustangs could add another trophy to the case.
Carver, which finished second, and Poly, which placed third, will do their best to thwart Mervo.