Panel widens playoffs in football, wrestling

pole vault is retained

Vault again scoring event

panel widens playoffs in football, wrestling

High Schools

April 26, 2003|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

The state high school athletic association's Board of Control voted yesterday to expand the football playoffs, give track's jeopardized pole vault event at least a one-year reprieve and institute a double-elimination format for the state wrestling tournament.

Ned Sparks, executive director of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, said the Board of Control voted, 29-24, at its Ocean City meeting to return the pole vault as a scoring event for the 2003-04 indoor and outdoor seasons following "a passionate" presentation by Middletown's Don Boyer of Frederick County and Boonsboro's Dwight Scott of Washington County.

The MPSSAA last year decided that because most schools do not have landing pads that meet the new national federation's standards, as well as the perception that there are a lack of qualified coaches and participants, the pole vault would be classified as a non-scoring event. At issue yesterday was whether the pole vault would return as a scoring event or if it should be eliminated.

"The committee voted to re-instate the pole vault for a year, but to study it and come back and make a definitive decision," Sparks said, adding that MPSSAA president Bob Wade has been asked to appoint a committee "before the end of the school year to determine the number of vaulters, number of qualified coaches and number of qualified pits" available around the state.

Frederick County, winner of 13 individual pole vault titles in indoor and outdoor track since 2000, has legal vaulting pits at five of its eight schools. Washington County has legal facilities at all seven schools.

Though Howard County has won 11 outdoor pole vaulting titles from 1995 through 2001, coordinator Don Disney cited safety concerns in seeking its ouster.

"Howard County only has one certified coach, P.J. Pfeister, and one pole vaulting center, Centennial High. All of our county kids have to go to Centennial to get coaching from him," Disney said. "We're going to have to come up with a plan to recruit coaches, train them and maintain them; otherwise, we have to look at not sustaining the event, year after year."

The football expansion proposal raises from 32 to 64 the number of teams eligible for the postseason, features a four-team regional playoff and extends the season a week to 14 games for the eight teams that reach the title games within the four classifications.

The board voted, 48-7, in favor of expansion, with only Montgomery County (five votes) and an Eastern Shore district (two votes) abstaining.

Hammond's Joe Russo is president of the Maryland Football Coaches' Association, which authored several proposals.

"We've gone through various plans, been persistent, kept after the expansion effort," Russo said. "This is the culmination of eight years of hard work, and it's good for the state."

The 14th week means the eight state finalists will play their title games on Dec. 5-6, overlapping the first play date (Dec. 5) for the basketball season.

The state's 24 school superintendents will meet May 19 to determine whether they will ratify the plan. At least one more than half of the superintendents present have to agree with the plan before it can go into effect this fall, Sparks said.

In state tournament wrestling, the board voted, 54-0, in favor of a full, double-elimination format. Last season at McDaniel College, first-round losers were eliminated out of concern that full wrestle-backs would create an overflow of spectators. But Sparks said Cole Field House and Morgan State - larger venues that can accommodate the new format - are the front-runners for relocation.

"We're proceeding with the idea that we'll get the new venue," Sparks said. "If we don't get the venue, we'll have to re-evaluate."

The golf tournament, previously a two-day event in which one boy and one girl were crowned champions, has been split into separate 2A-1A and 4A-3A tournaments to be completed in one day. Also, the volleyball finals have been moved from CCBC-Catonsville to the University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum.

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