05/20/17 – Track and Field 3A State Meet Interrupted/Terminated Due To Weather

May 20, 2017 2016-2017 News Releases

Statement of the Commissioner’s Office Regarding Class 3A Track and Field Meet Suspension and Termination

At approximately 9:05 p.m. Friday, May 20, 2017 inclement weather (primarily a lightning storm) surrounding the UK Outdoor Track & Field Complex compelled meet management to interrupt the Class 3A meet. The meet was stopped and the facility was evacuated in the interest of safety, and in compliance with KHSAA policies and procedures, due to lightning. At that time, five heats were remaining in the 4×400 relays, as one heat of the girls’ 4×400 had been conducted and the runners for the second heat were in the starting blocks. In addition, the girls’ triple jump was stopped with the top two individuals shy of their sixth jump. NFHS Rule 3-2-5 states that a meet may be suspended by the games committee, in collaboration with the referee, due to an emergency such as hazardous weather conditions or power failure. For the state meet, the Games Committee is composed of the Commissioner and specifically assigned staff of the KHSAA, along with the meet manager.

Once the delay began, and was continually extended by further lightning in the immediate area, additional concerns rested on whether or not the 2016-2017 NFHS Track and Field Rules compelled us to resume the meet and what procedures were required. Shortly after 10:00 p.m., KHSAA staff consulted with a representative of the NFHS and were advised that either decision (resume or terminate) would comply with the NFHS rules and such rules did not in fact compel the Association to resume the meet. This was a critical interpretation.

At about 10:40 p.m., when another bolt of lightning was observed, and yet another thirty-minute delay was implemented with no apparent imminent cessation in the electrical storm, the decision was made by the Commissioner and the Games Committee per the NFHS Track and Field Rules to end the meet per NFHS Rule 3-2-5. The thousands of people on site with minimal protection from the storm, and the lateness of the hour, only served to heighten travel and safety concerns for teams residing in the far corners of the state. That storm continued in the area until long after midnight.

The options available to reschedule the meet and provide an opportunity for ALL competitors to participate were limited for a number of reasons. Rescheduling an event the size of the state track meet is exponentially more difficult than rescheduling a game during a team sport championship that involves just two teams and their administrators and coaches. Returning the next day at UK was not an option, as the University was beginning to set up for the NCAA Track & Field Regional at 8 a.m. Nor was using an indoor facility on campus, which not only sports an entirely different track but would also be unable to accommodate the 4,000 to 5,000 fans in attendance. Most teams participating in the 3A Meet had already checked out of their hotels by the time the meet was halted, and would be tasked with finding rooms and accounting for the additional unbudgeted expenses.

With KHSAA championship dates set months in advance, several schools had already scheduled graduations for the days following the state meet, while some were still conducting the final days of the school year. While some coaches and fans were insistent on resuming the meet, that decision must be shared with their local administrators (principals and superintendents) who would have to approve additional travel expenses and address scheduling concerns. Not to mention that insurance coverage for student-athletes ends the final day of the championship, which was May 20. With 40 relay teams still needing to compete in the five relay heats, at some point a tough and unpopular decision had to be made about the feasibility and value of bringing back those student-athletes for what would amount to roughly 20 minutes of total competition.

Restarting the meet with only local teams or teams from the fast heat was never a worthwhile option. Whatever decision was made would need to impact all schools equally, whether positive or negative, and provide the same resolution for all. In the end, facing all of these variables, the decision was made to terminate the meet and allow the final results from the 3A Meet, including teams scores, to stand as contested Saturday night through the point of interruption, with 17 events scored on each side. No awards will be presented for non-contested events.

The KHSAA has sponsored a Track and Field championship in the spring since 1922, and the combination of circumstances at this year’s event resulted in an unprecedented occurrence. The KHSAA is in the business of creating opportunities for student-athletes, as our track record over the last seven years has demonstrated through the adoption of four sport-activities and one new sport. This is the rare occasion when participation had to be restricted. While this is not the outcome that all would have liked, the decisions made were in the best interest of those involved with an equal effect on all member schools.

-KHSAA-

About the Kentucky High School Athletic Association
The Kentucky High School Athletic Association was organized in 1917 and is the agency designated by the Kentucky Department of Education to manage high school athletics in the Commonwealth. The Association is a voluntary nonprofit 501(c)3 organization made up of 278 member schools both public and private. The KHSAA sanctions 43 state championships in 13 sports and 4 sport-activities, licenses and trains over 4,000 officials, provides catastrophic insurance for its more than 70,000 member school student-athletes, as well as overseeing coaching education and sports safety programs.