The Anchorage Daily News classified the men’s West Regional cross-country meet as “wacky.” Although the happenings during the meet were definitely out of the ordinary, maybe “messy” would be a better word.
First, going over a little bit of the action and controversy of the race. The West Regional meet is 10 kilometers long, yet all of the runners were forced into running 16 kilometers on the race day. The added length can be primarily attributed to the bike rider who was leading the pack.
The rider led the race leaders the wrong way at approximately the three-kilometer mark, at which point the runners had to be steered back to the correct trail. Then, after another three kilometers, race officials decided that it would be best if everyone just started over.
This is where all of the controversy starts. First off, how on earth did the bike rider lead the runners down the wrong path? That person of all people should have some of the most knowledge about the course and exactly where it goes.
The next point to ponder is that officials somehow decided that it would be best for everyone to start the race over – at the six-kilometer mark. Just having the teams restart the race after the halfway point is akin to having a hockey team restart the game after the second period ends or having a basketball team restart in the middle of the third quarter.
Just think about when the runners had to be redirected back to the correct trail, other than the additional distance it took to get back on the right track, those runners would have to run hard to get back to, and stay at, the front of the pack; this burns even more of the runners’ energy and inhibits their ability to keep up their pace.
If a restart needed to take place on the same day, it should have been declared at the three-kilometer mark when the officials first realized that the leaders of the pack were not on the correct path. But since it was decided that a restart was necessary after the six-kilometer point, it seems like the restart should have taken place the next day.
This seems apparent since one of UAA’s runners, Paul Rottich, was sent to the emergency room to be treated for dehydration. That is unacceptable, especially for such a big event.
Due to travel plans, a next-day restart, which would have been a Sunday, wouldn’t be ideal. But when it comes to the integrity of the race and the safety of the athletes, rearranging travel plans shouldn’t be a big issue, especially at one of the most important meets of the year.
If nothing else, the hosting school should have to, or at least offer to, help with travel arrangements and maybe even help cover a portion of the additional travel expenses that would accompany it.
But, aside from the meet mess-ups, congratulations to both UAA cross-country running teams for qualifying for nationals.