(Photo by Will Bridges)
"In case you missed it we just had a stellar jump in the triple jump, 15.24 meters." The announcers voice beckons across the grandstands and the fans eyes shift from the track to the field events. For the casual high school fan 15.24m doesn't mean much, they are used to hearing 50 feet, but for the rest of the world and at the collegiate and professional level the metric measurement is the standard. We caught up with Ed Thompson, Director of Athletics for the FHSAA, who says we will soon be seeing this in the Sunshine State.
Whose decision was it to switch to the metric measurements for the field events?
The decision to move to the metric system was made by the Track & Field Advisory Committee, the Athletic Directors, and myself.
How did the decision come about?
The discussion was initiated at the NFHS Summer Meeting in June 2016. At that meeting, the question was asked about who in the Federation used metric to report field event performances. No states indicated they used it. I view our state as the best in the sport and a leader in the sport and quickly began asking the opinions of various coaches and official on the feasibility moving over to metric. Since all indications are that it's minimal, it made sense for us to move forward in getting in line with the national and international standard. Athletic Directors had no reservations about the change at the September 2016 meeting, so we made the final decision to roll with it. We decided to use the NCAA language with measurement on the vertical jumps and stick with the NFHS rules on measuring horizontal jumps.
The college and professional landscape use metric measurements. How important was it to just get on the same page as that next level?
Imperial measurement, while commonly understood here, is being phased out gradually. Anyone who's worked on a car made after 1990 knows this. The IAAF, USATF, and NCAA standard for measurement is the metric system. It only makes sense for us to join the rest of the world track & field community. It's also a great point for our state to be leading the way among high school sports in the nation.
There are a lot of people who are hesitant with change. Talk about the timetable of this getting in phased in. I know you mentioned postseason this year and then the goal being all meets next year correct?
The timetable is fairly cut and dry. In 2017, 100% metric measurement is required in all state series Track & Field meets and highly recommended during the regular season. In 2018, the entire track season will be 100% metric.
You mentioned the accuracy of marks what other impacts if any do you think this will have on our sport?
Accuracy is so important in our sport. We often find our champions using a Laser-drawn line on a high speed camera image in our running events. It's extremely difficult to accurately gauge the ¼" to ½". Going to metric allows us to use factors of ten anywhere on the measuring tape. The metric system is taught in elementary school in Florida, so this is not something completely foreign to our student-athletes who will most likely be the ones who pick it up the fastest among our constituents. Adults who don't like it will have to adjust.