New-look OVAC track meet lives up to hype

It’s official, all of the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference champions have now been crowned.

The year of the OVAC began in September when the conference golf champions were crowned at Oglebay Park.

Since then, pennants in 11 other sports have been claimed and it culminated this past weekend with the inaugural running of the OVAC Track and Field Championship Meet at Meadowbrook High School.

The OVAC has long been crowning track and field champions over a four-day event, but this year the conference changed the format and added a fifth day where the top four qualifiers in each event of each class converged on Byesville to crown the true champion.

But, like everything else, change is often met with resistance and questions. It’s like that in everything and regardless of how well or smooth something runs, there are always going to be some naysayers.

Whether it’s warranted or not, someone’s going to find something to gripe about.

I was one of several track and field junkies who took in all five days of action and must say I can’t find anything negative to report from the new format, which was the brainchild of Butch and Donna Joseph.

I’ve been attending all four days of the OVAC Track Championship since my high school years when I became a track and field junkie and was old enough to drive to the likes of Wheeling Park, Brooke and then Bellaire for the bigger school rounds.

During those years, I’d always look at results and think what if we could have the fastest in 3-A meet up with the fastest of 4-A or even 1-A and 2-A? I always thought it would be captivating to see the best of the best go head-to-head.

And when Butch Joseph told me about this idea he was working on a few years ago, I think my initial response was, “Wow! That would be great.”

After a couple of years of tweaking and tinkering, the idea and format was pitched to the OVAC Executive Board. It was approved and formally announced last summer and came to fruition Saturday.

Obviously, there are always small things that come up that many athletes, coaches and fans would never notice that the OVAC Track and Field committee can tweak, but overall I thought the meets went off without a hitch.

However, I’m just one opinion, and not everyone feels the same as me, but to see the best of the best go head-to-head to crown a ‘conference’ champion is the main idea.

In talking to coaches about the meet, it seemed like most enjoyed the new format, but the consenus among West Virginia coaches is that it occurs too close to the Mountain State regionals.

I see that argument, but to me the OVAC, on this spot on the calendar, should serve as the ultimate tuneup. To me, some of these West Virginia schools can sleepwalk athletes to the state meet in Charleston.

This is the time of the year when teams and athletes want to see their times dropping and marks continually improving toward the ultimate climax, the respective state meets.

To me, it seems tougher on the Ohio schools. They gear up for conference action, but their state tournament doesn’t open until a week from tomorrow and only the Belmont County Relays, PVC Championship and some scattered duals and tris are scheduled for this week.

Also, moving the OVAC meet to the week prior would greatly affect the media coverage it could receive because of the softball and baseball tournaments going on as well. Logistically, it works better on the weekend it was contested because it’s all by its lonesome and the event deserves to have the entire week and weekend to itself.

Another point of contention was the small schools getting beat up by the bigger schools. I can see that argument to an extent. However, the most brilliant performances by an individual were put on by Bridgeport’s Cassie Grandstaff who won three individual medals.

All four classes won at least one gold in the boys, but the small-school boys team title was won by St. John, which entered only four events.

Depth isn’t supposed to win track meets. Fast, talented athletes are supposed to win track meets and that’s what the Irish used. They’ve got a strong distance program and that’s what it took.

St. John’s boys shouldn’t have to apologize to anyone.

Hopefully, Meadowbrook continues to be the site of the meet for several more years. The Colts’ track staff – with John Epperson leading the way – knows how to run championship meets. They’ve got plenty of help, they’re quick and the meet moves along without delays. Actually other than a minor delay during the second day at Bellaire, all of the meets moved along quite well. That’s a big selling point for everyone because once a meet is labeled slow, it’s a tough burden to shake.

I think St. Clairsville’s brand-new facility could be an ideal spot for the championship meet eventually. However, the Red Devils’ staff will obviously need and want to gain experience in running meets before it takes on something the size of the OVAC championship.

The OVAC Track and Field committee is scheduled to meet Sunday, May 23 and there will be a lot of things discussed we’re sure, but the format works great and only subtle tweaking should be made. With the likes of the Josephs, Tom Rataiczak, Jerry Narcisi, Shawn Valloric involved, no stone will be left unturned and the meet will only continue to grow in scope and magnitude.

Staskey can be reached at