Teams struggle with higher AIA qualifying standards

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

SHOW LOW, Ariz., April 13, 2012

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(Times photo - Paul Natonabah)

Window Rock track and field coach Ryan Dodson.

T he math doesn't seem to add up.

That is what most coaches in the state of Arizona seem to agree on as they debate the fairly new state qualification standards for track and field, which were implemented two years ago when the Arizona Interscholastic Association dropped down to four classifications.

The coaches see the standards as too high and as a consequence they're struggling to get athletes qualified for state.

For many, the new standards seems to be out of reach, to say the least. But Window Rock coach Brian Dotson is embracing them.

"I like the qualification standards and I think it gives the athlete something to work on," the first-year coach said. "They do look unrealistic, but the AIA does look back at what the athletes were performing at the state meet in the years prior.

"It's something to strive for," he added. "It's a challenge, but that says a lot about our sport and really it makes the athlete focus more on what they need to do on their own to get better."

Last year, Yanabah Jaques was the only Window Rock track athlete to make state and despite the new standards Dotson believes he'll get a few more qualified this season.

"We still have a month left in our season," he said. "We're still progressing and I think we'll sneak in a few based on the provisional standard."

The provisional standard is another tool the AIA uses to get athletes qualified. As always, the state meet tries to bring in the top performers for each event and that list is cut to 25 athletes. If they come up short on that number, the AIA takes the top performers from the provisional list to complete its field for the state meet.

Window Rock senior Josh Pablo is hoping to get qualified that way in all the three sprints - the 100-, 200-, and 400-meter dashes.

At press time, the senior standout had posted the 22nd fastest time in the 400 meters with a time of 54.61 seconds.

But lately he's been dealing with an injury he sustained four weeks ago so at the Show Low meet last Thursday he ran the 800 meters.

"It's frustrating, but right now I'm using long distance as my rehab," said Pablo, who qualified for state as sophomore under the old rule where the top two athletes from the region meet made state.

"Once my leg starts feeling better and I'm up for sprints, I'll be back," he said.

Because of the extent of injury, Dotson said the coaches are being very cautious about bringing him back early.

"We are being very conservative," the Window Rock coach said. "We want him back near 100 percent and we're going to take it slow with his progress."

Picking up the slack in Pablo's absence are Manuelito Chief, Lodi Bitsie and Ernest Sam. All three competed in the 100-meter dash at the Show Low meet.

"I'm trying to make the provisional," Chief said, who posted a 12.73 effort in the 100 that was good for 12th place.

To do that, the sophomore is trying to get under the 11.51 parameter that AIA set this year.

"It's a challenge, but eventually I'll get there," he said.

Bitsie, who joined track for the first time, posted a 13.91 effort in that same event while Sam finished with a time of 14.09.

"I hope to have a future in football so that's why I joined," said Bitsie, who was one of the team's top running backs. "Coach (Dotson) is telling me that this will help me."

Bitsie later competed in the 200-meter dash and placed 15th with a time 28.05 while Chief (26.35) finished in 11th place.

As a team the Scouts finished the nine-team meet in eighth place with 8 total points headed by senior Binahnii Curley, who earned all those points in the long distance.

The Window Rock senior finished third in the 3,200 (10:46), seventh in the 1,600 (5:10) and sixth in the 800 (2:14).

"This is my first year running and I am getting better," Curley said. "My times are coming down, but I still need to work on my pace."

Window Rock counterpart Yanabah Jaques did him better as she won both two-mile (13:02) and one-mile (6:02) races to led the team to a sixth-place finish in the team standings.

The Lady Scouts finished the meet with 32 points and also got a strong showing from Danielle Smiley as she placed second in the 1,600-meter with a time of 6:03.

"We have some top performers on the girls side," said Dotson, while noting that Smiley is ranked in the top 25 in all the long distance races. "They are really driven and I like the pace they're running at."

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