2023 State qualifying rules
Contributor: The Nerd
State qualifying rules
Each year there's considerable confusion among new varsity athletes and their parents about how athletes qualify for the Nebraska State track meet. In general, twenty-four (24) athletes qualify for individual events and sixteen (16) teams qualify in relays, but there are a number of caveats to those numbers. Here's a not-succinct summary.
In Class A there are FOUR district meets, and the top four athletes in each of the 14 individual events are auto-qualifiers for State (so that's 16 qualifiers). In the event of a tie for 4th, the athletes with the tie all auto-qualify. In addition, in all but the pole vault and high jump, the next eight best performances (comparing all four districts) are additional qualifiers; that number eight is reduced if there are ties for the 4th place auto-qualifier. In theory, this means that a loaded District could have 12 qualifiers out of a no-prelim event like the 400 or 1600. However, for the events with District finals (100, 100/110H, 200), you are only eligible for the extra qualifier spot if you are one of the eight finals qualifiers. If there is a tie for the last extra qualifying spot (i.e., the 24th spot) in running events, then none of those athletes qualify. If there is a tie for the last extra qualifying spot in the LJ, TJ, SP and discus, all of those athletes qualify.
There are only extra qualifiers in the pole vault and high jump if they meet the NSAA standard, which is the average of 8th place finish at State in the three prior years for that Class. For Class A, the standard is 13-06 (boys) and 10-00 (girls) in the pole vault and 6-03/5-01 in the high jump. As a final caveat for the pole vault, male athletes must clear 9-06 and females 6-06 to nab one of the auto-qualifying spots in any Class. For example, if male athletes finish 3rd and 4th in a Class A District pole vault competition but both only clear 9-00, then neither advances to State.
Finally, for relays the top three teams at each District will auto-qualify, but the next four fastest across the state to complete the State field of 16 teams.
The same general rules (extra qualifiers must be in finals, rules for ties) apply as in Class A, so I won't repeat those. There are SIX Class B Districts with three auto-qualifiers in each individual event, plus the six next best finishers in all but the pole vault and high jump. The standards for additional qualifiers in the PV and HJ are 13-00/10-00 and 6-03/5-02, respectively. Pole vaulters must clear 9-06/6-06 as the minimum to auto-qualify.
For Class B relays, the top two teams in each District will auto-qualify. The next four fastest teams across the state will also qualify.
Class C and D
The same general rules (extra qualifiers must be in finals, rules for ties) apply as in Class A, so I won't repeat those. There are NINE Class C and D Districts with two auto-qualifiers in each individual event, plus the six next best finishers in all but the pole vault and high jump. The standards for additional qualifiers in the PV and HJ in Class C are 13-01/10-02 and 6-01/5-01, respectively; in Class D, the marks are 12-06/9-00 and 6-00/4-11. Pole vaulters must clear 9-06/6-06 as the minimum to auto-qualify.
For Class C and D relays, only the winner in each District will auto-qualify. The next seven fastest teams across the state will also qualify.
Is it fair?
The goal of the qualifying standards appears to be to get medal hopefuls to Burke. I think it does this to great success, but there will always be years where the approach isn't perfect. For example, the A-1 and A-3 Districts are absolutely loaded this year, and that means that there are going to some state-worthy sprinters who don't qualify for finals and thus aren't eligible for State. As in every year, we're going to see instances where an auto qualifier from one District might not even be a top-ten finisher at another District. One solution might be to eliminate Districts and let athletes qualify based on season-best marks (the NCAA does this), but I'm not sure that translates well to HS T&F given that not all meets are electronically timed. In addition, I'm guessing the majority of Class C and D athletes compete in winter sports, so they're probably not at their best until May. Regardless, these are the rules we have now, and it will be up to the coaches to come up with something better.
First published at www.preprunningnerd.com by Jay Slagle on May 3, 2023. If you find an error, please DM or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get it fixed.
Like this coverage of Nebraska high school distance running? There's more of this at www.preprunningnerd.com. Check out the Blog tab for our frequent stories, the Articles tab for long-form articles, the Results tab for every Nebraska high school race we can find, and the Rankings tab for top-15 performances in each event. If you want to see meet photos or just need to kill a few hours on social media, follow us on Twitter and Instagram @PrepRunningNerd or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/preprunningnerd.
Finally, if you think runners, jumpers and throwers are the best things on earth, you'll enjoy our two most popular articles. In 2018 we published "The Runner with the Broken Heart" about a high school boy who finished last in nearly every race he ran. In 2022 we published, "The Fall and Rise of Emmett Hassenstab," a story about a high school triple jumper who became a quadrapalegic after a swimming accident.