Junior Track Nationals – could it be better?

Posted: March 8, 2013 in Opinion, Racing
Tags: ,

Had the opportunity to attend the Junior Track Nationals (JTN) last week and it seems to me its pretty much the same program as its been for the last God knows how many years.  Don’t get me wrong, its terrific to have a pinnacle track event for under-15 and under-17 juniors; but I’m wondering if it has lost a little of its sparkle since the advent of the National Junior Track Series (NJTS).

I was able to attend a number of the NJTS events and IMO they offered more atmosphere, a better mix of racing and, at a number of them, live timing.  I was surprised to find out that the JTN didn’t offer live timing and had an atmosphere, up to the last day at least, that was at best polite, at worst downright sombre.

Courtney Field (centre) broke the 17-year-old record of Kerrie Meares for the Flying 200m!

Courtney Field (centre) broke the 17-year-old record of Kerrie Meares for the Flying 200m!

There were some amazing performances at the JTN with two long-standing national records falling to two quality young riders but there was an enormous amount of downtime… and why forgo day-time racing on the Friday for a short morning session on the Saturday?  Some suggested it was so the kids wouldn’t play up on the night the event finishes… a strange rationale if you ask me!?!?  Also, why make the kids race till 10.30 at night, when there is no good reason the racing couldn’t have started two-hours earlier to get them eating dinner and in bed at a reasonable hour?

The other question I’d throw out there is do the championships feature the right mix of events?  Perhaps that’s why the atmosphere was lacking – you can only get so excited seeing one timed event after another.  There was a reason the Olympics dropped the TT and the IP!  That’s not saying I’d like to see these events go – certainly not the IP as its the only real endurance event at the championships.  All four of the scratch races (which is meant to be the other ‘endurance’ event) were all won by the winners or podium getters of their respective Sprint, as they aren’t long enough or hard enough to be much of a test of endurance (unlike a points race or an elimination, which puts continued pressure on riders).

Bottom-age Tassie under-15 Ronin 'Ranga' Munro was the surprise packet of the Championships winning the scratch race and medalling in the sprint and TT.

Bottom-age Tassie under-15 Ronin ‘Ranga’ Munro was the surprise packet of the Championships winning the scratch race and medalling in the sprint and TT.

It was good to see the CA Track Commission make the common sense decision to increase to three the number of scratch race representatives from each state – it at least gave a number of kids another ride.

While on selection, is it fair that the some of the stronger states can’t bring kids that record times far faster than the number one pick from a weaker state?  Is it fair that just because you have a particularly strong year in your state you miss out when in reality you are far more chance of a medal than 20 of the other kids that will be racing?  I’m not saying it is or it isn’t, I’m just putting it out there.  Perhaps there should be qualifying times for all events and only kids that do those times can enter?

With track continuing to struggle in most states – a number of track events over the last few months have been lucky to have fields approaching double figures – do we look at our national championships and try to make them more entertaining; for the riders and those watching?  Does it need wholesale change from the top down rather than taking the program from the previous year and giving it a ‘tweak’?

On the positive side: the quality of racing was generally pretty good and a number of young riders announced themselves as riders to watch in the future.  That said, you can be sure there were a number of riders, not yet as developed as their peers, who will no doubt outstrip the winners in the years ahead.

Lets finally say goodbye to the track… and hello to the road.  Bring on Buffalo…

  1. At athletics, juniors can qualify for Nationals just by posting a time at their local meet. Every time they run, there is a possibility that you could qualify for Nationals. I think it works well because it gives them several opportunities to qualify, it means that if you don’t race at states, or if your not at your peak, you could still qualify, it’s more transparent, and it gives more prestige to local racing. It could work well for cycling – Christmas carnivals could become qualifiers for scratch, points and elimination races, both the Vic Cup and the states could be qualifiers for IP, TT and sprint. National Junior Track Series could be qualifiers also.
    From the qualified field, Vic could then select Team Pursuit & Team Sprint.

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