April 22, 2005
Track can be a monotonous endeavor. Running straight ahead or around and around, jumping hurdle after hurdle, throwing the shot or twirling the discus; all are repetitive in nature.
So, any time a track athlete can do something a little different — even slightly different — it’s seen as something positive.
Relay meets have long provided a break in the monotony of a track and field season. In a relay meet, there are usually a few individual races, perhaps the 100 or the 1,600 meters, but the majority of events are team-oriented.
Field events are scored by taking the combined heights or distances of three members of the team.
On the track, an assortment of relays keeps everyone — sprinters and distance runners alike — busy. There are sprint medley relays, distance medley relays, long relays and short relays. Coaches can throw a lot of athletes into several events and all feel energized by doing something different.
Today, there are still several relay meets during the season, the Wynn-Zucco Tempe Relays being the biggest one in the East Valley.
However, in recent years, a few relay meets have gone away or changed format.
One that went away was the Firebird Relays at Chaparral and one that changed was the Tribune Relays, which now is called the Tribune Invitational and begins at 1 p.m. today at Westwood High School.
After 35 years, the meet changed its format last season. It went away from a boys-only relay format to a standard meet format. The only remnant of the Tribune Relays is the throwers’ watermelon 400-meter relay. This relay is just like a standard 400 relay, except the competitors are all shot putters or discus throwers and the baton is a watermelon.
"That’s a non-scoring event," Mountain View coach Robbie Robinson said. "Really it’s a race where you can just laugh with some people. It’s something you don’t practice."
That event was precisely what made relay meets enjoyable. They were competitive, yet refreshing, and the Tribune Relays came at a nice time, right before regionals and state.
"We liked that format because it was a little bit different and it allows a lot of kids to compete," Robinson said. "It was a fun meet and it gives you more of a change of pace."
However, like all things it seems, the Tribune Relays was a victim of progress.
In the past, people qualified for state through the regional meet. Now, most qualifying is done in the regular season at invitationals. Coaches want to get as many people qualified as possible, and every invitational counts.
"We’re depending a lot on outside qualifications," Westwood coach George De La Torre said. "So I felt the need to turn it into a last-chance qualifying meet, using it to help others outside qualify for the state meet."
De La Torre had put on the Tribune Relays for many years and understood the disappointment some coaches had about losing such an enjoyable meet. But he sees the change as a trade-off.
"I’ve had nothing but positive feedback about the change," he said. "Some coaches have told me they had a third or a fourth person they want to qualify and they need this meet. You only get two entries at other meets, so you don’t have a chance to qualify some people."
With qualifying for state as the main goal for the coaches and athletes, the atmosphere at Westwood tonight will be much the same as it is at the other invitationals throughout the year. But at approximately 8:30 p.m., when the throwers grab their watermelons and hit the track at full speed, the old-feel Tribune Relays will be rekindled for one lap of fun.
When: 1 p.m. today
Where: Westwood High School
Teams: Westwood, Mesa, Skyline, Mountain View, Red Mountain, Dobson, Gilbert, Highland, Mesquite, Hamilton, Corona del Sol, Marcos de Niza, Mountain Pointe, Glendale Mountain Ridge, McClintock