March 7, 2016
LetsRun.com has learned that the 2016 NYRR Millrose Games – the supposed crown jewel of the USATF Indoor Championship Series – wasn’t a USATF-sanctioned track and field meet. As a result, it could be argued that none of the times achieved at the meet should count for qualification purposes for U.S. or World Indoors.
The USATF website has contradictory information regarding USATF’s rules on what types of races are eligible to serve as qualifiers for the USATF Indoor Championships, which begin on Friday in Portland. If you click on “Criteria for a Legal Qualifying Meet” at the USATF Indoor page, the second thing mentioned is this:
2. The meet/event must be sanctioned in advance by USATF or the National Governing Body of another nation. And while not sanctioned by USATF, higher level collegiate and high school meets – such as a high school or college invitational, championships, relay carnivals, etc. – will be recognized as valid meets for qualifying.
If you take a look at the list of USATF-sanctioned meets for the weekend of Millrose — February 20-21 — it’s clear that the 2016 NYRR Millrose Games – a professional meet – wasn’t sanctioned.
Yet despite that fact, USATF has accepted the qualifying times from people like Robby Andrews (3:53.16) and Cory Leslie (3:53.87), who both picked up the World standard (3:55.00) at Millrose.
We reached out to USATF for comment. Communications head Jill Geer said that a clerical error had resulted in the meet not being sanctioned and that USATF is going to retroactively sanction the meet:
“As you know, the Millrose Games is part of the USATF Championship Series. The meet took place, as it does annually, on a certified track, utilizing USATF certified officials. It is a meet that is routinely sanctioned on an annual basis. This year, a clerical error on the part of the event organizers meant that the professional portion of the meet was not sanctioned prior to the competition – the form was only partly completed. Upon being informed there was no sanction a few days after the meet’s conclusion, we communicated with the event organizers in an effort to remedy the situation. The Millrose meet organizers are following the steps to complete their full sanction, which should be complete early next week.”
Geer also pointed us to the “Qualifying Standards” portion of the USATF Indoor site, which doesn’t include the language that a qualifying mark has to come at a USATF-sanctioned meet as it says that qualifying marks can come from “meets or events which meet a minimum for competitiveness set by the Chair of the Sport Committee and determined to be valid by the USATF staff member responsible for verification.”
So there you have it, by USATF’s own admission, its website has contradictory information on whether a meet needs to be sanctioned for marks to count as qualifiers for the 2016 USA Indoors. That’s kind of ironic because just over a month ago, USATF refused to let former Michigan State runner Rachel McFarlane compete in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials even though she had run a qualifying time on a USATF-certified course, because the race (the Detroit Free Press Talmer Bank International Half Marathon) where she ran her qualifier wasn’t a USATF-sanctioned event. USATF stuck to the position that its website clearly stated that all qualifying times had to be run at a sanctioned event.
On February 4, we asked USATF if they would retroactively sanction the race if we raised the money required for a sanction, allowing McFarlane to compete. They said they would not. We therefore abandoned our crowdfunding plan and McFarlane was left out of the Trials. When we asked USATF about why they are allowing Millrose to be sanctioned after the fact but not McFarlane’s half-marathon, Geer said the difference is that LetsRun.com, not the race itself, would have been paying for the sanction.
“You reference the McFarland situation, which is not analogous. I did not tell you that her mark couldn’t be accepted because we couldn’t retroactively sanction. My email to you on Feb. 4 read, “Sanction applications (and the fees the accompany them) are filled out, submitted and signed by the races themselves.” Detroit chose not to apply for a sanction, even retroactively, which is why her mark couldn’t be accepted. A third-party cannot fill out a sanction on behalf of the event organizer.”
Quick Thought #1: We’re glad USATF is letting the 2016 NYRR Millrose times count but wish they were this understanding when they aren’t the ones making the mistakes and/or when the incidents don’t involve high-profile athletes
It seems that whenever a U.S. championship is held, there is some sort of controversy as to who gets to run it (1996 example here, 2008 example here, 2012 example here). Many in the sport believe that if the controversy involves a “name,” the rules normally go by the wayside. If the controversy doesn’t involve a “name,” normally everyone is told the rules have to be followed.
We’re glad that Andrews, Leslie and others are being given credit for the times they achieved at Millrose but don’t like how USATF has been so accommodating to make up for a clerical error made by someone at the Armory (the Armory owns the Millrose Games) when they weren’t accommodating at all when Rachel McFarlane made her own error in qualifying at a non-sanctioned race. When we asked if we paid the sanctioning fee if McFarlane would be allowed to compete at the Marathon Trials, USATF should have said, “Races need to pay the fee themselves. We’d be happy to let her compete if you give the money to the race and they pay us. If they won’t do it, you know what, since we realize this is a lifelong goal for her and we understand she thought USATF certification was enough, we’ll make an exception in this case.”
Quick Thought #2: If USATF sanctions Millrose, athletes like Andrews and Leslie should be in the clear for World Indoors as well if they make the team
The IAAF’s criteria for a valid qualifying mark is as follows:
“Performances must be achieved during competitions organised or authorised by the IAAF, its Area Associations or its National Member Federations. Thus, results achieved at university or school competitions must be certified by the National Federation of the country in which the competition was organised.”
Talk about this topic on our world famous fan forum / messageboard: MB: Hard to believe – The 2016 NYRR Millrose Games weren’t a sanctioned USATF meet
*MB: Detroit Freepress half marathon screws over OTQ