Edward R. Koch - Fan, Official, Author
My track club (New Jersey Striders) hosts the oldest summer all-comers series in New Jersey (since 1978) and we are proud to include the Mile in every meet.
The 1600 meter distance in high school is a pet peeve of mine. When I wrote my novel for young adults ("Relay") about high school track & field in 2009, I made it a point that the un-named state in which the story takes place has rejected the 1600 meters in favor of the Mile. The coach of the high school team makes the argument in favor of the Mile in the middle of the story.
Excerpt from RELAY by Edward R. Koch
[The setting: Jane Griffin is the new assistant coach of the Green Ridge girls’ track & field team. She has just been introduced to Bill Mallory and Jim Kowalski who are the coaches of the boys’ team as they sit in the faculty lunch room.]
“Let me ask something,” interrupted Jane Griffin. “I noticed the mile and the 3,000 meters are the standard events in this state. Why not the 1,600 and 3,200 meters like they have in Florida?”
“The 1,600 and 3,200 meters are two of the biggest mistakes ever written into the high school rulebook,” Bill Mallory quickly responded. “Thankfully, we live in an enlightened state.”
“Oh no,” moaned Jim Kowalski rolling his eyes. “Now you’ve got him started.”
Mallory continued, “Back when the tracks were converted from yards to meters, the rules committee needed to choose between keeping the mile which to this day is still recognized as the only non-metric international event, and the 1,500 meters which is the Olympic distance and long known as the metric mile. So what did they pick? Neither. Instead they choose a distance that no one had ever heard of, and no one at any other level of our sport has ever adopted.”
He shook his head and went on. “It has really hurt track & field in the eyes of the public. Even the casual observer knows what a mile is, and has some idea what running it in 4 minutes, or 4:30, or 5 minutes means. But except for runners and ex-runners, most folks are clueless about 1,600 meters. They don’t know that it is nine meters shy of a mile. Why if Alan Webb had broken 3:58 in the 1,600 instead of breaking 4 minutes in the mile, the media probably would have ignored him. It’s a crying shame.”
“And what about the 3,000 meters?” asked Jane Griffin.
“Basically, the same deal. People know what 2 miles amounts to, and even to some degree the 3K which is an international distance. But 3,200 meters? Give me a break!”
“I also noticed the long hurdles are 400 meters here instead of 300 meters.”
“Yes they are. We teach our athletes to hurdle the full lap just like they will need to do if they compete in college. The 400 hurdles, the mile, and the 3K are all standard in the Philly Relays, and if it’s good enough for the Philly Relays, it is good enough for our state and it ought to be good enough for everybody else,” said Mallory with a note of finality before changing the subject.
Relay was published in 2009 by Dog Ear Publishing. It still in print and available on Amazon and other online booksellers and www.edkochbook.com. Edward R. Koch is a CPA and an attorney who resides in northern New Jersey with his family. He competed for championship teams in high school and college. Since that time, he has officiated at all levels of the sport from the 1996 Olympic Games to local youth events sponsored by the New Jersey Striders, a track & field club that he co-founded. He served during 2000-08 as national treasurer of USA Track & Field, and during 1986-90 as President of its New Jersey Association.