PREVIEW: MSHSCA True Team State Championships

"You are about to witness something unique in track and field," declares the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association.

In the 1980s, a number of coaches across the state were growing frustrated with a trend that they saw in the state championships year-after-year. Teams that their own squads had faced and beaten many times in dual, tri, quad, and invitational competitions over the course of the regular season were finishing far higher than their own teams once points were being tallied in state competition, even as high as first place.

How was this possible if these teams could be beaten, and sometimes beaten easily, in the regular season?

Watch the True Team State Championships on May 19-20, only on MileSplit

The simple answer was that many teams were being carried on the shoulders of a few exceptional athletes in the postseason while such a task was not possible in smaller competitions in which depth, and not necessarily outstanding talent, was the key ingredient to a winning team. To deal with this issue, the Minnesota State Track Coaches Association formed several committees between the years of 1984 and 1986 to work out a better system for determining the best track and field teams in the state. The system they came up with, which began officially in 1987, was True Team.

The concept is simple in its execution. There are three classes based on school size. Class A and AA are scored identically, while Class AAA is scored slightly differently. In the smaller school classes, each team is allowed two competitors per individual event and one relay. The winner of each individual event will score points equal to the number of potential competitors in the event; in the True Team State competition, that number is 18, representing two athletes from each of the nine competing schools.

Every subsequent place scores one fewer point (thus second place scores 17 points, third place scores 16, fourth 15, and so on) until every finishing athlete has been scored. For relays, the winning team scores three times the number of teams competing (which is 27 points in the case of this nine-team state competition), and each subsequent place scores three fewer points (24 for second, 21 for third, and so on) until every finishing relay is scored. In Class AAA, teams are allowed three athletes for each individual event  (so first place in a nine-team competition will score 27 points instead of 18), and relays are scored with multiples of four (so first place will score 36 points instead of 27 and decrease by four points instead of three for each subsequent place). In this system, every athlete scores points for his or her team. While the most points still go to teams and athletes placing the highest in each event, it is just as valuable to the team for someone who expected to finish 20th to instead finish 11th as it is for someone who finished 10th to finish first.

Watch the True Team State Championships on May 19-20, only on MileSplit

It is fitting that the True Team Championships have been hosted by Stillwater High School since 2006. The producer of eight sub-four-minute milers and home of one of Minnesota's most respected coaches in Scott Christiansen, the boys and girls of Stillwater have qualified for this competition a record 49 times combined and come away with four championships. The two-day competition will feature the Class AAA teams battling it out on Friday, May 19, while Saturday, May 20, will start with Class A in the morning and finish with Class AA in the afternoon.

Continue reading for a preview of what's to come in the 31st True Team State Track and Field Championships!