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Florida High School Track and Field Goes Metric

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In February, the Florida High School Athletic Association will become the first in the country to impose a metric measuring system on field events for all district, regional and state track and field championship meets.

Supporters of the new system point to the fact that the more precise metric measurements will result in fewer ties, as well as bringing U.S. events into solidarity with international competitions. College and professional meets in the U.S. are already measured using the metric system.

However, the move has been met with stubborn opposition, partially in the form of a campaign founded by researcher and record-keeper Ryan Lamppa, called “Bring Back the Mile.”

Lampa calls the mile “America’s distance,” telling The New York Times, “There’s not an American boy who has dreamed of breaking four minutes for the 1,600.”

Besides nostalgia, and the allure of measuring your physical prowess against historical achievements, some dissenters worry that score announcements using the metric system will not be easily understood by American viewers.

 “If they announce that a long jump is an 8-meter jump, people in the stands don’t understand that,” said Ken Brauman, a track coach at Seminole High in Sanford, Fla.

However, the FHSAA is prepared to bypass that particular hurdle by publishing results in both metric and English imperial.

Ed Thompson, chief track official for the FHSAA, has said, “I expect it to work well. If it doesn’t, I think this office and the folks who are influential in the sport in our state have enough humility to say, ‘It didn’t work, so we’ll just go back to what we were doing before.’”

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