Javelin is an event caught in the middle where state track and fields meets are concerned. One-third of the states have it, and two-thirds do not. Photo by Alan Versaw.
Perhaps no high school sport varies as much from state to state as track and field. There is no set slate of events across states. The distance events are not the same across states. The relays are not the same across states, and sometimes the same relay by name isn't run the same way from one state to the next. Although there are a couple of throws common to every state, some states add a throw. One state adds two throws. And so it goes.
Let's take a closer look at what you get from state to state.
The 1600 and 3200 are almost standard across the 50 states and District of Columbia, but not quite. In Massachusetts, they've clung tenaciously to the mile and two mile. In Hawaii, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont, they use the 1500 and 3000. In Iowa and New York, boys run the 1600 and 3200, while girls run the 1500 and 3000.
It's not entirely surprising that Iowa would have shorter distance races for girls. Only very recently has Iowa made the move from 4K to 5K cross country for girls. New York, on the other hand, does come as something of a surprise, as the Empire State has been nothing if not a pioneer in terms of girls distance. Thus, it seems odd that girls would be running shorter distances than boys in New York.
What every state has in common are the 4x100 and 4x400. And several states have only those two relays, mirroring the standard of the sport at the collegiate and international levels. Another 40 states add the 4x800, making it easily the third-most popular relay. 24 states add the 4x200, though Washington supports it only for girls.
Other relays that see more sparing use include the Sprint Medley Relay (1600 meters, used in four states, though Iowa uses it only for boys), the 800 Meter Sprint Medley Relay (used only in Colorado and Iowa, and only for girls in both cases), and the Shuttle Hurdle Relay (which appears as a state event only in Iowa and West Virginia).
Colorado's use of the SMR8 is a holdover from the days when Colorado added this event to give the girls the same number of events as boys before girls were allowed to pole vault. When the girls pole vault was added in Colorado, the SMR8 was never taken off the board. I don't know, but a similar kind of story may apply to Washington's 4x200.
Clearly, Iowa is where you want to be if you like relay variety, and plenty of it. Iowa also runs the 4x200 and 4x800 for both genders.
Although 24 states support the 4x200, some states run in with a four-turn stagger, while other states use a two-turn stagger with an open exchange at the third exchange (which can occasionally get a little wild).
Iowa forms an exception to the rule in the longer hurdle event as well. Iowa is one of five states to eschew the 300 meter hurdles in favor of the longer 400-meter version. Joining Iowa in making their hurdlers go a longer distance are South Carolina, New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Of course, USATF goes 400 meters in every state, but the USATF doesn't run any state associations.
While Iowa boasts the most relays of any state and pushes its hurdlers the full 400 meters, the Hawkeye State is the only state to completely ditch two standard field events: the pole vault and the triple jump.
Joining Iowa without the pole vault as a high school event are Alaska and, in only a very partial sense, Utah. Utah has a girls pole vault only for its two largest classifications. Boys get to compete in the pole vault in all classifications in Utah.
The count of states ditching the triple jump is a bit higher. In addition to Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, and Indiana do not support the triple jump.
A total of 17 states support the javelin. As 17 states is a lot to list in a single paragraph, I would refer you to the table below for a listing of those states that include the javelin in their state meet.
In addition to the javelin throw, Rhode Island also contests the hammer throw. You probably didn't have Rhode Island in mind as your first guess of the identity of the most throws-intensive state in the Union. But, such is Rhode Island's distinction.
New York follows the pattern of their distance events with the steeplechase. In the Empire State, girls run a 2000 meter steeplechase, while the boys participate in a 3000 meter steeplechase. Maine adds a 1600 meter racewalk to its state track meet.
Several states are now contesting some sort of multi-event competition. As it's not entirely clear to me in all cases that those events have actual state sanction, I've not attempted to create a list of which states are doing what in that respect.
The table below summarizes the state track meet events, and the number of places scored in each of the state meets, for each of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia. There was a small handful of cases where I had to infer how many places were scored in a particular state, so if you find an error there for your state, please let me know and I will fix.
* - Utah contests a girls pole vault only in classes 4A and 5A
1 - 1600 Meter Racewalk
2 - 2000 Meter Steeplechase (girls) and 3000 Meter Steeplechase (boys)
3 - Hammer Throw