What Is an A-meet?
The designation "A-meet" is given to the highest-quality orienteering events. In order to receive such a designation, the event must be sanctioned by Orienteering USA (OUSA). There is a variety of criteria that must be met in order for OUSA to give its approval, both in terms of the courses offered and in terms of the organization of the event.
Across the country, there are perhaps twenty A-meets a year. Many people travel great distances to attend an A-meet. Indeed, out-of-town entrants for BAOC A-meets generally make up at least one-third of the total number of entrants. You might think of A–meets as "national" meets. OUSA maintains a ranking system whereby competitors can compare themselves to other competitors across the country. Only events that are part of an A-meet count towards the rankings.
Usually A-meets cover two or more days. One standard format is to have two days of competition, with the final standings based on each competitor's total time for the two days. Another common format is to have a three-day event with a Sprint course on the first day, a Middle course on the second day, and a Long course on the third day. (See What are Sprint, Middle, and Long Courses?) Other formats are possible.
Generally speaking, when a club maps a new area of good quality, it will then hold an A-meet on that terrain. Partly to offset the cost of making new maps (and as an acknowledgement of the higher event quality), entrance fees for A-meets are higher than those for local meets (though still lower than a typical running race).
Preregistration is required for A-meets. Start times for each event are assigned in advance, and the start procedure is more formal than at a local event, to make the event run smoothly. (See below for more information about what to expect at an A-meet.)
Don't be intimidated by the extra formality of an A-meet, nor by the fact that many out-of-town people attend. A-meets still accommodate orienteers of all abilities and inclinations. Everyone can benefit from the extra-high quality—for instance, many BAOC members (ages 7 to 70+!) attend the annual U.S. Championships (the pinnacle of U.S. A-meets) wherever they are held. Even if you don't wish to travel around the country to attend A-meets, you should make every effort possible to attend the A-meets that BAOC hosts. These are opportunities not to be missed!
Note: In order to serve people who don't want to participate in the competition, most A-meets offer recreational courses. Those courses generally differ from the A-meet courses in the following ways: only White, Yellow, and Orange courses are offered; the fees are lower; preregistration is not available (register at the event); and start times are not pre-assigned. The recreational courses provide a way for beginners to orienteering to experience an A-meet without the possible stress associated with "competing".
As one of the larger clubs in the United States, BAOC usually puts on one or two A-meets per year. (Sometimes a BAOC A-meet will be a U.S. Championship event.) In addition, BAOC puts on many "local meets" for which the courses often meet the standards of A-meet quality—such events are called "B-meets". Other events, with non-standard formats or with a more casual approach to the event, are called "C-meets".
If you have never been to an A-meet, you might want to know what to expect. Here are the main differences from a local event that you might notice (details can vary for specific A-meets):
- Advance registration will be available (and encouraged or even required), and there will be a deadline for doing that. (See How do I use the registration system? (http://www.orienteeringusa.org/event-reg-info))
- If event-day registration is available, you will have to pay significantly higher fees to do that.
- An event T-shirt might be available for purchase (but often only through preregistration).
- An event dinner might be offered, usually on Saturday evening.
- A map of the competition area (without any course) might be available for purchase in advance.
- Your "official" course is determined by your gender and age. However, you can register for an "open" class if you don't want to run your "official" course. (Note that your "orienteering age" is the current year minus your birth year—that is, your "orienteering age" goes up on January 1.)
- You will have a race bib that must be worn on your front.
- You will have an assigned start time. (If you are late, it will be very inconvenient for the officials, and you might have to wait a long time for an open slot. Also, for some events your course time begins at your assigned time, regardless of when you actually start.)
- You will be called to the Start a few minutes before your actual start time—please do not be late. (Be sure to read the event notes to know how much in advance people will be called up at the Start.)
- You probably will not receive the control descriptions (aka clue sheet) before you are called up at the Start.
- You will be told to write your name or bib number on the back of your map. That's done so you'll be able to retrieve it after surrendering it at the Finish (see below).
- You must not look at the map before you start. You can ask a Start official to verify that you have the correct map.
- You might or might not punch a START unit, as directed by the Start official.
- You might have to surrender your map at the Finish. That's done so you can't show it to anyone who hasn't yet started. (The collected maps will be spread out for retrieval after the last person has started.)
- Awards will given to the top three finishers in each competition class. (The awards can range from trinkets to fancy medals.)
- Lastly, you will be encouraged to volunteer to help at the event. Oh, that's not different than a local event, is it? Seriously, the administration of an A-meet is much more labor intensive than for a local event, because of the high standards that must be met. Thus, everyone who can pitch in will be very much appreciated. (Also, when you're at the event, please remember to thank the volunteers you encounter.)
Please remember the following guidelines for making the competition fair to everyone:
- This is an individual competition—do not work together.
- Following somebody is cheating.
- Asking for help to determine one's location, or to find a control, is cheating.
- Giving help to others is cheating.
- Cheating can result in disqualification.
- You must stop to help injured competitors. (If you stop in such a situation, you can request being classified Sporting Withdrawal [SPW] for your course.)
- Don't go through areas marked as out-of-bounds.
- Don't stay out on the course longer than the announced course time limit (generally 1 hour for a Sprint, 2 hours for a Middle, and 3 hours for a Long course).
Most A-meets use SPORTident (SI) electronic punching (E-punch). Make certain that you "clear" and "check" your E-stick before you report at the Start. Here are links to information about using E-punch:
As at all events, be sure to check in at the Finish, even if you do not complete your course. Do not leave the event without notifying officials that you are off the course.
More information about A-meets is available here.