I see a home-page-linked article surmising that HS meets go on too long. Indeed, it's not unusual for a meet to last all day, if it has prelims and large fields. Even simple triangular meets can easily run 4 hours.
But . . . the idea that it should conform to some 'optimal viewing' window is as misguided as the old 'Bring Back the Mile' canard. It is based on the misapprehension that HS track is supposed to be a 'spectator sport'. It is not. It is an 'athlete sport'. The only 'needs' it must address are the needs of the kids doing it. And that means the more participants and the more events they can be in are the only means to assess its value. People who complain about how long a meet is are simply being myopic as to the purpose of the sport - to participate. That's exactly why the Olympics last over a week.
I arrive at the Bob Hayes meet every year before dawn (6:30am) to get the PV venue ready for an 8:00am start, and I stay for the last section of the 4x4 (6:30pm). I look at it as only a half day's work!
The problem is that many people get their first impression of what a track meet is by participating in a high school meet, or attending one to see a friend or relative compete. I would guess that far more people have experienced being a spectator at HS level meets than at college or pro meets. (And of course, some college track meets these days go on all day, too.)
These people go to a HS basketball, football, or baseball game, and they see an event that is no longer (and is often shorter) than the same game when played by collegians or pros. They go to a track meet and it is understandable that they might assume that if these other sports require identical commitments of time regardless of the level, the same will be true of track. And so they may be reluctant to attend a college or pro track meet.
Of course, I can't be sure of this. I don't really know what non-track fans think, because I've always been a track fan. But I wouldn't be surprised if some potential fans are turned off the sport by their exposure to it as spectators at the HS level.
On the other hand, many HS T&F fans are only there for an hour or so, just to see a part of the proceedings. And what they do see, they see to completion, which can't happen in team sports unless you stay till the very end.
I do not think HS are too long. BUT they do seem too long when they are inefficiently run. This is commonplace at HS and College levels.
And since I went from being a coach to a spectator, I have noticed what venom there is for the length of HS meets. For the newbie to the sport, which often occurs at the JH or HS level here in the US, it is a killer for our sport to have them have a negative experience.
I'm sure many have posted ideas for fixing this over the years, but the sport is run by those who don't necessarily see it as a problem and don't necessarily like change.
As I have said in previous threads, a major problem is that many HS meets do not have a good announcer - if they have one at all. The result is that novice spectators have no idea what they are watching whether they stay an hour or ten hours.
Each April, we have our county relay championships which has about 2,000 athletes in the largest participatory high school athletic event of the year of any sport. It takes two days and has a significant number of first-time spectators who are parents or siblings of competitors. But other than some results or calls for check-in, there is no announcing. Just having someone announce which teams are in a race and identifying the teams in the lead would really make things interesting - even for a spectator only staying for an hour or two. Instead, for many spectators, they leave never wanting to come back to another meet because they don't know what they are watching. It doesn't have to be that way.
Years ago at a USATF convention, Bob Hersh did a clinic on how to announcing. Bob or somebody should do another.
Kids need opportunities to compete. I think there's a place for high level invitationals with fairly small fields. There's also a place for JV meets where 100 kids throw the discus.
The latter can be made more spectator friendly by improving things like announcing, how the flights are arranged, awards, concession stand, etc, but they're never going to be an awesome experience for any spectator. I'm OK with that.
Yeah, it's not like you expect people to come for all three games (freshman/JV/varsity) in a high school basketball tripleheader. Same thing. The varsity game is the show, the others are for development. The biggest problem is indoor track, where you can get 45 heats of the 200 meters (which I think they did at Texas A&M this last weekend). That's just painful.
When I announce high school meets, I work hard at two things: keeping things moving, and filling the dead time. My preference is to have a wireless microphone and move around to the field events in between running events. At dual meets the wireless means I can clerk and announce at the same time and really keep it moving.
I liked track when I started competing on my high school team, but I fell hopelessly in love when I went to the state championships, where we run 22 finals in 2 hours and 15 minutes. The only greater concentration of action I've ever seen is the Penn Relays.