I didn't see any parsing problems at all. They were all far more conceptual. A lot of Perl code I write (don't know about you), looks like this from 30,000 feet.
A) Slurp Stuff
B) Mangle Stuff
C) Do Something that is actually interesting ...
D) Mangle Stuff
E) Store Stuff
C is always 85% of the thought process, but in other languages, A&B might be 50% of the labor. Boring!
As computer scientists, step C ("Do something that is really interesting") is most important. For programmers (ok it was a "Programming" contest), A,B and C,D are important -- someone will usually supply specs on C -- or you'll look it up. You aren't going to be doing anything highly innovative, most likely.
Maybe you had different problems, but reading input and storing it were never the focus of the problems I saw. A lot of graph theory, recursive analysis, things like that. Parsing is just drudgery to a lot of folks, esp in C (which is why Perl makes programming fun). We all know how to do it, but we'll never do anything profound that way.
College shouldn't be about writing parsers and other such drudgery. Everyone needs to know how to write them, but research and innovative solutions is the where it should be at.
Chosing a common language is good for competitions, I agree, you would set an imbalance if only some folks knew a rare kick-butt language and brought into onto the field. That's like bringing a gun to a knife fight.