Charlotte aims to avoid lap-count debacle in long races

I’ve been corresponding with the meet director and chief official for this summer’s Charlotte masters nationals, and they seem to be on the ball when it comes to conduct of distance races on the track. Most important, they’re aware that some are worried about hydration and lap counts. (North Carolina is rumored to be hot in early August, and lap-counts have been the bane of masters existence in major meets of late.) Tony Wayne, the tiptop official, wrote me today: ” It will not be our responsibility to take down the split times for each individual; however, each lap will be accounted for.”

Here’s what Tony wrote:
“Gordon Edwards has previously responded to the availability of water during the race. In general I believe ethat water should be made available from the 3K on up in distance and that the water table be located on the back stretch. As to the timing system, I suggest that the running clock be continued for all runners in the race. This is something that will be discussed with the timing organization and meet management. My understanding as an official, that it is possible. No other race will be started until the existing race is completed and the Finish Lynx personel will have individual finishes with electronic timing, so why not?
“I read the result of the races you forwarded. Pretty scarry. During the long distance races at the National Masters Championships we will have at least 5 officials at the finish line that are specifically in-tune to making sure that the number of laps, and individuals in the race, are accounted for and that they all run the prescribed distances. It will not be our responsibility to take down the split times for each individual; however, each lap will be accounted for.
“These people were hand selected as to their experience with finishline ccoordination and lap counting, but also Masters athletes and races that have combined age brackets, to assure that we had lap counting and individual accountability well covered. They also use specific sheets that keep track of the competitors.
“We are making every attempt that these distance races represent National Championship races.
“With all that said, I also want you to understand that I can not guarantee that something might happen, but we are doing everything within our experience to make sure we have no problems.
“I hope this belays some of your concerns.”
All the best,
Tony Wayne
Coordinator of Officials
2006 USATF Masters Championships

Earlier, Dr. Edwards — the meet director at Charlotte — wrote me:

“We already made plans to have a Water station set up halfway thru the first curve for ALL sections of the 5000m & 10000m Runs and the 5000m Race walk the 10000m Race Walk will also have a Water Station. IT is a 1000m out and 1000m back loop course, so five times around it equals 10000m. We will come up with a form that the Lap Counters can use to record laps & split times. We will keep the Finish Line Clock running for all contestants.”

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May 17, 2006

3 Responses

  1. Mary Harada - May 18, 2006

    I do not want to make a career out of lap counting complaints but I feel compelled to make this comment to the statement by Tony Wayne that “it will not be our responsibility to take down the split times for each individual; however, each lap will be accounted for.” Ok – I give up – just how will they manage to do that? A check mark on a sheet means nothing, it just means that at some point a check mark was placed indicating that a lap was completed. Mr Wayne should have been in Linz when the head official tried to untangle the mess of the W 65 + 3k race. There the problem was that some competitors ran a lap short – or did they, who was lapped, when, who lapped whom? All they had were check marks on a sheet of paper with the competitor’s name on it. Was the proper competitor credited with completing a lap? Who knows – the check mark indicates exactly nothing.
    A lap counter should be required to write down the split time for each competitor as s/he completes a lap. If a lap counter is responsible for 4 or fewer athletes, this should be possible, difficult but possible. If the lap counter is responsible for more than 4 – forget it. Of course this will be difficult for the younger age groups but it is in those groups that lap counting is less of an issue as there are fewer age groups thrown together and the pace differentials are much less. However for the older groups 60 plus for example, the differences can be great and there is more time for the lap counter to write down the split time.
    However I am interested in hearing just how each lap will be accounted for without a written record – giving each competitor pebbles to drop when completing a lap, stopping and making a check mark on a board, using a chip to electronically count the laps (actually that might work), or laboriously going through the video and counting the laps for the athlete in question. That was tried in Linz -and did not work because of the high number of runners on the track, confusion as to who was whom- age numbers on the athletes backs would not be read unless close-up, several of the runners from one country looks very similar, etc.
    As a result there was confusion over who won medals, and a couple of world records were tossed out, an 80 year old competitor was forced to run an extra lap, in general a mess that made lots of folks angry.
    Some how lap counters at NationalMasters meets in Eugene manage to write down split times, do they know something the rest of the USATF officials have not learned? Or is it something in the air at Track Town USA?

  2. Andy Carr - May 18, 2006

    It all comes down to having enough officials (staff) to keep track of all the runners in a given race. Rule 131.1 clearly states “no lap scorer shall be responsible for more than 4 competitors.” That rule is stated that way so lap/split times can be written. If said meet does not have adequate personnel to handle this then the races should be limited to the amount of competitors on the track visa vi adequate lap scorers available.
    This has always been an issue and just this year at USATF Senior Indoor in Boston I was the head lap counter and had NO assistants until one official was pulled from the throws to assist me. In the men’s 3000m there were 18 competitors. After discussing this with the coordinator of officials we had to do a tally sheet and track laps by hip numbers instead of lap times because we were not adequately staffed.
    Your comments do have merit but it is the meet management’s responsibility to adequately staff the events that are contested instead of worrying about how many entrants they can get.
    I will be one of the lap scorers at Charlotte this August and hope there will be adequate lap scorers for all the distance events.
    Andy Carr
    Atlanta Track Club
    Peachtree Road Race
    USATF LDR Record Keeper
    USATF National Official

  3. RSturgeon - May 19, 2006

    I do hope there will be video tape. I have had my laps miscounted three times at the nationals. Once told me that I had one to go when I had two, once not even having me in the race and last year trying to make me run an extra lap. Last year in Hawaii in the 10k by a person who had only one or two people to count. She wanted me to run an extra lap. Something I did not want to do in high heat and humidity. I think she got hip numbers confused.
    My race did get sorted out properly by the video tape where you could see each runner and their number as they went by. I also kept my own splits on my watch which also helped. But it is certainly the responsibility of the meet officials to make sure everyone runs the correct number of laps, no less and no more.

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