Masters muckup: USATF rejects Hinton mile world record

Last January, John Hinton of North Carolina shaved nearly two seconds off one of the oldest world records on the books: the M45 indoor mile mark of 4:21.90 by Albin Swenson in 1993. John was auto-timed in 4:20.18 at the tradition-rich Hartshorne Memorial Masters Miles at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. But I have some news for John: Tough luck, champ. Your mark won’t count as a record. Why? The meet wasn’t USATF-sanctioned. How could this be, especially for a meet as storied and well-run as the Hartshorne? Therein lies a mile-long tale.


I learned of this debacle last Wednesday when meet director Tom Hartshorne, son of the late Jim Hartshorne, the event’s founder, wrote me that an effort to get a “post-event” USATF sanction had been rejected. However, he said USATF has accepted his sanction application for the next Hartshorne mile — Jan. 24, 2009.
But the 2008 event remains unsanctioned, its records nonexistent. (Frank Condon bettered an M65 American record in the mile, but his mark wasn’t submitted.) (Dec. 2 addition: Tom notes in a comment below that he did submit Frank’s record, but that Frank later broke it, so he didn’t make an issue of it in his later email exchanges.)
Tom wrote me:

I am sending this to you so that others, like myself, who are attempting to direct quality masters competitions do not fall into the same snake pit I just fell into. I really did my best to insure that the masters athletes who made the effort to come to Ithaca and compete would have the opportunity to set American and/or world records in our venue and receive credit for those performances. We have received credit for at least 2 world and 1 American record over the recent years.
But somewhere along the line the USATF changed the rules (now requiring USATF sanction of one’s meet to be in line to apply for new American or World masters record) and failed to inform us of the change. USATF even failed to list the change on their “updated” record application.”
Nowhere on the USATF Application for track record form that I down loaded with (Masters T&F Records chair Sandy) Pashkin’s assistance does it state that USATF sanctioning of the meet is also required to qualify for an American or World Masters record.
To date I have not received a response from an e-mail I sent Sandy Pashkin on November 7th informing her that I would apply to sanction the Jan 2008 Hartshorne Memorial Masters Mile event in the hopes that it would help us get Hinton’s record ratified.
Again I believe that the USA Track & Field has the athlete’s best intentions in mind. However, with regards to my best efforts to ratify john Hinton’s record, I truly feel I have been given the blank end of the starter’s pistol.

Earlier Wednesday, Tom had received the following email from Gary Snyder, USATF Masters T&F chairman:

Sorry you found Ms. Pashkin’s handling of the application less than satisfactory but unfortunately in this case the facts speak for themselves. I am not aware of a process to retroactively sanction an event. None of the guidelines for ratification are flexible and the first test is event sanctioning. No sanction, no record. Otherwise how could the governing body of the sport, USATF, ratify a record in an event it does not recognize? Where would the line be drawn; should we recognize records set in the back yard? Obviously an absurd example but where?
I will review the application to determine if wording should include a statement that the event MUST be sanctioned.
I’m stunned that neither the meet nor the Finger Lakes Running Club are associated with USATF. I think you both need to shoulder some of the blame.

Of course, Tom shot back a note disputing the idea that his club was not USATF-kosher. He wrote Gary:

We are listed on the USATF Niagara site: as a member club, club registration # 04-0063. I do not know why our club is not listed on the USATF website that you visited, but I would think it would have all those clubs presently registered through their respective regional associations.

Even though the meet was held nearly 10 months earlier, Sandy didn’t get around to informing Tom of the record rejection until November 7.
Here’s the note Tom sent to Gary that day:

From: Thomas H. Hartshorne
To: garysnyder@att.net
Sent: Friday, November 07, 2008 2:51 PM
Subject: FW: Pashkin denial of John Hinton’s World/American Indoor Mile record at 2008 Hartshorne Memorial Masters Mile
From: Thomas H. Hartshorne [mailto:thartshorne@twcny.rr.com}
Dear Gary,
I was stunned to learn from Sandy Pashkin today that she has denied our application for John Hinton’s M45 Indoor World/American record in the mile, set last year, Jan. 19th, here in Ithaca during the 41st running of our Hartshorne Masters Mile. His time was 4:20.18. Her reason was that the race was not sanctioned by the USATF.
What is so disturbing to me about this decision is that three times in December 2007, more than a month before our race, I established personal telephone contact with Sandy to obtain the most recent application form for World/American records as I wanted to be sure I crossed every t and dotted every i in making an application in the likelihood that we had a record in one of our masters mile elite races.
We hold four elite masters mile races every year as part of our event. I discussed at that time with Sandy every detail of the form to be sure I had the people (referee and timers, etc) and equipment (FAT Finishlynx timer) at the meet to guarantee that if a record was set it would be ratified.
Not once did Sandy mention that our meet had to be sanctioned by the USATF. I called Sandy back two more times after the original conversation to clarify various points with regard to the application and to obtain the correct mailing address for sending the forms (turns out even the updated form at that point still had an outdated address). NO WHERE ON THE FORM DID IT STATE THAT OUR MEET HAD TO BE SANCTIONED BY THE USATF to achieve approval of a record. Again Sandy mentioned nothing about the requirement that our meet be sanctioned, even though I asked several times that I wanted to know everything I needed to have in place by the date of the meet to enable us to ratify a record.
I sent the application for John Hinton’s record the very next week after our January 19, 2008 event. I called Sandy to make sure my mailing had been received by her. She confirmed to me that they had been received. She requested an email from the time keeper, Cornell’s Assistant coach Arty Smith, with the computer copy of the Finishlynx timing record.
Arty sent that copy to her ASAP. She at that point expressed to me that she was satisfied she had everything she needed for the application record. Not once in that period or over the entire course of the 2008 did she e-mail me or call to say that our races should have been sanctioned by the USATF in order to qualify for a world or American record.
I called her today, November 6th, almost a year after my initial inquiries, to ask why Hinton’s record was not listed as pending, and Sandy stated, “Oh, your meet was not sanctioned by the USATF.” Did she not have the courtesy to at least inform me at this late date of the one t I failed to cross? The one t I failed to cross not because of lack of effort on my part, but because of oversight on her part, was applying to the USATF to sanction our meet, the Hartshorne Memorial Masters Mile, the oldest and longest running masters mile competition in the country and perhaps in the world.
I would have done that in a heartbeat had I known it was required. Heh, I have been a member of the USATF myself since I turned 40 fifteen years ago. I have been a member because it is clearly stated on the application to compete in the Outdoor and Indoor National USATF Championships that it is required.
Was Sandy going to just let us go through another year, maybe or maybe not discovering that we needed to be sanctioned by the USATF in order to have a record ratified? How much effort would it have entailed for her at any point in the last year, once she rejected the application, to simply e-mail me and say, “Sorry Tom, but if you want your records to be ratified in the future, you might want to look into applying to have the USATF sanction your meet.” Not an e-mail! Not a phone call!
And the one who really suffers is the wonderfully talented John Hinton, who raced one of the best miles of his life. He will now not get credit for his world record. His record would have broken one of the longest standing masters records, the 4:21.90 mile effort of the great Albin Swenson in Feb. of ’93.
I can’t believe that obfuscation of basic information can be good for the health of USATF. It can’t be good when the athletes and the meet directors who are attempting to play ball with the organization and abide by all of the rules are ultimately punished. It can’t be good when the athletes and the meet directors who are supposed to benefit from the existence of the USATF are punished because, “guess what, we have some rules on the third floor of our office headquarters in a filing cabinet, sitting there in the back of the office, which you should have known about because after all, we as officers of the USATF knew about them.”
And no, we are not going to tell you about them. . .we are just going to let you make the same mistake over and over again. I am sorry, but I don’t get it. And I don’t appreciate the lack of “heads up” that I never received from Sandy Pashkin about the failure of my application; my USATF Form Application for World and American Indoor Mile Record that I submitted on behalf of John Hinton’s 4:20.18 phenomenal mile effort.
Gary, thanks for hearing me out on this particular issue. I am a great supporter of the USATF and have been a member, as I stated for 15 years. I have made a donation for many, many years to the Indoor National Masters Track Championships because I am a believer in the quality work the association does in putting on track and field and cross country championships around the country.
I was a roommate of the CEO, Craig Masback, way back when we competed in the NCAA National Cross Country Championships at Penn State in 1975. Because of his stewardship of the USATF for many years I have closely followed the many trials and successes of the association. I am a believer in better efforts that the organization can achieve. But, on this particular issue, I am greatly disheartened and frankly, disenfranchised.
I am more than willing to sanction our meet retroactively to cover the Jan 19th, 2008 race. I already have the paperwork in hand and filled out to sanction the meet for the Jan. 24th 2009 Hartshorne Memorial Masters Mile. I am just now waiting for the certificate of insurance naming the USATF as an insured party as our club, the Finger Lakes Runners Club, already has insurance in place from the Road Runners Club of America, and we are applying for the waiver of insurance.
I had an extended conversation the other day with the Niagara representative, Kevin Lucas, to make sure I fill out the sanction application correctly to satisfy the USATF and the USATF – Niagara Association. Again thank you for your time and consideration.

Yowza. What a mess!
I sent some Tom some questions to clarify some issues. He responded late Wednesday thusly:

Masterstrack.com: USATF sanctioning has long been required for most records. How did your earlier mile records get ratified without a USATF meet sanction? Note: Rule 262 3(a): http://www.usatf.org/about/rules/2008/2008USATFRules_Article5.pdf
Hartshorne: The previous records were sanctioned after filing the Application for Track Record form and the issue of USATF sanction never came up in all the years of running our race.
Did your entry form ask for entrants’ USATF numbers?
No
Is your event masters-only — run by itself — or is it embedded in a larger meet (as Carl Wallin’s masters meets in New Hampshire are)?
Our event is masters only. We do allow a few submasters (30-39) women in the elite W40’s race as at times over the years it has been difficult to put together a vibrant field. We run our races directly before a collegiate track meet put on by Cornell University.
Have you organized any other meets besides the Hartshorne Memorial Masters Miles?
I have not organized other meets. But the Finger Lakes Runners Club, which sponsors the meet, puts on many different running events over the course of the year from track events to trail races. I helped my father for 5 years or so putting on events in the running world as a junior and high school student before leaving for college in ’72.
Sandy might argue that she thought everyone knew a USATF sanction was required — even if it’s not spelled out on the record form. What is Sandy’s responsibility in a case like this?
How would a meet director know if for years they have been ratifying records without USATF meet sanction? She probably has no responsibility. However, as stated in my letter to Gary, it is a little beyond comprehension that given all of my questions regarding the correct completion of the existing form prior to our race that Sandy never raised the issue of meet sanction.
And once I submitted the completed form in late January 2008 for Hinton’s record I asked her if we were all set. She only asked for one further piece of information — the computer file of the race’s finish on Cornell’s Finishlynx system. That was forwarded to her ASAP. At that point I contacted her again to make sure she had everything she needed to ratify the record. She said that she had everything she needed to file the record.
Sandy never, ever raised the issue of meet sanction. In fact, when she already knew Hinton’s record was going to be rejected because of the lack of sanction, she did not even have the courtesy to e-mail me or call me by phone, to enlighten me that 1. Hinton’s record would not be accepted because of lack of sanction and 2. By the way you should have your meet sanctioned in the future if you want to qualify for our record application process.
Has any other meet gotten a post-event sanction?
I do not know.
Have you been in touch with John Hinton since receiving word of the rejection? If so, what was his reaction?
I have not been in contact with John as I was hoping this would turn out well. But I do plan to tell him as soon as the national meeting has happened and I know all of the issues. For all I know, Sandy may have additional reasons for rejecting the application that she has not told me. . . .
How would your dad have handled the record rejection, and everything that followed?
I think he would have been similarly upset. After all, he was a scientist by training and you can only go on the information that you are given or made aware of. I always had a USATF # as an individual to compete in the indoor and outdoor national because it was PLAINLY STATED ON THE ENTRY FORM THAT IT WAS REQUIRED.
Besides making record applications more helpful, what other steps should USATF take to educate meet directors?
Obviously, the record application should state everything that is necessary to qualify for a American and World record. When approached by a meet director for specific information regarding an issue which overlaps or involves the governing rules and activities of the USATF (which are quite broad ranging) I think the USATF should attempt to point out the advantages of having the USATF onboard and make it as straightforward as possible to comply with their regulations.
Otherwise, one feels, as one often does with certain tax or legal issues that one needs to hire a lawyer or tax specialist to simply comply with USATF policy. It should not be so difficult to serve as a meet director providing a forum for people who want to compete and enhance the quality of their lives through exercise.

The same night that I sent Tom my quickie questions, I shipped the following note to Sandy Pashkin, with copies to five others, including Gary Snyder and USATF Records Committee chair Justin Kuo:

Hi, Sandy
Tom Hartshorne shared an exchange of email regarding your rejection of John Hinton’s M45 indoor mile record — for lack of a USATF meet sanction. He also answered some questions I posed to him. Tom admits that he should have had a sanction, but argues that he’s never needed one before when submitting a masters age-group record application. I’d like to have your side of the story before writing about this on my blog.
I’d like the courtesy of a response before 9 p.m. Sunday night, Nov. 30.
My questions:
1. Is Tom’s description of events and depiction of your responses accurate? If not, what points is Tom wrong about?
2. Have you ever ratified a record without a USATF meet sanction for the event it was set?
3. Is a post-event sanction possible? If yes, when has this been done and with which meet? And why wouldn’t this be allowed in this case?
4. Do you plan to continue serving as USATF Masters T&F Records Committee chair in 2009?
5. Please give me the names of anyone on your committee.
Thanks for your time and attention.
ken stone
http://www.masterstrack.com

Sandy’s response? None.
She didn’t get back to me. Oh well.
So what to do? Clearly, Tom should have had a meet sanction. But also clearly, he had no idea he needed one — not only from his contacts with Sandy and his reading of the records application but also his history of receiving USATF record ratification of previous masters miles contested at Hartshorne.
The idea of a post-event sanction is new to me, but it doesn’t seem impossible.
What’s really hard to fathom is how John Hinton’s interests have gotten the old heave-ho in this matter. Does USATF have no conscience? No heart? No shame?
Or is it really all about the rules bureaucracy?
Truth be told, admitted dopers are cut more slack than rules-obeying athletes like John Hinton. Do we really have zero-tolerance for honest mistakes?
In one of his last notes to me, Tom worried aloud about the fallout from his blowing the whistle on Sandy and Gary (since he gave me permission to quote him extensively).

If they want to punish me for speaking out, then it would be the perfect example of tyranny of the powerful. Yes, the USATF has considerable power, but only because athletes like me attend their events, pay their fees and take weeks of their lives every year to put on track meets so that other athletes have a forum to compete. Without athletes like myself and meet directors like myself, there would be no USATF.

Is it really game over for Hinton’s mile record?
We’ll see in Reno this week.

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December 1, 2008

20 Responses

  1. NOLAN SHAHEED - December 1, 2008

    John’s race was run on a certified track, was timed by a certified electronic timer,was started by a certified starter, had certified officials, was witnessed by more than two hundred people and the WHOLE RACE WAS VIDEO TAPED!!!

  2. peter taylor - December 1, 2008

    Thank you, Nolan. You were there (as both a competitor and spectator) and I was there as the announcer. One of the greatest performances of the decade is what we saw from John Hinton. It was fantastic to watch, and it deserves recognition. I will write about this later.

  3. Bill Pontius - December 1, 2008

    This is sad. Track and Field has always been a stats driven sport. Record lists that are knowingly wrong do no one a service. While Gary Snyder has a point in asking where do you draw a line, no one can dispute this record. It deserves to be recognized. And if you have trouble drawing a reasonable distinction between an honest well run meet and a fly by night hand-timed by thumbs on one watch time trial, appoint a review committee to look at instances like this. Certainly we have the talent to get three to five experienced masters together via the internet to review cases where nearly everything looks good to the records chair save some paperwork. Lets do our best to honor the record holders and keep our lists accurate.

  4. Stephen Chantry - December 1, 2008

    Tom—
    I have just read the Masters Track narrative about John Hinton’s record at Hartshorne last year. I think that there is a mistake in their rule interpretation. Note that within the USATF rule cited: Rule 262 Rules Applicable to All Records on page 154 paragraph 3 (a) in the last sentence, it states: “In Men’s and Women’s Track and Field, Long Distance Running, Race Walking and Masters Track and Field, no record shall be acceptable unless it was made in an event that had been sanctioned by USATF, a member organization of USATF or another member Federation of IAAF by competitors eligible to compete under IAAF rules.”
    I interpret this last sentence as meaning that the event must meet one of the following standards: 1) sanctioned by USATF; 2) sanctioned by a member organization of USATF; or 3) sanctioned by another member Federation of IAAF.
    Here is the web site: http://www.usatf.org/about/rules/2008/
    Tom, your running club sanctioned this meet and your running club is a “member organization of USATF.” I don’t see the problem and they need to fix this.
    Steve

  5. peter taylor - December 1, 2008

    One way of looking at a situation like this (the M45 indoor world mark of John Hinton) is to compare the benefits of the two possible approaches.
    For accepting the mark I can see three benefits: (1) It recognizes the talents and work of John Hinton, a former standout at the University of Virginia, and I do mean work. He averaged 65 seconds per quarter mile at the Hartshorne, for crying out loud. Just how much speedwork over the last few years was required for him to maintain that pace this past January?
    (2) It shows the world, both athletes and slackers alike, what people 45 and up can do athletically. This can only be good for the masters program.
    (3) It places the mark at the true level (4:20.18), not the previous level (4:21.90). This is important for how we respond to all future M45 indoor miles (and there will be a few) in which runners go under 4:21.90 but do not reach 4:20.18. The record should always be placed at its true level.
    Now for the advantages of rejecting the mark:
    1. ….
    I’m sorry, I can’t think of any. But wait, you say, won’t there be runners claiming that they ran in some all-comers meet in Keokuk, Iowa (or someplace similar) and were caught by three hand timers in 4:19.9?
    No problem, in the unlikely event that this happens, reject the bid. Now, if the Keokuk people can show you that they had top-level USATF officials, a division I (like Cornell University) track that has been the site for previous world or American masters records, FinishLynx timing, a tape of the race with great visual clarity, and a runner who was not unknown but instead was a world outdoor champion, then you accept the record.
    In other words, you use discretion and accept the legitimate and discard the suspicious. It happens all the time in all walks of life, why not in masters track?
    Best thing to do (on the “Hinton affair”) is to vote on this at Reno as some sort of special agenda item. Best thing more generally is to have an EC (exceptional circumstances) category for masters records. Anyone who doesn’t get a record approved that should be accepted (set at Penn Relays, Drake Relays, Hartshorne Mile, etc.) asks for EC consideration. Details can be worked out fairly easily.

  6. Pete Magill - December 1, 2008

    The world indoor record for the Mens 45-49 Mile is currently and indisputably the time of 4:20.18 held by John Hinton.
    Now, Sandy and the USATF can find a way to accept this, in which case the mark they show as the WR will be valid.
    Or they can continue to reject it, in which case their list of World Records is invalid.
    When an organization chooses the validity of its own strict interpretation of rules over the validity of the world record performances of its athletes, then it has lost its legitimacy.
    I understand playing by the rules.
    But I also understand the the M45-49 world record is held by Hinton.
    The question is: Does USATF understand this?

  7. Stephen Chantry - December 1, 2008

    Again, I must refer us back to the rules cited for this particular situation. As long as the USATF is going to be so specific as to not approve a record based on this specific rule, let’s read it very carefully. The event DOES NOT HAVE TO BE SANCTIONED BY THE USATF to be eligible for record status. Sanctioning by the USATF is but ONE criteria that may be used. Another critieria is SANCTIONING BY “A MEMBER ORGANIZATION OF THE USATF.” A member organization is a running club (ie. The Finger Lakes Running Club). There is no specific definition or procedure that determines the process that a member organization must follow such that the member organization sanctions an event. Some member organizations may have official applicaion forms so that private citizens can hold an event under the member organization sanction while others may merely sanction the event by sponsoring it, coordinating and directing it, and publicizing it. This is the case for the Hartshorne Mile. How the member organization (USATF Club) defines “sanctioning” is their business and unless it can be shown that it is behaving without regard to sound practices, any records that occur should be deemed valid. I am sorry, but in this case the USATF is wrongly interpreting their own rules.

  8. Ken Effler - December 1, 2008

    While I think it’s bunk that John Hinton’s record is not recognized, the responsibility falls upon the meet director to make sure the proper sanctions have been secured. From what I have read, the governing body that would have needed to sanction this meet was the Niagra Association of the USATF. That sanction was never applied for or received for the 2008 event. It is in place for the 2009 event.
    Besides the USATF, I believe the member organizations that have sanction ability over track and field are the IAAF, NCAA, NAIA, NFHS, and NJCAAA. Clearly none of the above member organizations would sanction a masters track event at Cornell University. The organization responsible to sanction masters track in that part of New York is the Niagra USATF. As far as I understand it, a club within an association cannot sanction a meet, but would need to secure that sanction from the governing association body.

  9. dave albo - December 1, 2008

    I’ll add that it couldn’t have happened to a nicer race director. In my experience, Tom Hartshorne is a careful, detail oriented person generally. The Hartshorne mile is THE premiere masters mile, and has been so forever (almost anyways). If there were any hoops to jump through to give world class masters milers a chance to put world class times into the record books, Tom would have for sure attended to those details. He is representing the memory of his father here. He is a by the books kind of guy. The dialogue presented here shows this to have been the case in 2008.
    Steve Chantry, maybe its true the rules allow another way in for the Hinton record. Still, its unfortunate that arbitrary bloggers have to act as the ‘legal counsel’.
    Finally, I was there to witness the 4:20.18, a gift for me! Yep it really did happen. To see the best at their best is a wonderful thing. I think I’ll go watch that race DVD Tom (generously) gave me.

  10. Kevin Foley - December 1, 2008

    Abraham Lincoln once said, “If you call a tail a leg, how many legs has a dog. Five? No; calling a tail a leg don’t make it a leg.”
    The USATF only reduces its own relevance to masters track when it calls a tail a leg. To whom do these age-group records matter, anyways? 1) the people who hold them 2) the people who are trying to break them or otherwise find in them sources of inspiration. How do these people find out what these records are? Would you confine yourself to consulting only the USATF? Heck no. Maybe in the old days a fat-arsed bureaucracy like the USATF had the power to install a lie in place of the truth. but this is the internet age. You would never rely on only one source because no single source is sufficiently reliable. I can’t be the only one who has puzzled over world records held by americans that are faster than their own american records in the same event. Go figure. You search the internet for multiple sources, and the lowest credible time (or longest distance or highest height) that you can find is the record. Isn’t that what we all do? And until bettered, the fastest credible time is the standard all contenders will shoot for. Period.
    As for the USATF sanction, what a lot of hooey. Or rather, what a quaint echo of a bygone day. Nolan Shaheed’s post summarizes quite succinctly why a governing body sanction is superfluous in today’s world. a certified track, certified electronic timer, certified officials, witnessed by more than 200 people, and videotaped. and, i might add, widely reported on the internet at the time. and prbly viewable by all on the internet.
    the very concept of a governing body sanction dates from a time when none of this technology existed.
    Nobody who saw with their own eyes or read credible reports of John Hinton’s achievement needs the USATF to tell them what they already know. The USATF no longer has the power to diminish Hinton’s achievement.
    By insisting on something that clearly isn’t so the USATF only diminishes itself.

  11. Tom Hartshorne - December 1, 2008

    Thanks kindly everyone for all the support for John Hinton’s mile effort and for our event here in Ithaca.
    One small correction of Ken Stone’s very complete and fair coverage of the issues – I did submit Frank Condon’s time for an American record to Sandy Pashkin at the same time that I submitted the paperwork for John Hinton’s world record. I did not raise the issue of Condon’s record with Gary Snyder since Frank smashed his own time by over 10 seconds at the Masters Indoor National Championships in Boston in March with a time of 5:11.43 (to the 5:22.02 he ran at Cornell). By the time I sent Gary an e-mail Frank’s mile time at Cornell was a mute point.

  12. Jeff Brower - December 1, 2008

    a) When (exactly) did this requirement for sanctioning take effect in order for a record to be considered?
    b) There’s a mention that this event has received credit for World & American records. Anyone know which records have been established at this event in previous years without sanctioning?
    c) Interesting to note that on USATF’s Association website pages, there’s a link for “USATF member organization”, and guess what: it links to the association’s clubs.
    “Member organization” is not defined clearly in the rules, imho.
    d) Record performances must meet certain rules, of course, but reasonable people understand the intent of the rules, and make exceptions when justified. With the exception of the $$ transfer to USATF’s pockets, I’d bet that all the other requirements satisfied by sanctioning were met in this case.
    I’m going to inquire about this in Reno.

  13. Stephen Chantry - December 2, 2008

    The point made by Jeff Brower is my point, exactly. A “member organization” is a club. (You can find this definitive reference in numerous places on the USATF web site.) A “member organization” can sanction a meet and therefore make an event record eligible. There is no specifically defined process on how a member organization sanctions a meet. It is up to the member organization to decide. Because The Finger Lakes Running Club (not to be confused with “Finger Lakes Track Club” which correctly is not a member of USATF) sanctioned this meet, the record is valid. Period.
    Sandy Pashkin said that the record is ineligible because the meet was not USATF sanctioned. Unfortunately, she missed the point that the other part of the rule allows a member organization to sanction the meet. This is very clear to me and I certainly hope that there is someone in the USATF leadership who can read this rule correctly and overturn this decision. If USATF did not intend the meaning to be interpreted this way, too bad. They can change it. But for now, that is how it reads.

  14. Milan Jamrich - December 2, 2008

    Stephen Chantry might be right in his interpretation, but this is not how the rule was applied in the past. While I understand the frustration of John Hinton and salute his achievement, I wonder whether we really want to create a situation in which essentially any club can sanction its own meeting. We had questionable records in the past and there is reason why the requirement for the USATF sanction was added. While the language of the requirement might allow a club to sanction its own meet, the spirit of this rule always was that USATF has to sanction a meet. If we change the interpretation in this case, are we going to go back and approve all the previous records? Are we going to decide on case by case basis whether the conditions during the meet were satisfactory to approve a record? In my mind USATF sanction made it more likely that the rules of track and field competitions were applied properly. I agree that it does not always happen, but it will happen even less frequently if we do not require USATF sanction. You can argue that “who cares about master records anyway”, but if we are going to keep track of masters records, we should care. I do not like the prospect of a meeting for three high jumpers sanctioned by their local drinking bodies .

  15. Ted Irvine - December 2, 2008

    What is clearly stated in the USATF bylaws: Section II, Article 20, sub section C: Domestic Sanctions: USATF of it’s Associations shall have authority to grant sanctions to sports organizations or persons otherwise wishing to host athletic competitions, that are not international in nature, in the United States.
    The authority to sanction domestic meets lies with the national USATF or it’s Associations. Track or running clubs cannot sanction meets, but can apply for sanctions.

  16. Steve Chantry - December 2, 2008

    My friends, it really doesn’t matter how this rule has been applied in the past or the original intent for this rule. When this record was denied, it became necessary to understand why it was denied. In doing so, direct reference to the USATF rules became necessary. USATF Rule 262 regarding records on page 154 paragraph 3(a) is quite clear “…no record shall be acceptable unless it was made in an event that had been sanctioned by USATF, a member organization of USATF or another member Federation of IAAF…” USATF defines a member organization as a club. See FAQs under the club membership page of USATF for example: “…An important benefit USATF provides to its member organizations (clubs)…” and “…regularly scheduled practices of member organizations (clubs) provided such practices…” When a member organization or club becomes a USATF registered club, the club president or officer signs the application verifying that the club agrees to abide by the Rules and Regulations of USA Track and Field. In essence, the club agrees to operate as an official arm of USATF. I think that this is the reason that member organizations (clubs) are included in rule 262 -they are already agreeing that any event that they conduct will abide by the rules and regulations of USATF. Again, if USATF wants to change the wording of rule 262 in the future, that may be fine. But for now, the wording of the rule for records does allow for member organizations (clubs)to sanction and event.

  17. peter taylor - December 2, 2008

    Interesting dicussion, to say the least. I’ll return now to a familiar theme: What we do in masters must make sense to the larger world, or else we run the risk of being seen as a rather strange, essentially irrelevant, and somewhat quixotic group.
    Specifically, if our records make no sense to outsiders, if the times or distances we show as records are not really the best marks, what good are they? And how do we explain that to others?
    Next summer we go to Oshkosh, and it would be nice to get the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel interested in covering the meet. Let’s say our enterprising reporter decides to cover the 1500, the high jump, and the shotput. He or she (if really enterprising) goes to the USATF Web site to find the current records.
    Let’s see, the W40 race in the 1500 looks like a good one. Hmmm…the American record is 4:32.73 by Joan Nesbit set in 2002. OK. But then the reporter starts talking to some of the runners and finds the record is actually much faster; indeed, the Nesbit time is almost surely not among the 10 best all-time in the US (obviously it should be first).
    In 2006, Alisa Harvey ran a 4:26.49 (FAT) for 1500 on the way to a mile at the Penn Relays, the largest track meet in the U.S. According to the Relays Web site, “The previous mark of 4:32.73 was set by Joan Nesbit in 2002.” Was Harvey’s mark ever accepted? Of course not, as although an application was submitted there was no accompanying photo.
    At the Penn Relays there are three levels of security: contract security guards, University of Penn police, and City of Philadelphia police. Apparently, the desirable course would have been to have the 108-lb Alisa fight through these levels of security (and risk arrest in what would have been a doomed attempt) to get the photo.
    Since Alisa’s brilliant performance, her time of 4:26.49 has been broken several times. In addition, we find that Ruth Wysocki ran a much faster time quite a few years ago. And yet we find the 4:32.73 mark still listed on the Web site, with no pending marks shown at all.
    To echo the remarks of some commentators above, if we are to have records they should be the real records, not records that are not even close to what has been accomplished.
    Parenthetically, I might add that we can’t make it so difficult to get a record accepted that athletes at big meets don’t even try.

  18. Aaron Thigpen - December 2, 2008

    Weve had this conversation before huh Pete? Having broken the 100m record on two different occasions at Mt Sac Relays. The first time I submitted and no response and the second time having to redo the paperwork (trying to get the meet director to sign off again)it just wasnt worth the trouble. The first poster was right if it aint done at the nationals you can pretty much forget it.

  19. peter taylor - December 3, 2008

    Yes, we have, Aaron. As you and I agree, once a record has been set at a reputable meet by an established performer it should be accepted. Situations like yours (M40 100) or like the one I describe above (W40 1500) should not be permitted to exist.
    Many people have lost faith, which is in no way to downplay the countless hours of work performed by those in charge. Listing a record on the USATF Web site says to the world (most of whom know little about track and field and less about masters) that this is the current best mark. OK, if that is the case, but what if it is not?
    As I recall, the listed W40 1500 national outdoor mark is about 24 seconds slower than the actual best mark and, in my opinion, most likely ranks about 12th all-time.
    Solution? We need a better process, one that fits the need of masters. I am not part of the governing group, and thus I will not make any suggestions at this point.

  20. Ken Stone - December 3, 2008

    Tom Hartshorne has written the following note to Justin Kuo, chairman of the USATF Records Committee.
    Dear Justin,
    I believe the masters family including athletes, coaches, meet directors, officials and administrators, have legs old enough (although some move fast enough to have been borrowed from college kids) and mature enough to play by the rules. I have been in the circuit myself for 15 years and it appears to be a very cooperative family all in all. It seems reasonable that if there is a new rule or an old rule which has not being consistently considered that it should be placed out front on critical documents where all can see it.
    With regards to the USATF “APPLICATION FOR TRACK RECORD” form for World and American records which appears quite complete in its requirements, it would seem the likely place to list a new rule for ratification if it were a make it or break it requirement for success of the application.
    It seems like the logical place for the requirement for USATF sanction of meet rule, which is either a new rule not well known or an old rule previously ignored and now being enforced (even more confusing).
    Why not at this point admit the confusion of the last few years, and allow a grace period to review recent legitimate applications allowing the ones that truly satisfy the basic record requirements that distinguish an honest record to be ratified. There are certainly those unverifiable record attempts that will not meet muster.
    Next step would be to redo the Application for Track Record form so that it reflects this recently enforced sanction rule right there in broad daylight so that any one considering making a record run or throw will know ahead of time what requirements are expected in the ratification process.
    I think the true ideal of any progressive family is to include not exclude honest efforts of achievement. . .efforts that attain the highest standards that can be brought to the track and field performance and are verified by the best people and technology we have at hand. I believe we did that the Jan. 19th 2008 41st Annual Hartshorne Memorial Masters Mile held at Cornell’s Barton Hall here in Ithaca.
    I believe John Hinton’s record is the true M45 World Indoor Mile record and should be given that accolade by the USATF Records Committee.
    Thanks kindly for your time and consideration,
    Thomas H. Hartshorne Meet Director
    Hartshorne Memorial Masters Mile

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