Reform records NOW! Track can use swimming as a template

Meet Walt Reid, a swimmer in his late 60s. Back in 1977, he began masters competition and became an integral part of the movement.  Since the mid-1980s, he’s been in charge of records for USMS — United States Masters Swimming — and handles top 10 age-group rankings as well. USMS has 40,000 members ages 18 to 100-plus — about five times the size of the masters track component of USATF. I wrote him recently to learn what the fish can teach us about the records process. His answers might serve as a model for USATF, whose masters records are in crisis. Unreliable, out-of-date and open to question, our age-group records are an embarrassment. Our records-ratification system is long overdue for reform. We owe this to our athletes, fans and media followers — all of whom expect our records site to contain timely, accurate information. It can be done. Walt has done it for a quarter-century. Now lissen up, and learn!

Walt Reid of Tacoma, Wash., handles records and rankings for USMS and FINA.

Walt began his note to me: 

Let me start by saying that only USMS (United States Masters Swimming) members can set USMS records. We also have another category of meets where records can be set. These meets are organized outside the FINA family. (They include) MCA National, Senior Games. These are called “Recognized” meets because not all participants must be a registered Masters Swimmer. They must submit an application for “Recognition” to the LMSC (Local Masters Swim Committee) for approval. 

This is usually done by one of the registered swimmers that wants his time to count for records and Top 10 tabulation. Additional requirements include a written report stating that USMS Rules were followed.

Here’s my Q&A with Walt, who replied by email March 19, 2009: Who’s in charge of ratifying masters swim records — a committee or a single person?

Walt Reid: A single person — me — with a backup committee for the tough questions.

Who submits records — the athlete or event director?

Both, but usually the meet director.

What specific information is needed to ratify a USMS record? 

  • A Record Application filled out and signed by the Meet Official. 
  • A copy of the timing system tape or the Lane Times sheet — signed.
  • A confirmation of the pool length — this is a one-time requirement unless the pool is remodeled. 
  • A copy of the swimmer’s passport or birth certificate. Again a one-time requirement and only these two are acceptable documents. 

How soon after submission can a record be listed on your site? 

I process the record applications as I get them. I try to do this each week. So the Web is up to date. 

Do you have “pending” records? 

Yes, lots of them. Since we do not have a deadline on getting all required documentation to me, usually I am missing the Pool Length measurement or a proof-of-age document. 

How long does it generally take to ratify a USMS age-group record?

Given that all required documentation is presented and in order, it takes about 5 minutes to update the Web database and file the paperwork. 

Can an athlete appeal if a record is rejected? If yes, how often are rejections appealed?  

I guess they can, but we have not had any formal appeals.

If a record is rejected, do you explain why (either privately to the athlete or publicly)? 

No, I do not.

How many record applications do you get in a typical year?

We keep over 2,200 records. About 845 records were approved. 

Anything you’ve learned over the years in making sure records are vetted properly? 

I have been doing this volunteer job for 25 years. I am also a Master swimmer. You have to really love doing it or be crazy or both.

An article on the FINA Web site adds this background on Walt:

As FINA’s official Masters Recorder, he has volunteered his time and energy to handle the FINA Masters records and Tabulations for 16 years.

“I got involved with FINA in 1992,” he recalls. “I had heard that FINA was going to take responsibility for Masters and I wrote to Ross Wales, a Member of the FINA Executive, volunteering my services. At that time I was serving as the Chairman of United States Masters Swimming (USMS) Records and Tabulations Committee.” 

Mr. Reid’s offer was accepted and his terms of work were arranged so that he essentially became an extension of the FINA Permanent Office for processing the Masters records.

“I receive approximately 350 records applications each year. In addition, I generate the FINA Masters World Top Ten Tabulation for both Short and Long-Course metres. “Over the years,” he notes, “I have successfully encouraged many federations to use the computer to build their Top Ten Tabulations by defining a computer interface. 

“Each year I am invited to attend the FINA Masters Committee meeting,” he continues, “I also attend the FINA Masters World Championships to document the records and help with the results. 

“After the first few years,” Mr. Reid continues, “my responsibilities have expanded to include developing Qualifying Time Standards for the FINA World Masters Championships and assisting the host federation to better understand the swimming competition requirements for running the meet.”

Essentially, Walt is a shadow expert of Masters recording development and maintenance. There are probably few others on Earth who knows the global trends of competitive Masters swimming better than Walt Reid and his role is now essential within FINA Masters record-keeping. 

“I started swimming Masters in 1977 after a 17-year break from swimming. I remember my first workout with the Masters team. My coach said, “Slip in behind Karl and just keep up with him.” I was 37, he was 60 and I could not keep up,” Walt recalls.

“I got involved with my local Masters swimming organisation soon after joining Masters. They needed someone for Records and Top 10 and that was what I enjoyed doing. First I did it by hand with paper and pencil. Then I wrote several computer programmes to help me. I am still the local Masters records/tabulations person and have been at it for 29 years.” 

In the meantime, Walt explains, he got involved with USMS by attending his first national convention in 1984. Not long after that, he was Chairman of the Records and Tabulations Committee, a post he held from 1986 to 1997. In this role, his expertise was invaluable.

 “When I started, there was limited use of computers for keeping records and preparing the Top 10 tabulations. I spent a lot of time helping our organisation move in the computer direction by providing a programme identifying an interface format. I also worked with the Hy-tek people to build an interface between their Meet Manager software and the records so they could be identified at the meet.”

 In 1992, Walt received the Ransom J. Arthur Award from USMS for his dedication. After he stepped down as Chairman in 1997, he remained an active Committee Member with responsibility for processing and approving USMS records and updating the USMS website with new records.

How are masters swimming world records processed? 

The steps are spelled out on this record application from FINA, which also stipulates: “Records will be updated throughout the year. Records will be published twice each year (1st May and 1st November)” and (how cool is this?) “A FINA Masters Swimming World Record Certificate will be issued each time a record is broken.” 


  • 2.1 The Masters Swimming World Record Application and all appropriate documentation must be submitted by each FINA Member Federation to the FINA Office. 
  • 2.2 The FINA Permanent Office will send all applications to Walt Reid. 
  • 2.3 Walt Reid will check all applications for the required documentation, accept/reject the application, update the computer files, file the application and return to the FINA Office a notification of acceptance/rejection for each application.
  • 2.4 The FINA Office will prepare a Masters Swimming World Record Certificate for all
    accepted records and distribute the certificates and the “Rejected Record Application
    Report” back to the FINA Member Federation.
  • 2.5 Twice a year (1st May and 1st November) Walt Reid will send to the FINA Permanent Office a computer report and file of the World Records.
  • 2.6 Twice a year (1st May and 1st November) the FINA Permanent Office will distribute to each FINA Member Federation an updated copy of the Masters Swimming World

How are USMS national age-group records processed? 

Fill out this form, a model of sanity and simplicity.

So what have we learned from USMS?  My summary:

    • Lay out rules for a record, and post a form a child could fill out.
    • Make meet directors primarily responsible for submitting applications.
    • Find a way of identifying “Recognized” meets that aren’t USATF-sanctioned.
    • Process applications promptly and post pending records online immediately.
    • Use software to process results that alerts meet directors to potential records.
    • Establish a database so athletes don’t have to submit their birth certificates (and other data) every time they apply for record recognition.
    • Form a committee to help with the “tough questions.”

We have a model now. But do we have the will? 


Why can’t USATF’s record form for masters be as simple as this?

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March 24, 2009

One Response

  1. Rich Morris - February 10, 2015

    When will 2014 Masters swimming long course world rankings be released. Thanks

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