Snafus costly to Albu meet organizers — USATF withholds $5,000

Gary Snyder

USATF has notified organizers of the Albuquerque masters indoor nationals that they won’t get their $5,000 deposit back until they cough up information to resolve timing issues at the meet. Boston’s Gary Snyder, USATF masters track and field national chairman, discloses this and other actions growing out of the problems at March nationals. Here’s a note he sent interested parties: “As of Tuesday . . . there has been no response from the timing company to our request to produce copies of the timing and photo files from the meet. Without these files, our Games Committee has nothing to analyze so the 60m results remain ‘under investigation.’ In addition, the LOC has been notified that the $5,000 deposit provided as part of the contract for the meet will not be returned until the files are produced. Finally below is my article in the next issue of NMN.”

Here is what Gary submitted to National Masters News:

We all purchase an airline ticket with the expectation that the flight will depart on time and we’ll arrive as scheduled. But we have all experienced otherwise due to weather, air traffic, mechanical issues, etc.

Similarly when we enter a meet, we do so with some degree of expectation that the meet will run on schedule and when we race the results will be measured with accuracy. But we have all experienced otherwise due to ‘timing problems.’ We all mill around while the ‘timing company’ analyzes the cause and affects repairs, then we step to the line and expect an accurate time.

Unfortunately this has not been the case in two of the last three indoor meets. While there is no way of guaranteeing that a meet will be without a timing problem, the current performance of some recent ‘local’ timing companies is clearly unsatisfactory. On behalf of the entire Games Committee, I apologize to all the athletes that traveled to Albuquerque, raced and thought they broke a record or attained a personal best. The 60m results are accurate for place but not time. So what do we do?   
I’m proposing the following:
Effective beginning with the 2013 USA Masters Indoor and Outdoor Championships, the hiring of the meet timing company will be the responsibility of the USATF Masters T&F Committee, specifically the Games Committee. The Games Committee will identify and contract one company for both meets. In addition, the Games Committee will be expanded to add a person with the technical skills to oversee the type and installation of the timing hardware and software. The LOC will pay $2,000 toward the cost of the timing, and the remainder will be paid by the Masters T&F Committee from funds in the committee’s Surcharge Account.
This would be a significant departure from current process and will require discussion and approval by the entire Masters T&F Committee at the annual meeting later this year.
Thanks for writing with your concerns.

This is a great start. But only a start.

Concerns about posting of records and fairness to athletes are not addressed in this column.

What do YOU think the USATF Masters T&F Committee should do?

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April 13, 2011

5 Responses

  1. peter taylor - April 13, 2011

    Ken, I apologize for contributing too often, but I have been working at home (<8 hours a day) since October 2009 and thus have some time on my hands.

    You ask what the committee should do. How about a bulletin about records that would be posted widely perhaps 2 weeks after the following three meets: indoor nationals, outdoor nationals, and Penn Relays.

    Thus, on March 20 this bulletin could have been posted at, at, and various other places:

    Albuquerque indoor masters nationals.

    60 dash

    No records accepted. Problems with the timing company; we are awaiting resolution. Need to obtain files from the company to review them.

    200 dash

    W75 Barbara Jordan. Time 36.80 (betters world and national records). Not accepted because of ………

    W50 Joy Upshaw. Time 26.24 (betters world and national records). Not accepted because of …………

    M60 Bill Collins Time 24.32 (betters world and national records). Accepted as world record and as pending American record (will be considered at USATF annual meeting in December 2011).

    M35 Antwon Dussett Time 21.67 (betters American record). Not accepted because of ………….

    400 dash xxx

    800 run xxx


    Thus, Ken, we would have an excellent idea of why some records "made it" and some did not for each of our major meets. At present we just have to guess.

    Theoretically, one reason could be "awaiting paperwork," but that would seem unlikely for national championships, as we have been told that new records there will be accepted without any initiatives by the athlete (and the athletes must submit excellent proof of age just to compete).

    Hope something good happens from all of this.

  2. Ken Stone - April 13, 2011

    BTW, does anyone have a meet program that lists who was in charge of timing? Was a timing company listed? Also: Who’s the head of the meet LOC?

    Write my privately at

  3. Liz Palmer - April 14, 2011

    Thank you Gary for letting us know the status. It’s pretty tough to get results when you aren’t receiving cooperation from a key entity. I hope the financial pressure of the missing deposit money lights a fire under the timing company. The “going forward” plan sounds like a good one; I hope it’s approved and eliminates any potential timing problems from future championship meets. However Ken is right–the Albuquerque problem still has to be solved. Hopefully the receipt of the FAT pictures will allow the committe to review them and verify the original results. However I believe we need a “plan B” in case this doesn’t pan out. It is absolutely not acceptable to put goose eggs or N/T by each 60m competitor’s name in the official results. There are also several records which appear in the official results yet have not been given pending record status. This must be made right to repair the reputation of our national championship meets which suffered a hit after Landover in 2009. I believe an unsatisfactory resolution to the 2011 situation would be a terrible blow to participation levels at future championship meets.

    Andrew Hecker has offered to view and electronically time any videos of the 60m races or other races as well in order to ascertain whether the original results have merit. His results can can prove or disprove whether the original posted times have merit. Let’s not forget a very important point –we HAVE results for all of the races that were run in Albuquerque. The issue which the committee is debating is the verification of these results. If Andy is able to give electronic times for each competitor in a race within a given range of certainty and the original times fit into that range, the original results would be accurate and should be verified as the official results. Andy works in professional video and is a USATF Master Certified Official with a specialization in Automatic TIming. He is one of the first Automatic Timing officials, starting in 1970. That gives him over 40 YEARS in experience in this field. In a court of law for a civil case, Andy would be what is called an “expert witness” and his testimony would bear heavy weight in a judge’s decision. His testimony should bear the same weight in this situation.

    In case the FAT pictures are not quickly forthcoming, my suggestion is that the committee accept this offer of professional review in order to bring this situation to its final conclusion.

  4. Robert Thomas - April 14, 2011

    I would like to start by saying that this is coming from Robert Thomas the athlete not Robert Thomas the vice chair. Same person just different voice. I would like to point out several things that no one seems to remember. First, everyone that is involved with the Masters Committee, Games Committee, etc. are all volunteers. Most of which still have full time jobs and families. They do this because they love the sport. Secondly there were a lot of records broken in Albuquerque so it may take a while before you see your record pending. Records do not get accepted until the end of year at the annual meeting so there is plenty of time to get the records staightened out. Thirdly if you look at some of the times that were run in Albuquerque there is no way that those times are accurate. I looked at some past times of several athletes and they have not run that fast in the last 5 years. Now you guys no if you haven’t run that fast in 5 years and you didnt run close to that before you came to Albuquerque you probably didn’t run that fast in Albuquerque. I realize altitude helps sprinters run faster because the air is thinner, but it didn’t put a jet pack on your back as well. I don’t think there would be a question about so many records being broken if they were broken by hundreds on seconds, but when you have records being broken by two tenths in the dashes thats when one has to question the accuracy of the system. Especially considering that everyone there knew that there was a problem with the timing system. As a athlete I wouldn’t want a record when I knew I hadn’t run that fast in the last five years. Let the committees do there job, obviously this is going to take more time than everyone would like, but it will get done. I would imagine that this is why you are not hearing much from the committee is because that are trying to figure out is there a way that we can verify accurately, if not then most if not all of the running records will not count. I see no reason why the field event records haven’t been listed, but I’m sure in the end all will be taken care of.

  5. Texas Tornado - April 16, 2011

    Robert you seem like a sensible guy. Instead of tellin’ us all to keep calm and carry on, how bout something that would be real helpful? With all of the hoopla about some records missing while others have been posted in the same event (200, 400 come to mind) we could use a go-between to help everyone out. A liaison if you will between the committee and the athletes, a point person who could carry concerns to the records chair and come back with definitive answers. ‘Waiting for paperwork’ doesn’t cut it. I’d say we could definitely use a person like that and you would be an admirable choice. Don’t be shy.

    As to the point of athletes running faster now than five years ago. I love research and have time on my hands which is a dangerous combination. Before the 60 results got yanked I noted the winners names and researched their 100 meter times over the last five years. You say that athletes haven’t run that fast in five years but you are missing the point. You need to examine the PROGRESSION of the athletes times over the last five years. I saw a five year pattern of faster times for many of the winners, so their fast times in Albuquerque make sense.

    Speaking for only myself, what is most problematic is the lack of clear communication from the committee and our records chair. As a Texan I admire plain talk and prompt action and we’re received neither. A few more updates like Mr Snyders would go a long way toward calming folks down. You’re sure in the end it will all turn out fine but many folks who have records at stake don’t share your sentiment.

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