Timed finals in 800 return for nationals — but confusion rules

Two laps and done is the rule at Wake Forest.

The schedule at Winston-Salem nationals shows timed finals in the 800-meter run — mostly on Thursday, July 17. (Some 800s are run Saturday.) But USATF rules for years have said timed finals apply to 1500 and longer at outdoor nationals. New England’s Steve Vaitones tried at least twice to amend the rules (in 2006 and 2008) to make it apply to the half, but both times the Rules Committee said nyet. The masters section of the 2014 USATF rule book says: “In events of 1500 meters or longer, timed finals shall be run.” Maybe I overlooked it, but I don’t see where a Games Committee can apply that rule to the 800. So how did this come about? I’m looking into it. Confusion exists, no doubt. At least one athlete — blogger Kevin Forde — said he was looking forward to 800 prelims.

Kevin writes: “It already looks like there’ll have to be prelims in the M50 800m right now there are 18 entries and while there’s always the cahnce of no shows and scratches but frankly I’m ok w/ a prelim I hate arriving at Nationals on a Wednesday for Thursdays 800m prelim only to be told it’s been rolled to a Saturday final and then having to sit around from Wednesday to Saturday waiting for my first race let me get a race under my belt on Thursday like I did in Charlotte 06 and Lisle 12 and get those nerves out of my system.”

Stay tuned on this.

Kevin at 2007 Orono nationals made his point.

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June 20, 2014

15 Responses

  1. Peter Taylor - June 20, 2014

    Thanks very much for posting this, Ken. This is a new era, as the schedule is getting much more complex. In the old days, you could ask someone, “what day do I run my final?” (name the distance) and get a quick answer. All finals for a specific distance were conducted on the same day. Now, “it depends.”

    For example, if you’re in the 1500, the answer is that you’ll run on Friday, or you’ll go on Saturday, or maybe you’ll run on Sunday, it all depends. I cannot overstate how different this is from past practice.

    As far as the rules go, we already have timed finals in the 400 for indoor nationals (and of course for the 800 in that meet), so having timed finals in the 800 at the outdoors does not seem like a huge deal. Of course, people need to know about this change.

    Another change that does not affect as many people is that the days of having trials in the intermediate hurdles are gone; now it’s finals only.

    I would be interested in hearing from some middle distance runners and long hurdlers on these issues.

  2. Ron T Pate - June 20, 2014

    A condition of a USATF sanction, is that the organizers comply with the USATF competition rules and the USATF rule book.

    I did not know that the meet director or the competition committee can conduct a national championship with procedures that are not in compliance with the rule book.

    What if they decided to run 18 to 25 runners in one race, from a waterfall starting line?

    The rule book states how many competitors advance to the “Next” round, according to the number of heats.

    Timed finals in an outdoor national championship meet may be considered “Unfair”, being the winner on one heat may run slower than the winner of the other, even though he or she may be the better athlete.

    The rule book is there for a reason. It should be followed to the letter.

  3. Thad Wilson - June 20, 2014

    I prefer to run a prelim for the long hurdles if there are more competitors than lanes on the track for one race than to run timed finals. The long hurdle race is a long sprint and should be treated like the other long sprint races.
    At a national championship, you should compete head to head with the best in your event for a medal. The long hurdle race is a tough race, but the people that run it understand that and train accordingly. In my opinion, a prelim on Saturday and a final on Sunday is not going to overload long hurdle athlete.

  4. Bill Fitzpatrick - June 21, 2014

    For the 800, this is not news. Olathe 2013 had the same format – finals only.

  5. Peter Taylor - June 22, 2014

    Thanks for that, Bill. I wish that USATF had not removed the schedule from its listing for the 2013 outdoors (Olathe), as it would have helped me here. In brief, I think that Olathe did list 800 trials on its schedule and then DID NOT run any trials in that event. This year, of course, no trials are listed for the 800.

    For 2012 (Lisle) and for MANY years before that (based on my recollection) we always had trials listed in the 800. Thus, it looks as if the Games Committee jumped from (a) we didn’t have to run any trials in the 800 at Olathe to (b) we should not run trials in the 800 at Winston-Salem.

    Regardless, per Ron Pate and Ken Stone above, this is being treated as a big departure from the rules because we are essentially mandating timed finals no matter how many athletes eventually sign up, even if the rules seem to suggest otherwise. Let me put you on hold to see what the biggest field is, will be right back.

    OK, M60 has the biggest field, 21 runners. With no scratches (unlikely) that would be either three timed finals of 7 runners each or two finals, one of 10 runners and one of 11. Some will like that, some will not.

  6. Jim Schoffman - June 22, 2014

    As I attend Olathe last year the schedule had the 800 as finals
    on Thursday. See last year comments here http://masterstrack.com/2013/04/24679/.
    As a 400/ 800 along with 100/200 , I like last years schedule. I have a love hate relationship with the 800 and I liked getting it out the way. However ,this year the M60 is being run on Saturday. As far as heat size in my opinion you can run up to 20 on a water fall start. Especially in the 50 year old and above. Reason is the wide range of seed times.It spreads out quickly. The world championship have finals of 12 with much closer seed times. At this time I’m not addressing how the rules apply. See you in North Carolina.

  7. Peter Taylor - June 22, 2014

    Thank you, Jim; I must really be getting old. Olathe 2013 was the meet that saw the big change in the 800, not Winston-Salem 2014. And yet some of the discussion to this point does not cover the Olathe story. My only excuse, other than diminished intellectual capacity, is that I did not go to Olathe 2013.

    My takeaways are as follows: (1) Someone must have thought it was OK to make the big switch in the 800 last year, and now it is “old hat” not to have trials in that race, the rules notwithstanding. (2) We should expect more schedule changes at nationals, as we are on a bit of a roll after decades of standing pat.

    My apologies to Bill Fitzpatrick for misremembering the Olathe situation.

  8. Ron Pate - June 22, 2014

    It is required to run the 800 in lanes for one turn I championship meets (USATF and WMA).

    To ignore the Rule book will run the risk of invalidating the sanction and therefore risk records not being validated. This is not an opinion, but a fact.

    One requirement of record validation is that the record be set in a sanctioned meet. One condition of the sanction is that the meet follow the rule book to the letter.

    Someone needs to bring out this point to the powers who make final decisions.

    I know the question of knowledge of the rule book will be brought up at the next bid presentation at the Annual Meeting.

  9. Kevin F Forde - June 23, 2014

    Now I can see why a number of 2.05.00 seed times show up in the status of entries as it seems it’s better to reward runners by embelishing their times to get a potentially faster seeded final than actually having runners go mano e mano.
    Due to my race schedule pre Nationals I had one shot at an 800m seed time 2.12.11 but have 2 800m races prior to Nationals I should be allowed to adjust my seed time based on the beliefe that I improve that 2.12.11 which was ran on June 10th 6 weeks b4 Nationals when I don’t need to be at my best.
    As there are two side to each argument I will say the prospect of two recovery days b4 the 1,500m final is welcome but call me old fashioned between Charlotte 06 and Lisle 12 the 800m prelim Thursday,800m final Saturday,1,500m final Sunday seemed to work just fine…..if it aint broke don’t fix it!

  10. Ken stone - June 23, 2014

    I haven’t heard from the Games Committee, but I predict the reason for timed 800 finals will have to do with temperature worries. The fewer heats, the fewer races in the heat of the day. Charlotte nationals had a heat emergency and was almost shut down, so Winston-Salem folks are hoping to avoid a repeat.

  11. David Bailey - June 23, 2014

    I agree with Kevin that over 20 guys in one heat is not safe or in the best interest of the runners to run quality times. I’m in the 50 group and it is not clear if there will be two races run as finals or all one race.

    To the person that said the races spread out soon in the older age groups, I think is wrong. It seems everyone starts out quick and then put on the brakes causing a jam 75 meters out.

    Drake relays runs over 20 guys on a waterfall start and after getting cut off 2 years ago I don’t run that race any more. That race is in my State and for me to not bother shows how bad that is.

  12. David E. Ortman (M61), Seattle, WA - June 23, 2014

    The 800m is not my race (once around the track is enough), but it is a concern if championship meets are not run according to the rules.

    Unlike Thad (#3), I am all for a timed 400/300m finals. There appear to have been a number of past national championship 400/300m hurdle events where a preliminary was run in order to eliminate one runner. However, a search through the competition rules does not find a rule allowing timed finals in the 400/300m hurdles at Championship meets. Perhaps someone could find it and post it.

  13. David E. Ortman (M61), Seattle, WA - June 23, 2014

    Ummm. Make that: I am all for timed 400/300m hurdles finals.

  14. Ken Stone - June 23, 2014

    Congrats on the “Ummm” comment, Dave! It’s the 25,000th comment on my blog. (Spam software has blocked several million, and I’ve deleted dozens.)

  15. Peter Taylor - June 24, 2014

    @ David Bailey (no. 11): With the games committee that runs the indoor nationals running the Winston-Salem meet I don’t see any danger of setting up huge fields in the 800, but I may be wrong. I think the committee will be reasonable (two races in M50, in other words).

    At least three questions remain:

    1. Is this change to “finals only” for the 800 actually a permanent change or has it been put into effect for just the last two years because of heat considerations? The record July highs are 114 for Olathe and just 104 for Winston-Salem, but perhaps the memory of Charlotte 2006 comes into play here.

    2. If this is a permanent change for the 800, where can we find the enabling rule in the USATF Rules of Competition?

    3. Is the discontinuance of the trials in the intermediate hurdles permanent or just for Winston-Salem? If permanent, can a rule be cited within the USATF Rules of Competition?

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