End of an era: Dave Clingan passes the rankings baton

John Seto throws his superweight around at 2007 Boston nationals.
Photo by Cheryl Treworgy

Dave Clingan, whose seasonal world and USA masters rankings began as a hobby in 1999 but grew into a professional gig with state-of-the-art software, is stepping down as USATF Masters Rankings chair. Why? He writes: “Several reasons, but the most important one is simple. John (Seto) can do a better job than I can. The rankings have entered a phase of advanced database technology. This technology, which supports all the new and exciting features of our latest rankings system, is beyond my expertise.” John, an M40 thrower who created the new rankings software, is taking over from a legend — and he knows it. Interviews with both follow.

Dave continues:

John has implemented all aspects of this technology and is uniquely capable of managing the system and future advances. If I did not have complete confidence in John, I would not step down. He will do a great job. Other reasons mainly have to do with freeing up time for other things.
Me: What will your focus be now (besides the Awards Committee)?
Dave: Aside from Awards, which I have become very deeply involved in, I am busy coaching two different youth track and cross country programs, one at the middle school level and one at the high school level.
I’m also trying to get my butt in shape for nationals after some persistent injury problems, and I’ve started seriously training again. I’ve got other responsibilities with regard to my business and my family, so I’m not sure there ever really is a “focus.” Just a lot going on in my life.
Will the mastersrankings.com registration be transferred to John? I see it’s now in your wife’s (Sharon’s) name:
We haven’t discussed it, but that would make sense. I have no possessive inclinations about the rankings.
Who pays for the hosting of mastersrankings.com?
I have paid for it out of my earnings as rankings coordinator, so that will become John’s responsiblity.
Any chance you’d make another bid for WMA rankings czar?
No, for the same reasons. Martin (Gasselsberger) (of Austria) is doing a great job with the technology he has adapted to world rankings, though I think the world rankings could be expanded further, be more timely, and allow athletes to enter/edit their own marks.

My interview with John Seto:

Masterstrack.com: What, if anything, will you do differently than Dave — besides continue to improve the database and interface?
John: If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. I have a lot of respect for Dave and Larry Patz and the job they have done with the rankings. What I have learned about Dave over the past several months is he and I are similar in our insistence on professionalism and our desire to evolve the Web site into a tremendous resource.
I will be therefore continuing the evolution of the rankings with similarity to Dave’s great work. I am certainly not as knowledgeable nor experienced as Dave in track and field meets, track and field people, etc. I trust that we will not let this impact the information that we make available.
What improvements do you have in mind for the rankings system?
We sent out a survey to the athletes that had used the system to date. Many improvements or requests were made in the responses. We will be implementing a large percentage of them and will also make a comments function available to allow users to provide more feedback.
Ultimately, the goal is to evolve the site to quickly provide information that the users want to see. Dave and I have been working on the new look and function of the site. I would like to find means to increase publicity for the site and thereby increase the accuracy through capturing more valid performances.
Might the lists go deeper than 25 someday?
Yes, there will be an option to expand the list to show all of the marks contained in the list.
What suggestions have athletes made that you’d like to put into effect?
We have already implemented some. People wanted some of the things from the previous versions that we deliberately took off like the All-American Standards.
— Ages of athletes so they can see if an athlete might be aging up (or wishing that they age up!).
— Expanding lists like you asked above.
— Age-graded performances (might not be able to do well enough to implement).
— Allowing users to input many athlete’s results into the system.
We won’t be implementing all requests but intend on putting a summary of the survey and our direction with the requests.
One such request was to have athlete profiles and e-mails. We think the information we have including e-mails are confidential and do not think it is appropriate to share that. We are going to stick to the focus of the site, which is athlete performances.
Are you familiar with the UK rankings system? And can the USATF masters seasonal lists look like this someday?
Dave clued me into this a couple of days ago. Our concept was working in this direction already so the answerer to your question is that it will not look like this but it will have similar function to this site.
How much time did you spend creating the rankings software?
I think my wife might have a count of the hours but I think she exaggerated with the millions or so number she told me. I really have no idea.
Is USATF paying you anything for this system?
USATF pays the rankings chairperson a relatively small amount for the rankings, not the system.
Would you be interested in offering this system to USATF as a whole?
I never really thought about that. This took a life of its own. When Dave told me he was doing the entries manually and I said that it could be done more automatically, the project started. A million or so hours later, we have a really nice thing here that certainly could be utilized for many things — a very marketable product that we haven’t had any time to do anything about.
Tell me about your day job.
I am in executive construction and contract management for industrial and commercial projects.
Tell me about your athletic achievements — both all-time and current.
Achievements or forays! I was a jumper in junior high school doing long and triple jump. A knee injury that still bothers me forced me to quit the TJ. I had an old cannonball that we found and I started throwing the cannonball shot put! I was hooked on throwing.
I was introduced to hammer in! my senior year in high school and loved it. I was a very small guy for throwing, so my achievements were more personal ones and an occasional dual meet win. I placed in the few hammer events that I competed in (in spite of the heckles from some of my competitors, some of whom I beat!).
When I left high school I gave up T&F but always missed it. Got back into it in the spring of 2006 when I realized, thanks to your site, that there were places to compete. Now, throwing 16-pound hammer, 2k discus, 35-pound weight and 56-pound weight for the first time ever, I have had a blast competing and meeting a lot of nice people.
And finally some housekeeping: Where do you live? Do you have a wife, kids, dogs and cats?
Pleasant Valley, N.Y. Wonderful wife of 18 years, Linda. Two great daughters, Rebecca and Charlee, and Charlee’s guinea pig, Boswell.

Dave Clingan and I will continue working to improve masterstrack.com

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June 19, 2007

12 Responses

  1. Francis A Schiro - June 19, 2007

    What makes Dave Clingan a treasure is NOT only his technical skills.What made him so valuable is the fact that he was/IS always FAIR….he actually LISTENS to ALL people….he does not choose who to respond back to..and consequently whom to “dismiss”…Whenever i had a question or for that matter complaint he was TOTALLY open to listening to me. I always felt he was 100% FAIR and never to “busy” to talk to the “little guy”. Those kids he is working with are very lucky. Dave thanks for ALL your great work…If John has your vote of confidence he has mine as well. Thanks again.

  2. Milt Girouard - June 19, 2007

    Bon voyage, Dave!! Mr. Shiro hit it right on the head. It wasn’t to me about how the site improved technologically, which is nice… but it was how Dave was there to answer questions fairly and in a timely manner. He treated you as a peer instead of some peon, bothering his day. You’ll be missed…!!

  3. Tom Fahey - June 19, 2007

    Thanks Dave for your hard work. Records and rankings give athletes something to shoot for and provide substance to the sport. Your work has been invaluable and raised our sport to a higher level. Your new system is wonderful, and I hope it continues.
    Tom Fahey

  4. Peter Magill - June 19, 2007

    Without Dave’s rankings, I would never have joined this sport and been in a position to thank Dave personally. So thanks, Dave! Your rankings helped bring us together as a community (well, okay, beer had a lot to do with it too)!

  5. Milan Jamrich - June 19, 2007

    Thanks Dave for a job well done. Milan

  6. dave albo - June 19, 2007

    Dave and Larrys rankings were always very accurate and complete. As a numbers geek and competitor I really valued that. Johns new rankings setup has the same high quality content, plus all the cool new cross referencing features with even more features to come. It’s all good! I feel lucky to have such a quality product out there to refer to.

  7. Mark Cleary - June 19, 2007

    Many thanks Dave for serving such a key role for the Masters Track & Field Community for many years–The rankings have inspired countless amounts of athletes in our sport that we love so dearly–it gives a little more incentive to remain competitive and see how far you can move up on the list–or remain on it at the end of the year in my case the last few seasons.–awesome contibution–Highest Regards–Mark

  8. peter van aken - June 19, 2007

    in the short time John Seto has been involved in Masters track and field, he has not only competed in throwing events for himself, but he has shared his training knowledge with others, and given the sport something everyone can benefit from. Very worthy of an Indoor nationals Gold medal!

  9. kevin paulk - June 19, 2007

    Dave, You have inspired me. Your rankings system was a nice measure of success as well as numerous goals to train for. Thanks for all the indoor and outdoor marks.

  10. simpson - June 19, 2007

    Love the new format…Us Luke’s Locker boys down in Dallas, Texas cannot wait to get home and see who can post their times (good or bad) first..it’s an ongoing race outside of athletics…

  11. saladin allah - June 20, 2007

    As so many athletes have expressed, you’ve also kept me motivated many times. I’ve referred to it on a regular basis. Good luck.
    Sal Allah

  12. Bernd Rehpenning - June 24, 2007

    Thanks for your work. It is a great help for all statiscian in the world.

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