Wentland calls out USATF for failure to explain HJ record rejection

Gwen Wentland-Mikinski competed for Kansas State University in the 1990s and was a two-time USATF national indoor champion. So Olathe nationals was a perfect venue for going high. (She even got a profile on USATF.) The result? A national record 1.77 jump (5-9 3/4). Her celebration was soured in December when she learned the mark wasn’t ratified as an American age-group record — despite having been set at our marquee event. “I guess someone in USATF Masters threw out my record,” Gwen wrote me this week. “I do not know the inner workings of USATF Masters, but the USATF Web site shows Patricia Porter, not me, as the W40 American outdoor record holder. Maybe someday I will find out what happened to the record I set at Olathe.” I wrote to USATF masters records chair Sandy Pashkin and received this reply: “I am not going to look at email until after 12/25/2013 Please resend after 12/25 Thank you.”

Gwen flexes guns upon breaking W40 American record at Olathe, Kansas.

Gwen flexes guns upon breaking W40 American record at Olathe, Kansas.

In March, a blue-ribbon committee of masters athletes and observers chaired by world-record sprint champ Steve Robbins issued a report aiming to fix our broken records process. Had it been in place this summer, Gwen would have known the status of her record much earlier.

The Robbins committee said:

The current process provides no feedback to athletes when records are rejected. In fact, athletes typically only learn if their record has been approved when it is announced (or not announced) at the annual USATF meeting in December. Athletes deserve to know the ongoing status of any record application. As such, the committee recommends the establishment of a website that lists all record submissions, their pending status, and an explanation if that application has been rejected. We further recommend all record submissions be posted and reviewed within 90 days of receipt. If rejected or in question, a specific explanation must be posted. In cases of rejected applications, the athlete should have 45 days from the date of posting to appeal the decision to a 3-person review panel.

Of course, records set at masters nationals normally are automatically accepted (except in the case of sloping fields or timing equipment failures). So Gwen has a right to be angry.

Gwen may be guessing that age verification is the holdup, but since she’s gotten no explanation, she’s left to write me:

Gwen stretches toward bar at Olathe.

Gwen arches toward bar at Olathe.

This past July I participated in my first Masters Track and Field Championships. I competed in the women’s 40-44 high jump eclipsing Trish Porter’s record of 1.76m by clearing 1.77m. To the delight of family, friends and other track athletes watching we all celebrated my new American Record and moved the bar up the world mark which I did not clear.

Recently, the new records were posted following the USATF Annual Meeting. Much to my surprise, my record did not appear on the official list. I guess someone in USATF Masters threw out my record. I do not know the inner workings of USATF Masters, but the USATF Web site shows Patricia Porter, not me, as the W40 American outdoor record holder.

Throw out my record at the USATF Nationals? Well this really got me going. So I started asking if this had happened before and I found out it has happened on several occasions with another female high jumper from Alaska and Alisa Harvey in 1500m.

One of the reasons masters records have been thrown out in the past because of lack of age verification.

The last time I checked, the entry into the masters meet meant that I needed to submit age verification in the form of a passport or birth certificate or I could not enter the meet. Besides if there is any question of my age by USATF they only need to check their own website that states my DOB at April, 29, 1972.

I am also age-verified through the Coaches Registry as I recently served as the 2012 Olympic Games coaching staff for jumps and combined events.

So then I wondered if the officials did not know about the record, but that could not be the case since they announced it over the PA and the officials were the ones who gave me the marks for the AR and WR when I was high jumping.

I am really “up in the air” about why my record was not ratified since it was produced at the Maters Championships. There is a rule that states if a record is broken at the Masters Champiosnhips it is therefore a record.

Chopped liver or not, I wanted to bring this to light because I realize how hard all of these athletes train to compete at this meet. It is a challenge to set a PR or break a record, let alone a national record. Of all the meets to call into question the legitamacy of a mark, the national championships would be the last one I would suspect.

Being involved with masters track and field is a truly inspirational experience. I witnessed some of the most gutsy perfomrances I have seen in track & field. I would hate for people to assign a second rate look at this genre of track & field because it may be the most amazing groups in our sport.

Sandy Pashkin owes Gwen an explanation, if not an apology.

By this time next year, the USATF annual meeting in Anaheim, California, will have considered the Robbins committee proposals. Changes are long overdue. But so is the issue of Gwen’s Olathe record.

Gwen squeezes her daughter Paris, herself a 9-10 high jump champion.

Gwen squeezes her daughter Paris, herself a 9-10 high jump champion.

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December 19, 2013

28 Responses

  1. Peter Taylor - December 19, 2013

    Very interesting report, Ken, from many angles. I will take only one at this point:

    Although not a stated goal, attracting former big-time athletes to national masters championships seems like a very worthy objective. Certainly we do not expect to attract Carl Lewis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, etc., but drawing stars like Gwen Wentland and Kip Janvrin to Olathe was quite a coup, in my book.

    Kip Janvrin, of course, is the oldest decathlete ever to represent the US in the Olympic Games. Gwen Wentland has a long history of greatness and a lifetime best of 1.96 meters/6 feet, 5.16 inches.

    Like the champions they are, both Kip and Gwen broke American records in the Olathe championships. Neither record was ratified. We know of the rationale for Kip’s rejection (sloping field), but what about for Gwen?

    The larger question, of course, is how can we continue to attract former open/collegiate standouts to our nationals in the wake of these dual rejections? Why should they leave home?

  2. Ken Stone - December 19, 2013

    USATF national masters chair Gary Snyder sent me a note promising an investigation into the rejected HJ record. But it’s delayed until after folks return from the holidays.

  3. Mike Fortunato - December 19, 2013

    After all these years and all this strife, why can’t we find people who want to do the job of reviewing, affirming and maintaining records? When the team is not doing the job, its time for a new squad. And what kind of email system fails to recall emails send a week before, anyway — why the heck need you re-send your email after Xmas?

  4. fidel - December 19, 2013

    Discouraging. Picture me slamming my head against the wall after I read this…:(

  5. Matt McCubbins - December 20, 2013

    Gwen, sorry to hear you are getting the run-around from USATF on this. Regardless of the ruling, congratulations on an amazing performance in Olathe. From a fellow high jumper, I hope to meet you some day and watch you jump in person!!

  6. West Coast Sprinter - December 20, 2013

    Incredible. I guess I should not be surprised by the current situation, same old story different day.

  7. David E. Ortman (M60), Seattle, WA - December 20, 2013

    First, congratulations to Gwen and hope this does not sour her completely on masters track and field. I thought for a moment that the absence of her HJ mark on the USATF masters record page was perhaps due to the need to “ratify” the record at the end of the year meeting. No.


    for American Masters 200m Outdoor Track & Field Records. Both the M60 and M65 marks are from 2013 meets, including Oscar Payton M60 200m set at. . .Olathe, KS.

    Records often don’t last all that long, so those who break records should get recognition to savor until the record is again broken (I once held a M55 world indoor Pent record for about eight seconds. Not much time to savor that one.)

    Masters athletes have been promised that record breaking marks will automatically be submitted at our masters national championship meets. Masters athletes should not be left in the dark like mushrooms to wonder if their mark was ever submitted or if rejected, the reason for the rejection.

  8. David E. Ortman (M60), Seattle, WA - December 20, 2013

    Sigh. Apologies to the great Oscar Peyton (not Payton). I knew that. I hate bifocals.

  9. Mike Fortunato - December 20, 2013

    We do need to revisit whether or not we wish to create a separate, record-keeping body. An elected committee of masters athletes to make decisions and manage communications. It would be quite easy to keep the records up to date on a web site — even a Wikipedia page — with all the pending records IMMEDIATELY posted until resolutions could be made. People who cared to do the job right would make mistakes now and then but it would not look like this.

  10. Mike Fortunato - December 21, 2013

    I, for one, do not agree with the premise that we wish to privilege a single official with the power to delay the publication of pending record performances for any non-trivial period of time. Nor is it obvious that a record-setting performance is defined not by its setting, but by its ratification. Masters athletes, in my view, are capable of assembling a sufficiently large and well-resourced committee of fellow masters athletes to handle this task well. It is what we think, and not what a governing body thinks, that matters. Clearly, a ratification process of some sort is desirable, but the centralization of power to ensure it is followed is not, in my view, needed. In the US we have observed enormous delays and dysfunctional communications for quite some time. Were this a short-lived fluke, it would be one thing, but as it has been a pattern for decades, I strongly believe masters athletes could serve their high-achieving brethren better by taking the power away from the bureaucrats. We could do better.

  11. Gary Snyder - December 21, 2013

    Hi Everybody,

    USA Track & Field is the lawful governing body for T&F for the United States and as such is the only organization recognized by the IAAF to ratify records, both American and world. Therefore if an American sets a world record it must be ratified by USATF to be recognized by the rest of the worlds governing bodies.

    Records for all USATF disciplines, LDR, race walk, youth etc. are approved once a year at the USATF Annual Meeting and until approved are pending only.

    FYI, the first line on the records form is:

    1. Description of Record: World ______American______ Male _____ Female ____ age division*_______

    * application must be accompanied by copy of birth certificate(s) or passport(s)

    Gary Snyder
    National Chair
    USATF Masters T&F

  12. Mike Fortunato - December 21, 2013

    Those is power always assert it. Those who need to be better served must say if it is working for them.

  13. Mike Fortunato - December 21, 2013

    Once a year is of course well below any reasonable standard.

  14. Anthony Treacher - December 21, 2013

    (Right on Gary. Records are ratified records, Someone in authority must do the ratifying. Otherwise there would be chaos. Why cannot we accept the obvious about ratification? Let’s move on here. Please.

    As to when your USATF records are ratified, the uncertainty that my system was intended to address is also dispelled by the mention of the USATF Annual Meeting that ratifies records. The latest USATF Annual Meeting took place on 7 Dec 2013. That presumably means that an USATF masters athlete can expect to see a record ratified by December every year. And incidentally that specific 7 Dec 2013 meeting ratified records set a long ago as 8/3/2012 and as recently as 11/24/2013, so now we know what is possible.

    Personally I would prefer a non-annual meeting system that ratified records four times a year. That should be possible also in the case of USATF Masters. But I may already have exceeded my welcome. So I am out of here.)

  15. Peter Taylor - December 21, 2013

    I will be announcing the USA Indoor Masters Championships in Boston this coming March. As things stand, if Gwen Wentland shows up at the meet I will not announce her as the W40 outdoor American record holder in the high jump. Furthermore, I would not announce her as the pending record holder.

    Why? I just took another look; Gwen is not listed at USATF.org as having a pending mark. As far as I am concerned, she is someone who was rejected for unknown reasons and has no masters records. If her mark was listed with a “(p)” next to it, things would be different. She has nothing. I don’t expect Gwen to go to Boston.

    I note that at Olathe there were only six women under the age of 50 in the high jump. One of the six was a two-time United States champion (indoors) in the high jump, a multiple All-American at Kansas State, and a member of the 2012 US Olympic coaching staff. I guarantee you that the high jump officials at Olathe knew who Gwen was.

    Even with all of that, she has yet to make “pending.” Interesting. I am reminded of 2010 Boston indoor masters, when Stacey Nieder set an American mark for W40 in the high jump and had a + (for “record”) placed next to her mark in the official results (the + is still there). I can assure you that Stacey never got that record, never even reached “pending.”

    In 2011, Stacey Nieder went to Albuquerque nationals and broke the record again, this time getting an “R” next to her mark. I guarantee you that when the initial list of pending records came out from the Albuquerque meet, Stacey’s name was nowhere to be found.

    The point is that I have covered just one age group (40-44), one sex (women), and one event (high jump), and I have given three recent instances in which someone broke a record at nationals and initially got nothing, as in zero. I should note that in one of the three cases (Nieder in 2011), a group of people (not including me) got together, and Stacey was given her record. Interesting.

  16. Mary Harada - December 21, 2013

    enough of this already-the current “system” is broken. Time to fix it – it was time to fix it years ago – yet the same folks keep singing the same song.

  17. Mike Fortunato - December 21, 2013

    Hear, hear, Mary! I teach axiomatic rationality and I love how people continue to assert their axioms/assumptions as if they are conclusions. Wonderful class material.

    The system is broken and we are neither slaves nor serfs. We are powerful enough to insist upon a fix if we want it enough. It is silly to think we must accept a Big Daddy in the Sky (see Freud) when we can do this ourselves.

  18. Pole Vault Power - December 21, 2013

    The best way to make change happen is to show up at the Annual Meeting every year and demand it. Get involved with your Association. Offer to get involved helping with records.

    Just from reading the comments, it sounds to me like there is some kind of agreement that records set at Nationals are supposed to be automatically submitted and are normally accepted, but that someone failed to submit Gwen’s record. Just my guess.

  19. Weia Reinboud - December 22, 2013

    (About when the record committee could/should do their work: in my country they do it at least just before the nationals. So, at the championship speakers and competittors will have a very recent update of the records at hand.)

  20. Mary Harada - December 22, 2013

    easy enough to say “show up at the annual meeting every year and demand it”. Having attended one annual meeting – my impression was that power is in the hands of an entrenched few. If you are not a member of the committee in charge of whatever you want changed – foregetaboutit – you are not likely to be heard. And who has the money and the time to travel to these meeting to show up and do what – stand around with a sign and demand change? Be real – USATF is an institution that suffers from hardening of the arteries. Many parts of it need to be changed. The rules for approval of masters records is clearly a part that needs change. This has been obvious for some time. There is an effort underway to make this change but note that since the “annual meeting” is the only place and time during which rules can be changed – it takes years to bring about meaningful reform even when there is a will to make change. I am not one of those who thinks that masters should jump ship to the National Senior Games organization. Yes we need to work within the existing framework – but I would hope that those who represent us would do more than post a note about how “USATF is the …” – that is NOT a helpful response.

  21. Pete Magill - December 23, 2013

    My two cents: Athletes themselves should have to do nothing more than point out to the meet director/race director (track/roads) that a record has been broken, then give the director their name and USATF number. The rest is up to the race director–assuming the meet/race is USATF sanctioned.

    Don Chazen, whose timing company handles many of my local So Cal meets and XC races, has suggested that there be certified timers for certified/sanctioned races. Any mark submitted by a certified timer in a running race on a pre-approved track or road race course should be automatically accepted as legitimate. I agree. The same could exist for those certifying measurements in field events.

    The meet director enters the verified result into the online database, which is immediately posted–subject to challenge at the annual meeting (meets, meet directors, road races, race directors, and timers lose their certification if they’re found to have submitted incorrect results as records–or if they fail to submit the result after being notified by the athlete that a record has been broken).

    Meets/races with certified tracks/courses and certified timers would be listed by USATF, so athletes would know where to run.

    The current system doesn’t work. Requiring athletes to gather all paperwork and signatures for records in order to have records ratified is insane–because the records have been broken regardless of the paperwork-gathering success. To pretend that a record is only broken when paperwork meets all criteria isn’t rational.

    A year ago, my M50-54 5K road “record” of 15:05 wasn’t accepted because the paperwork was “lost in the mail.” A year later, Brian Pilcher’s M55-59 road “record” of 16:07 on the exact same course as my 15:05 also wasn’t accepted because the paperwork was “lost in the mail.” Do we really think that the US Postal Service lost both fully-filled-out applications? Or do we think that relying on paperwork in a digital era is begging for the accidental misplacement of that paperwork? The Magic Shoe race director (where Brian and I ran) specifically got his race certified and sanctioned in order to attract record attempts. Will USATF refund his money? Seriously, people, the system doesn’t need tweaks. It needs to go, replaced by one that is sane and responsive to actual competition results.

    Okay, so maybe that was more like a nickel. 🙂

  22. Christa Bortignon - December 23, 2013

    To add my 5 cents to this discussion. What Pete is suggesting is how it was done in Turin. The meet director already knew that I had broken the record and took care of ALL required signatures and documents.
    They also passed the information on the European Records’ Chair. Not only was all the information available instantly (they entered all results via computer as the events were taking place)the photo finish was/is available on line.

  23. Ken stone - December 23, 2013

    Great idea from Pete! The SoCal timer’s name is Don Chadez, BtTW. He’s a former track coach and T&FN photographer who was an assistant coach at Valencia HS in Orange County when I ran there in the early 70s. Don also ran the steeple in masters for a while. Good guy.

  24. Mike Fortunato - December 23, 2013

    This discussion has taken a turn for the better. Does anyone want to offer some concrete action steps for moving forward on improvements and changes to the current system?

  25. Ken Stone - December 23, 2013

    Mike, review the ad hoc committee report at:

  26. Pete Magill - December 23, 2013

    Yikes! That’s what I get for writing out Don’s name pre-coffee! LOL! I’ve known Don for years, and he was one of my best friend’s coaches, so color me red with embarrassment.

  27. Weia Reinboud - December 24, 2013

    Nice nickel-message Pete!

  28. Ken Stone - January 24, 2014

    Today is Jan. 24, and it’s been almost 5 weeks since I first wrote Sandy about this issue. I’ll write her yet again.

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