Saturday, February 14, 2009

Coaches give overwhelming YES to more FAT timing

At last night's business meeting of MITCA, the state's high school coaches sent a strong message to the MHSAA that they want to see the implementation of automatic timing at regionals. That was one of the proposals approved that could lead to an increase in accurate timing throughout the sport in Michigan.

To quickly summarize the voting (recall that proposals must receive at least a 70% endorsement from MITCA to be considered by the MHSAA)--Also, note that the wording I use here is not the actual wording of the proposal, but my shorthand after-midnight version:

1. Should regional hand times be rounded up to the next tenth for seeding at the state meet? AGREE 92% disagree 8%
2. Do you agree with the goal that we have all regionals FAT timed by 2014?
AGREE 93% disagree 7%
3. Should regionals be able to use FAT timing if it is available?
AGREE 90% disagree 10%
4. In cases where some regionals are hand-timed and others FAT-timed, should the hand times be converted for seeding purposes? AGREE 89% disagree 11%
5. Should the conversion factor be used be 0.4 seconds? AGREE 84% disagree 16%
6. Should we establish an early qualifying window (two weeks before regionals) in which certified meets with FAT and wind gauges can be used to qualify athletes to the state finals? AGREE 78% disagree 22%

I've never kept track of typical results of MITCA coaches surveys, but these are the most overwhelming numbers in my memory. They should send a very clear message to the MHSAA that the coaches in this state strongly support providing athletes with the best timing available. One longtime MITS officer called the margins "unprecedented" and said that they should be regarded as a "mandate" by the MHSAA.

The final proposal, about the early qualifying meets, is one of the most interesting. You can (and the coaches almost did) debate all day about what effect that might have on team dynamics at the regionals. However, the proposed early qualifying standards are so tough that the answer, really, is that this will have very little effect on regionals. What this proposal will actually do is provide huge incentive for invitationals and conference meets in this window to provide quality timing and officiating for our high schoolers.

In the end, I heartily endorse all these moves, as they are an important step in bringing our state's track program into the 21st century, and providing accurate feedback to all of our athletes. The athletes have given their coaches their best efforts, and the coaches are now doing their best to measure those efforts accurately. We're moving in the right direction, and it's heartening to see.

I hope that the MHSAA--cash-strapped and sometimes averse to change--respects the wishes of the coaches to move the sport ahead. I'll do my best to keep you posted on this.

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