During my travels training customers with electronic timing systems and software, I worked at some decent track facilities and some very difficult track facilities. Luckily the individuals working in the sport of track and field work hard for their sport, with whatever tools they have to work with.
I remember one small town quite well, with a high school of only four hundred students and they had just built a new athletic stadium and purchased a basic track timing system. I was quite surprised at this stadium in a small town with only a single stop light in town. The stadium was surrounded by beautiful brick walls and iron fencing with elaborate gates and iron work. The track was a very nice eight lane polyurethane track and a new synthetic turf field.
I was on site for two days of training and one day working with them to operate the new system for their annual track and field invitational. Once we were out at the track and setting up the system for timing I was informed that all the hurdles are marked to run in the opposite direction on the home straight. When they designed the track, they extended the home straight past the common finish line for a run-out at the end of the sprints. They didn’t account for the extra ten meters in the 110 Meter High Hurdles on the opposite end. They didn’t have room to start the 110 Meter High Hurdles from the correct end of the track, so they marked all the short hurdle races to finish at the 100 Meter Start Line.
Having multiple finish lines is common at many tracks and is not always a problem to handle with the proper connections and infrastructure. The problem we had for the competition was that they had only purchased a single camera system and the track facility was only wired to the common finish line. It required us to run power and data lines down to the 100 meter start line for the hurdle races. They only had one tripod to mount the camera, so we improvised and used a ten-foot step ladder and a piece of steel pipe on one end to mount the camera. That was the easy part of the operation. During the competition, the camera and computer had to be moved from one finish line to the other between races and aligned properly on the finish line, in a very short period of time. Seeing that they recommend about two hours to properly setup the camera, computers and test the system before the competition starts, this was going to be a very stressful competition.
This situation could easily happen at a facility that has a very restricted budget and has to make things work as best possible. I point this situation out, because the budget was not an issue and the money was spent poorly on the track portion of the project. They installed a huge LED display along with the latest software to push video and graphics to the board. They also purchased three wireless cameras for live video footage to the display board during sporting events. The athletic venue also included two 70 yard synthetic football fields on the lower terrace and one was enclosed for training during the winter season.
Situations like this can easily be avoided if during the planning phase of the project all necessary questions are asked. Even if the budget was tight, some conduit and a junction box at the 100 Meter Start Line would have made a world of difference on that day. The school could have borrowed a camera from neighboring schools and had a second camera for the alternate finish line and there would have been no issues during the competition, unless there was a strong head wind for the hurdle races.