Prevailing Winds: Critical to record performances and safety
As most track and field fans know, wind is a critical component in the short sprint events and several of the field events. Wind is taken into consideration in the rule books and must be recorded for record purposes and standards are set for an allowable wind speed.
Quite a few years back a university planned and built a new track and field facility for the sole purpose of track and field, not shared with other sports. The hopes were to bring large competitions like the NCAA Championships and even the USA Track and Field Championships to the site.
When the track facility was completed it looked great and they had installed a top of the line track surface for high level competition. The only problem was that the finish straight of the track was into a headwind. They were able to win the contract to host a major competition, but the facility did not live up to its potential and to this day it isn’t much more than a training facility for the university track team.
They had to move the finish line which basically requires the track to be flipped 180 degrees and then void out the existing markings for start lines and hurdle marks and paint new ones relative to the new finish line. There are over 280 markings on an eight-lane track and having two sets of everything simply made the track extremely confusing for officials and athletes. There were other minor things overlooked, but they were corrected in time with change-orders during the final construction.
Wind is such a critical factor in track and field that even the most beautiful facility cannot cancel out the effects of a terrible headwind. Even an average track and field facility can draw some of the best athletes in the world if it has a favorable wind. Hartnell College in Salinas, California is a perfect example where some of the best discuss throwers in the world travel there to compete, simply to catch that perfect wind.