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  • Jeff Feeney

Track Striping - Costly Errors

Track Striping - exchange zones

I had a training session in 2018 at a high school in Western Nebraska. The school had their track resurfaced and painted within in the last year. We did a walk-thru of the track stadium to discuss the set up of their new Fully Automatic Timing (F.A.T.) System.

Sadly, there were a lot of items missing to make the setup and operation of their F.A.T. system optimal. It may have been due to budget issues, which can be understandable in many cases. It appears there was not much thought put into their cost-cutting methods when they did it.

Synthetic competition tracks are to be designed so that there is a “Common” finish line for all events, except in the case that certain events need to be run in the opposite direction due to high or unsafe headwinds. This is not something that changed in the last 5 years or 10. F.A.T. Timing systems have been around since the 1940's. Some would argue that they don’t have an F.A.T. System and still use stopwatches to time their track and field competitions. That may be the case, but what if they are saving money to buy an F.A.T. System in the near future (which this school did)?

In an effort to cut costs (because I can’t see any other reason for doing it), when they striped the track for the hurdle events, they did not paint marks for the 100m and 110m hurdles to run both directions. What they did instead is use the same marks going in the normal running direction and create separate start lines and finish lines to run in the opposite direction when there is a headwind.

Looking at the opposite end of the track, which would be the 100-meter start line and the common finish line for the 100 meters, 100-meter hurdles and 110-meter hurdles, there were now 3 finish lines. A yellow one for the 100m hurdles, a white one for the 100 meters and a blue one for the 110m hurdles. No big deal right, they save money by using less paint (probably not) and less time marking extra hurdles (definitely). In order to time all 3 races on a day with strong headwinds it would now require 2 extra finish photo cameras. This is a cost of about $5,000 - $10,000 per camera, depending on the model of camera.

Some people might say just run into the wind and tough it out, what’s the big deal. Why should track athletes suffer because people don’t do their research and the track program is left to simply make due? Others might say, can’t you just move the camera to the different finish lines for each race and make due with one camera. Again, why spend the money to design a round hole and give the customer a square peg and try to make it fit. Track events have a certain order they run for several reasons, athletes need rest, equipment needs to be set up and taken down. You can’t just run them in any random order. Moving the camera multiple times during the course of a competition adds a great deal more time (probably an hour or more in this case) to an already long day.

I ask, why do you need a consultant for the design and construction of a new track, here is a perfect example. The cost for my services is significantly less than what it will cost to fix this mistake. The answer would have been to ask an expert and not just look at where you can cut dollars out of the project.

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