Competition Season is Approaching–Know Thy Rules

It’s almost December and you know what that means… competition season!

This article may seem trivial, but every year there are stories.  Horror stories.  I’ll share a few here.

Entries: Bogus seed times, Heat sheets, and Lane draws

Bogus seed times is the MY BIGGEST PET PEEVE in Track and Field, especially indoor track where a good seed time gets you a better lane draw on the oval events. This applies to heats and straight timed finals.  Personally, I don’t care if it’s 3 or 4 rounds like International meets, as the first round is usually a warm up race for those who are lucky.

Time and time again, I see this happen.  I also see the host track team get the favourable lane draws, too.  (** cough cough Sherbrooke University cough cough **)

And that is for the regular athletes.

The elite ones have it even tougher.  We banned Mt SAC after several years of getting jerked around trying to get our athletes in the elite sections.  Coaches put their PRs from several years ago when they are clearly not running what they used to.

And when the results are posted, those coaches say, “oh, it was a negative wind” or “the track was soft”.

Entries deadlines

This story really irks me, even though it’s from swimming.  But it could apply to track and field.

Basically, the coach emailed the entries on Friday afternoon instead of entering them via  The Tournament Director had left the office for the weekend and by Monday morning, the entries were pulled from the website and the list of 24 qualifiers in each event had been sent out.

There was no exception.  The athlete would be watching the opening heats from the stands or from home.

The pool has 8 lanes and they had compiled 3 heats.  By adding a late entry, it would require 4 heats.  Or bumping the 24th qualifier which would not be fair, either.

The swimmer could go to the meet and be on “stand by” or “waiting list” in the event of a late scratch, but there’s nothing worse than not knowing if you are going to run.  Trust me.  See my Mt SAC rant above.

Getting there: Bring ID

When I was coaching and competing in Canada, we often had to go to Dartmouth College in Vermont (back in the days when Vin Lanana was coaching there… yes, he was even a *nice* guy back then) and Cornell University.

Granted this was all pre-9-11-2001 but you still need proper ID to cross the border.

We had one athlete who just brought their bus pass, and we were detained for over two hours.  The 400 meters heats were that day, and I literally had time for one indoor lap jog, and few stretches, one stride, and then the gun went off.  I can tell you one thing:  without a proper warm-up,  I had buckets of lactic acid everywhere.  Even there.

If you have International students, make sure they get their tourist visa sorted out before hand.  Usually it’s a $6 I-94 card that’s good for 3 months.

Getting there: Bad weather

Speaking of Cornell University, our bus went off the road during an icy snow storm on the dreaded Highway 401 that links Montreal and Toronto.  We did manage to push the bus back on the highway with 28 athletes.  The problem was the bus was perpendicular to the highway and once the bus was in motion, the oncoming cars wouldn’t yield us the right of way.  Then we got stuck again.  So we had the skinny distance women go on the highway and stop traffic, while the men pushed the bus.  I love shot putters and throwers.  Putting tree branches under the tires helped, too.

Please drive carefully.

Schedule changes

I think the one story everyone remembers was the infamous 100m quarter-finals in the Munich 1972 Olympics and the disqualification of two American sprinters, Eddie Hart and Rey Robinson, who missed their quarter final races.

Lee Evans, who was on the 4×400 relay team, did a valiant effort to sprint back to the Athlete’s Village to inform them of the schedule change.

Hart and Robinson missed their races, but the 3rd American Robert Taylor got there less than a minute before his race, stretched twice and finished second, advancing to the semi-finals.  Taylor, who died in 2007, would later win the bronze, and he was considered the “3rd string” next to Hart and Robinson.  The latter duo would have (could have?) given Borzov a run for the Gold (here is the video). 

Well, maybe, but we’ll never know.

You can read more on coach Stan Wright here.

If you have any horror stories to share, I’d love to see them in the comments below.

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

Coach & Founder at
I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation, writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America.
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
  • I agree – the bogus seed time rule reallly irks me, especially as a masters sprinter at open meet.

    There is a series of indoor meets in Ottawa each year, and for the 150 or 200m races, they only allow the first 2 or 3 heats (out of 11 or 12) to have blocks… needless to say everybody enters a much faster seed time in an effort to get into those first couple of heats. So I may be faster than a lot of these younger kids, but I get stuck in a pathetically slow heat in lane 1.

  • Be early for your events, it really helps when events which go before yours aren’t going to be run and yours gets bumped up.

    My race was after 2 heats of both men’s & women’s 4x100m and 2 heats of women’s 400mh. The first race was scheduled to start at 9:00 AM and my 400mh was due at 9:30 AM. Less than 8 teams showed up for both relays and for the women’s 400mh. I arrived at the track at 8:55AM only to be told be my coach that they wanted to run the men’s 400mh right now at 9:00AM. I literally put my spikes on, set the blocks and raced without warming up, stretching or passing a single hurdle. Luckily I was in the easier heat and qualified second. My problems came in later at the 400m heats at about 11AM where I tore my hamstring, product of not warming up for the hurdles.

  • I’ve got a couple:

    1) Indoor meet at University of Washington, the timing got screwed up so roughly 10 athletes had to re-run the 60m dash to see if they would qualify for the final.

    2) Speaking of timing errors:

    There are two fairly good sized masters only meets in the Seattle area, and both of them had major timing problems. Now I don’t mean the timing seeming like it’s a few tenths slower or faster, I mean situations where someone is listed as having run 8 seconds slower than the athlete he or she PASSED in the final 20 meters, or having run several seconds slower than people they left behind at the 50m mark.

    They were almost all in the 200 meters too.

    Needless to say I don’t plan on running at that venue anymore.

    3) We also have open meets here in Seattle every week, and oftentimes we Masters get hosed. Some of us can run with the High School and College kids, we may not beat all of them but we can make the ones that beat us earn it.

    However they often leave the faster master’s runners out of the fast heats, it’s frustrating to get stuck in a slow heat and then watch the so called “fast heat” with younger but slower athletes.

    I will say that when I was in my teens and 20s I probably would’ve hit the roof over any of these things, but now, I’m annoyed, frustrated, sure, but I don’t really get angry. I was told in college that my career was over due to my foot problems, so I’m really just too thankful for being able to compete again to care “that” much about bad meet management right now.

  • Bogus times are the most aggravating thing about track seedings. Not only do athletes take the “rightful” spots of other athletes getting into more competitive heats, not only are we teaching our athletes to lie to “win”, but, it all but forces honest coaches to lie to get their kid where they belong. Then, to top it off, you have no idea of how much you have to lie to get a “fair” seeding. Many years ago I was seeding the outdoor State Track meet in CT when I called the meet director and told him that he had to stop the meet and bring the coach and 4 x 800m relay team down to the field. Not only had the coach lied on his entry time, but so blatantly that he had put a WORLD record time down! Aggravating and ultimately disrespectful to our sport.