Gotta trim the FAT to make the record books

June 02, 2006|by ANDREW MASON

Timing is everything - especially in the sport of track and field.

In the May 13 edition of The Herald-Mail, it was reported in an Associated Press story on page A20 that American Justin Gatlin had broken Asafa Powell's world record in the 100-meter dash with a time of 9.76 seconds at a meet in Qatar.

On page A19 that same day, coincidentally enough, it was reported by me in our Area Roundup that Jefferson senior Josh Brown had broken former Jefferson star James Jett's 17-year-old Tri-State record in the 100 with a time of 10.60 seconds at the West Virginia Region II Class AAA championships.

Some timing, huh?

Ironically enough, neither record stands today because of timing issues.

Gatlin's time was 9.766 seconds - not 9.760 as originally thought - and was correctly rounded up to 9.77, which equals but not breaks Powell's world mark.


While Gatlin's race was recorded by fully automatic timing (FAT), Brown's race - I recently discovered - wasn't.

Due to wet and rainy conditions at the Region II meet, some races - including the 100 - had to be timed by handheld watches.

To convert handheld times to FAT times, .24 seconds are added for distances less than 400 meters and .14 seconds are added for distances 400 meters and longer.

Jett's 10.62 in 1989 was recorded by FAT and is clearly superior to 10.84, which is what Brown's time at the region meet converts to.

But even if Brown's 10.60 stood, it wouldn't be the Tri-State record, as I also recently learned.

Jefferson lists Jett as its school record holder in the 100 at 10.02 seconds - a time the 1992 Olympic gold medalist and former Oakland Raider recorded at a meet in Buckhannon in 1989.

It's also a time that, by the rules of the sport, should be rounded up to 10.1 because it was handheld. It's been converted to 10.34 for our area-record purposes.

And that brings me to perhaps my No. 1 pet peeve: All the track coaches, officials and timers in our area who incorrectly report handheld times to the hundredth of a second, making them indistinguishable from superior FAT times.

"Big deal," an area coach has said to me about this.

If a big-league baseball player was credited with a milestone home run after hitting a triple and scoring on an error on the play, it would be a big deal.

If people want our newspaper to make a big deal about the local kids breaking records, then guidelines and rules have to be followed for any records to even exist at all.

Timing, again, is everything.

Andy Mason is assistant sports editor of The Morning Herald. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2334, or by e-mail at

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