Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hand timing vs. FAT

If you look through the weekend's high school track and field results, you may notice an odd notation when glancing at the Division II district results from Pymatuning Valley.

Lake Catholic senior Je'Rica Sanders won her fourth career 100-meter hurdles district title with a time of 14.0 seconds. That would break Hannah Cope's area record in the event if it was fully automatic timing - commonly known as FAT. But it was not, as the race was done with hand timing, i.e. someone at the finish line utilizing a stopwatch. Apparently there was an equipment malfunction during this event.

Because it was hand timing, the area record cannot be awarded. Why, you ask? Allow me to explain.

The human reaction time with a stopwatch, obviously, is not quite as accurate as a computer's ability to judge when an athlete crosses the finish line with FAT. Because of that, when hand times are taken into account, a conversion has to be placed on the performance. In shorter events (200 meters or less), track statisticians commonly use .24 seconds as the addition to a hand time to put it theoretically in line with what would have been a FAT time.

As a result, technically Sanders' time was 14.24 seconds, putting her close to Cope's 14.02 FAT time from 2006 but obviously not enough to surpass Cope.

It's a shame technology got in the way, but either way it was a good run Saturday and part of a big day for Sanders, who also won the 100, 300 hurdles and 200, as she eyes her third straight D-II state title in the 100 hurdles.

As I've written recently, I think Sanders has a 14-flat or sub-14 in her soon. She got the 14-flat part, but because of a computer error just not with FAT.

- Chris Lillstrung


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