In the world of race timing, there are two different aspects involved that most never think about. One is timing the participant, but the other is the actual scoring. Both are important to cross country in order to get the individual and team scores. In our last blog, we talked about the different technologies used for timing a race. This time we’ll talk about the actual scoring and what has to happen in order to produce accurate results.
Timing of an event is fairly straight-forward. In regular road races, there are two times for a participant; chip time and gun time. The gun time is the actual time from when the gun goes off until the runner crosses the finish line. The chip time is separate in that it is the actual elapsed time from when the runner physically starts the race according to their chip until they cross the line. It can sometimes be the same if they were standing right at the start, but most often will be slighter faster than the gun time. In cross country though, all runners are timed according to their gun time. It doesn’t matter if a runner gets a slow start, he/she will be timed the same as everyone else. The timer sets their start time based on the particular heat and the category that the runner declared. If the coach said that they were a JV Girl for example, then their time will be set with all other JV Girls. Sometimes coaches place a runner in the wrong heat and so they end up with an incorrect starting time. This can cause an incorrect elapsed time for the runner because their time is calculated from their finish time minus their start time. If they have the wrong start time, then obviously their elapsed time will be incorrect. Some software will try to fix this automatically, but that can be problematic if multiple categories are run at the same time. It is better to simply declare the category and let the process work as it should.
The other reason why category declaration is important is because of filters. Team athletes love to cheer their team mates on during a race. This includes standing at the fence near the finish line. It is highly probably that the chip can be detected by the timing system if approached too closely. Sometimes a timer can detect this if the heat is small, but in large meets with lots of participants, it is impossible to see. For this reason, timing systems will have a filter that will ignore anyone not supposed to be running at that time. E.g. Filter out JV Boys if the current heat is JV Girls. For manual or photo type timing systems, this is not an issue because no one crossing the actual line is in the wrong heat so the software is able to assume and make the appropriate change. Some chip timing systems also allow this because the read range of the mats is so low that the chip cannot be detected beyond a couple of feet so barricades can be deployed to prevent the issue. The better solution is to simply employ filters to prevent errant reads. This of course requires the coach to make sure that their data is clean.
Once a finish and elapsed time are calculated for a given runner, then the timer is able to score a race. Assuming that the data is clean, the scoring should be easy and without any issues. We'd be happy to have you join us at the finish line to see it in action.