A commentary about software in, from, about or somehow remotely connected to the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Track Meet Technology

I recently returned from a working vacation in Orono, Maine where I joined the Media Operations Team at the 2007 USA Masters Outdoor Track & Field Championships. I was there providing computer support at the behest of Media Director and old buddy, Bob Weiner.

Longtime valley residents may remember Bob as one of a string of democratic kamikazes who attempted to end
Bob Weiner and onlooker
Bob Weiner and onlooker
Sylvio O. Conte’s several decade stranglehold on the Massachusetts District One congressional seat.

Bob made a spirited run for the office in 1986. He was trounced but rebounded in a big way, moving to Washington, DC, where he used his political skills and penchant for promotion to direct the press operations for Congressmen Charles Rangel and John Conyers, then joined the Clinton White House staff as press secretary to Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey. When George W. Bush came to office, Bob left to form his own political consulting company, Robert Weiner Associates, and continues to issue opinion pieces on drug policy, public affairs and his favorite pastime, masters (over age 30) track.

At the meet I shared a tarp with the crew of Brewer Timing Services, and was quickly wowed by the array of technology that went into making sure the races were timed accurately and results reported quickly. The timing folks used a computerized system from FinishLynx. It was designed by Doug DeAngelis from nearby Orrington and is now used to time track, skating, cycling, swimming, kayaking, horse racing and other speed sports throughout the world. The starter's pistol automatically activates a digital timer accurate to better than one one-hundredth of a second, and when competitors cross the finish line they automatically trigger the firing of a high-speed camera that captures and uploads a digital image of the runner with a time bar superimposed below. In this way a photo reader from Brewer Timing can line up a straight edge along the torso of the finisher’s image and read off the exact finish time.

FinshLynx photo of the finish of the Men's 60-69 2000m Steeplechase
The image above shows the kind of photos that they work with. In fact the final runner in the photo, with arms raised, is Bob Weiner. He took fourth place in the men’s age 60-65 2000m Steeplechase with a time of 9:58.10.

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