Timing plays pivotal role at state track-and-field meet

Company timing state meet is very familiar with the track at UW-L

Crowning the right winner is important at any track-and-field meet, and the state meet is no exception. So having the right equipment to monitor the finish line is crucial.

During a track-and-field meet, the finish line is the one place everyone has their eye on, regardless if you’re an athlete on the track or a fan in the bleachers. That makes the job of declaring the state champion important.

The staff at Prime Time Timing, out of Milwaukee, have such a passion for the Wisconsin state meet that it’s no sweat at all.

During its 119 years, the Wisconsin State High School Track and Field meet has been judged in many different ways.

“I go back to 44 years ago. When I started, it was stands and stands of people, big racks of people, with stopwatches in their hands. There was one group of people that do the actual timing, there was another group that was actually picking first, second, third, fourth,” meet announcer Randall Pickering said.

But these days things are a bit more advanced.

“Basically the way the cameras work is they take thousands of millisecond-wide pictures every second. Each one of those pictures is time-stamped and when you kind of clump those pictures together it creates a picture of the athlete crossing the finish line,” Prime Time Timing owner Sean Gavigan said.

Gavigan’s company has been timing the state meet for a few years now, but he’s been on the track many times before.

“I grew up in Heartland Wisconsin, went to Arrowhead High School. I was on two all-state 4×800’s my junior and senior year,” he said.

Gavigan says coming back to the state meet each year is always exciting. Now that his company is determining the outcomes, however, there’s more to worry about.

“It’s not just the timing we’ve got here, we’ve got the field operators with the field event display boards, interfacing with the TV graphics, selling the finish line pictures as a memento for the kids. So we kind of have a lot of balls in the air for an event like this,” Gavigan said.

A big change from four decades ago, when timing was done with a stopwatch.

“The photo finish is all taken care of electronically. If nothing else, it makes the meet just continue to move in sort of a rhythm,” Pickering said.

To start the timer, the starter has a sensor attached to his or her start gun. When the gun is fired, the sensor picks up that sound, which sends a time stamp to the timing system, making the running times very accurate.

Click here if you would like to get results from the 2014 WIAA State Track and Field meet.