On-deck swim officials don't fumble so badly, generally. But, let's look at the use of technology and leverage it when we can.
In the first championship final of Saturday afternoon’s state meet, the 200-yard medley relay, an audible gasp came from the crowd as Chesterton’s leadoff swimmer noticeably took off well before the starting beep came.
Naturally, the officials caught the false start and disqualified … Franklin, which was minding its business four lanes away.
Okay, "minding its business" might be a stretch — Franklin was one of four teams, along with Carmel, Chesterton and Penn, flagged by officials for an early departure during that medley relay, but somehow the only one confirmed by two officials and removed.
(For what it’s worth, Grizzly Cub coaches said they reviewed the exchange on which their alleged infraction took place and said it looked clean.)
The decision/indecision caused quite an uproar on deck as coaches from various teams conferred with one another and watched replays of the beginning of the race.
Photo stills of the start showed that the hands of Chesterton backstroker Alejandro Kincaid hit the water before Carmel’s Wyatt Davis had even let go of the starting handles in the next lane — yet the Trojans remained on the podium in fourth place. Even their own fans could be overheard in the lobby after the meet, still stunned that they somehow escaped justice.
Franklin coach Zach DeWitt went over to the officials’ table after the race and protested the decision, but to no avail. The Grizzly Cubs, who had finished sixth in the water, were pulled out of the award ceremony.
The effects of that call rippled through the entire meet. Franklin, which was positioned for a likely team finish somewhere between fifth and eighth, was hobbled by the 26-point hit and wound up tied for ninth with Center Grove — which moved up from seventh to sixth in the medley relay after Franklin’s DQ and gained two extra points.
Chesterton, able to hold onto its 30 points, stayed up for third place, knocking four other teams down a peg. Hamilton Southeastern, which like Center Grove got two extra points out of the affair, wound up tied with Penn for sixth. All of the top 10 team finishers, save champion Carmel and runner-up Munster, had their placement impacted by the decision in some fashion.
And none of it had to be that way.
With the event being broadcast online by the IHSAA and hundreds of camera phones likely catching a clear view of the start, one has to wonder why controversial disqualification calls such as that one can’t be reviewed on the spot.
Heck, never mind the footage. The IU Natatorium has equipment on site, placed on the starting blocks, that can detect whether a swimmer takes off early, whether at the start or before the teammate preceding him or her on a relay touches the wall. It’s used in NCAA meets and Olympic trials held at this same facility.
So why can’t the IHSAA use it too? In this age, with so much technology available that can mitigate or eliminate human error, it seems pretty silly not to use it.
After Saturday’s fiasco, DeWitt seemed eager to state his case.
"(Franklin athletic director Bill Doty) and I have already talked about us crafting an email to encourage the kind of change that probably needs to take this sport into the 21st century," the coach said, "and I can assure everyone that there’s not a coach on the deck that wouldn’t be in favor of it. Who doesn’t want fairness in this sport? That’s what we’re striving for, and we’re doing it for the kids."
Indiana has long been known for its stubborn refusal to ride the wave of progress; the state almost seems to take pride in its unwillingness to keep up with the times, and the IHSAA is no exception. The belated move to class basketball, the ongoing refusal to abandon the blind draw in all of its state tournaments (already written that one before), and now this.
The counterargument is, "Well, we don’t want to take the power out of the hands of the officials" — but what kind of power are we talking about? The power to mistakenly penalize some swimmers and let others off the hook?
Swimming officials presumably take on that role because they’re passionate about the sport and the positive impact it can have on young athletes. They should be just as in favor of getting calls right as anyone else, if not more so.
And if the IHSAA is true to its mission statement, it should want the same thing.
Indiana’s state swim meet is one of the fastest and most prestigious in the country, and it’s held at one of the most modern facilities in the sport. The tools to do the job right are already there. Steadfastly refusing to use them, while very on brand for the Hoosier State, is a disservice to the young men and women that the IHSAA purports to serve.
Officials made a mistake on Saturday. Why not use the available means to prevent that from happening again?
Ryan O’Leary is the sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The technology can't be used on backstroke, as it can in other types of dive take-off.
Seems that there are other blocks that have been used at the IUPUI Natatorium too. These blocks are not the best.
The sporting landscape in Pittsburgh, as well as the USA, is frail and full of missed opportunities. Communities often fumble on their offerings. A holistic design is seldom part of the mix. The problems with the media, with political leadership and self-interest, especially in the school administration sectors, are ripe.
Those in the UK, Australia, Canada and elsewhere, seem to get it while those in the United States fumble the vision of what sports can and should do for more people -- from participants, coaches, boosters, classroom-educators, fans, reporters, sponsors and politicians.
The United Way of Western Pennsylvania is, as of the fall of 2019, making some efforts to consider sports as part of its day-to-day mission. Hooray!
The strengths-based model has been adopted by Sport England's “use our school” initiative. It is “committed to helping people and communities across the country create sporting habits for life” within the facilities in schools. http://www.sportengland.org/facilities-planning/use-our-school/. The UK schools have, by and large, only a fraction of the sporting facilities that are present in the typical schools in the United States. Meanwhile, the greater majority of schools in the UK do already use the school sports facilities for community sports.
In Pittsburgh, the facilities are generally present, but modest in terms of being modern and functional. Few, if any, are inspirational. All of the facilities could use some upgrades of some types, especially in terms of being accessible from the sidewalks without needing to transverse throughout a maze of hallways to reach the sports venues. But the important message concerning the Pittsburgh Public Schools facilities is their closed status. The facilities are generally used for physical education classes in the school day and with school teams. However, for most afternoons, evenings, nights, weekends, holidays and summer-time hours -- these facilities are closed and locked to community programs.
A use our schools initiative for Pittsburgh Public Schools sporting facilities would be a fantastic start for the United Way's efforts.
Pittsburgh's inventory of strengths and a strength-based model is also a welcomed as an early planning step.
The UN desires implementation partnerships for programs that lead to lifelong health and wellness, yet the UN's vice-president for Global Advocacy — World Vision, Mr. Charles Badenoch, stated, Unfortunately today there is a dearth of data on the effectiveness of partnerships. We need to learn from what works and what doesn’t work across all sector partnerships at all levels.
This video talks about the different motivations and viewpoints from different kids. Frankly, the slogan that fits often is "Different strokes for different folks."
Perspectives matter. Travel is awesome. However, this travel is not for the kids. It is travel for the leadership. It would be great to know that the students of PPS were hitting the road and zooming around town, the region, throughout the WPIAL and PIAA.
Travel and transportation are mega issues. But it is often yellow bus woes, not airline tickets for the honors band, national qualifiers nor science fair competitors.
The swim team at The Pittsburgh Project should be able to enter this swim meet too. We want in! We've asked for years.
Perhaps with the new folks at City Hall, Kathryn and Ross, this can be changed. Perhaps, with the new energy for the recruitment and training of lifeguards, this can be put onto the table as a good will deed too.
It will be a better meet with more participation and more energy.
Then again, we can blame Pitt, as there are heart-wrenching defeats dished out to the EAGLES of Boston College, the FALCONS of Bowling Green, the Red Hawks, etc., etc.
Lamb, Sheehan, Ed-Tech spending and Cuba trips.
Yes, it was my birthday. And yes, I am a Tarus, the Bull.
For my birthday, I want our city kids to fill the ranks of our lifeguard staffs.
Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Being fit, and being an athlete, requires weekend workouts.
Kids and families want the weekend workouts.
Meanwhile, in the northern reaches of western Pennsylvania, at Slippery Rock University, the kid triathletes are working on their swimming, biking, running and transitions at a clinic on the weekends too!
Since the opening weeks of Pittsburgh Obama Academy, the principals prohibited Saturday practices for the various swimming programs. First it was Dr. Wayne Walters. Then it was Principal Colbert. Neither would sign-off on the necessary paperwork to allow for practices in the swimming pool. No pool permits were ever granted for varsity and middle school students who attended the school for any Saturdays.
Total discrimination, for years. And, each year, the issues were raised.
Other schools have Saturday practices and even many have Saturday meets. Not at Obama.
As a result of these roadblocks from the principals, the team often had to make other arrangements. Obama would hold practices at Arsenal Middle School. And, then the route was for the creation of the Saturday Swim School at other schools. Practices were shifted elsewhere, including Oliver High School and Allegheny Middle School.
Athlete who once attended Westinghouse High School moved out to Penn Hills and returned to Pittsburgh for the NCAA Division I championships in March, 2019.
Wise of him to get out of Pittsburgh Public Schools because of sports.
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