Ideas for improvement from the March 10 meet

Hey, @track-volunteers,

I’ve been going non-stop between finishing up the meet, coordinating the board meeting, and working on Skunk, but I didn’t want to forget to solicit any suggestions about how to improve things for the future while the meet is still fresh. Overall, the meet went well for runners, and I’ve fielded a number of compliments from runners and coaches. Good work, as always!

That said, I think this was one of our tougher meets in a while. I’m chalking a bunch of it up to Daylight Saving Time and lots of people—including the runners!—being just a little off due to lack of sleep. Toward the end, we were all also getting punchy because of the length of the meet, which was partly my fault for adding the 400m (and 40 extra minutes). I agreed to that months ago at a request from a coach only because March is normally our smallest meet, not our largest. That won’t happen again!

Nonetheless, even though we dropped a heat in each of the 60m, 400m, and 200m, we were running behind from the very start of the meet. The lag increased from 10 minutes after the first event to 35 minutes by the end. Not a big deal, but that’s the first time my pre-meet time estimates have been off by more than a few minutes.

Some notes I have:

  • When we do the 400m, we should remember that the first few heats of little kids can be done via a waterfall start rather than in lanes. It will run faster and be easier for them. We did this successfully with the first few heats of the 4x200m.

  • We need to bring a garbage can over near the check-in area because a fair amount of trash and recycling is generated there.

  • I want to brainstorm, particularly with Heather, Rich, and Sandy, about better ways to transition between events, particularly the 60m/100m that start at the far end of the track. It feels like we’re having trouble hitting escape velocity on the first heat or two, after which things run smoothly. Is there something we can do, perhaps by separating the clerk-of-course jobs differently, to get that first heat on the track more quickly while everyone else is lining up?

  • We added a sign about filling out a Change card for people who needed heat changes, which generated more changes than normal—at least 25 in total—with more than half being Add or Changes that required seeding adjustments. That in turn meant that Jesse and Laurel were reseeding regularly. Although it was good that we condensed a heat in each of the sprints, we also had runners who were confused or even missed their heat because they didn’t know the seed sheets had changed. My sense is that while we want to be flexible about seed changes when it’s important, we should not be encouraging it generally.

  • I got the impression that runners weren’t being good about checking in with the clerks-of-course at this meet, and I don’t know why. That’s why we have the flags up in the infield and use the hurdles to line up sprint heats—when a heat is ready, the runners can be walked to the start as soon as the track is clear from the previous heat. Maybe runners were being dopey from Daylight Saving Time? Perhaps my announcements weren’t sufficiently emphasizing the need to check in? Or maybe we need to educate runners about the need for heat check-ins when they get their bib?

Anything else on your mind?

I think one of the fairly large problems that we had last week is not so much a “fault,” and I’m not sure we could solve it completely, but, here it is:
There were some new “teams” at the meet (that’s good), but they didn’t really have coaches or supervisors to whom we could talk right before events. Thus, our clerks couldn’t walk over to a coach and say, "I need your team to come to [here] to sign in, and then stay [there] to be called to the start line, etc. And, we couldn’t say, “but you know that you should check-in at the banner…”
The above led to having a slowdown at the 60, and also another at the 400. Total time lag for these two events was probably 20 minutes (maybe 10 minutes each event). That, plus 10 minutes’ delay at the start, leaves us with ten more minutes’ delay “on general principles.”
We were a little sleepy, but some of that came from having to deal with small annoyances, such as the teenager who persisted in trying to jump start at his event (Did he know I wasn’t able to recall runners with my gun? No; he was just being a smart-a–.).

Time to forget that all and go on to Skunk.


I think overall considering the time change and the number of people competing, it went pretty well. Things are pretty efficient and kept moving about as fast as we could. It is an amazing team of volunteers and it was lots of fun.

But I would like to suggest something for clerk of the course. I know that I am not there for many meets, I wish I could do more but I work weekends quite often. Maybe you will look at my suggestion and say we tried that, didn’t work, …. I don’t know… but…I do know what I have experienced at other meets.

In my varied experiences as an official and an athlete, clerk of the course is a LOCATION where you check in. And it is stable and labeled with a sign that says clerk of the course. Normally, that is a table with a sign and people sitting there at the table. This is easier to find. Yes, I know there were flags that people were sent to, to find the clerks. But we were often not there. Partly because many people parked their bodies and their gear there at the base of the flag. And why not? After all the flag says FLRC not clerk of the course. Partly because we had to move over by the hurdles and flags for some races, and partly because we the clerks didn’t know that flag was the clerk location for a long time, because it doesn’t say clerk, it says FLRC.

My suggestion is this. Make the clerk of the course an actual location with a table and a sign stating clerk of the course. It should be a bit away from the start to cut down on the bodies there at the finish line. It could be located near the flags that the clerk of the course is using to sort people. Which makes sense, because we kept moving over there away from our designated flag (which we didn’t know that was our location, and as I said it had lots of people stretching on the floor there). With two of us clerking, one can man the table and hurdles with flags as the other is walking them over to the start of the 60 or the start of the other events. Then we are in one consistent location. Also, a table is easier to line up behind. Rather than trying to decide which woman to talk to and trying to figure out where the line is, then swarming them from all sides.

On a personal note, this would also give my knees a break, they were killing me by the end because we had no real location to sit down for even a minute. And yes, I went and got my own chair and I tried sitting in it, it was even near the clerk flag… But people kept sitting in my chair because it was not labeled as the clerk of the course thing. Also, a table between you and the people you are checking in keeps them from breathing right into your face, in your ear, and over your shoulder as much.

The kids were actually pretty good at finding us and checking in. The adults not so much. But I don’t blame the adults really. They have little patience for hunting down wandering short women in t=shirts while they are trying to warm up.


Sandy’s idea is good — clerk at a specific place. We used this for the Heps years ago.


I totally agree . Have a table with a big maybe overhead sign saying clerking ( area) where we can check folks in and then can bring them to the line.
Also announce at the beginning of the meet where the clerking area is and to ask coaches to help get kids clerked. And listen for first, second and last calls.

Rich Bernstein

Good suggestions, @track-volunteers!

  • Regarding the coaches, I can add to my pre-race communications to encourage them to do a little more wrangling of their runners when it comes to checking in for their heats. Many of the club coaches are also high school coaches, so they may not realize just how clueless little kids can be. And parents certainly won’t know.

  • I’m totally fine with adding a clerk-of-course table indoors if people think that would be helpful. (Outdoors is a problem because I have to bring the tables, and it’s already a stretch to bring two tables.) @heathercobb3, what do you think? @billwatson was our main clerk-of-course for so long that he had standardized on what worked best for him—let’s see if he sees this and chimes in with his thoughts.

    The idea behind the feather flags, which generally works pretty well, is that they give people a target that they can find in the infield—they’re the equivalent of that sign, Rich. It’s up to the clerks to control that area if runners are stretching there—you can either move the flag to where you want it or shoo the runners to another spot. Obviously, the location of the flag(s) has to change for the 60m race that starts at the far end of the straightaway, but the clerks can move their flags and hurdles (feel free to recruit parental help!) down and back.

    The main concern I have with a single table for our meets, as opposed to high school/college meets where the runners know what to do, is that I worry that it will just be mobbed with confused kids. The idea behind having the clerks-of-course be mobile was that they could put a group of kids in a heat, make them stand behind the purple hurdle, and then move on to the next group. If there’s a clerk-of-course table, either the table will have to move down to the far end for the 60m like the flags/hurdles do now, or one clerk will have to stay at the table in the middle and the other will have to shepherd heats of kids down to the far end for the start.

    But maybe if the clerk-of-course table is more in the middle of the straightaway than near the start/finish, it wouldn’t have to move and would be far enough away from either starting line that a waiting heat wouldn’t be in the way of other people needing to check in.

    Either way, it probably makes sense for one clerk-of-course to put runners into heats and the other to walk them over to the starting line and get them in the correct lanes (to reiterate, there can be NO lane changes because the timers depend on specific people being in specific lanes).

We were intermittently mobbed by confused kids anyway. And always will be likely mobbed by confused kids. Thats just their learning process. Plus, I didn’t think the kids were that confused or anything really, they were just being regular kids in my experience.

I would rather have them mob the front of a table than surround me.

Just to be clear, I am not saying get rid of the hurdles w their flags of color. Those are incredibly helpful and necessary and work well.

I am only suggesting adding a table near the location of the colored heat flags and label it clerk. The big FLRC flags are nice but without the addition on the work Clerk they are not really useful in my humble opinion. There is no equivalent to a sign saying clerk. I think it is confusing to people to be told go find clerk of course when it is a moving target.

Outdoor meets and tables are an issue as you say. You have a limited number. So outdoors I would still advocate for a sign on a post in a consistent location labeled clerk.

Bottom line. We tell people they need to check in w the clerk. We want to make it really easy for people to find the clerk.


Congrats everyone on a great series of indoor meets! I’ve been reading Adam’s race reports from afar, and I wish that I could’ve been there.

I don’t have much to add about whether it would help the clerk of course to have a table. It probably depends on who is filling that role and how they want to run things. One advantage of having the clerk at a table near the finish line is that it might be easier for the timers to hand the clerk updated heat sheets. The main disadvantage that I can see is that walking the littlest kids from the clerks’ table all the way to the start of the 60m might be difficult and could slow things down.

As Adam will remember, the way that I use to do it was to stand by a FLRC flag near the start for the 60m, wave my clipboard in the air, and yell for people to come and check in. Then, I’d line heats up behind hurdles. And then, an assistant clerk would take each heat to the start and put them in their lanes. For all the other races, I’d stand sort of near the finish line and check people in there. Those races, of course, have fewer little kids and are a lot easier to manage.

That system worked well enough for me. Since I have a pretty loud voice and wore my neon-yellow FLRC shirt, I don’t think that anyone ever had trouble finding me. I liked being on my feet because it made corralling the little kids easier; I felt like I had to be standing right next to them to get their attention and get them to listen to me. Again, not sure that these thoughts are very useful. In any event, good luck with Skunk!

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I thought Heather and I did a good job dividing and conquering . She wrangled the clerk check in and handed them over to me to properly place them in heats/lanes. I think a table somewhere in the infield of the last straight with a sign would work well.
And maybe Clerk of the course Tshirts!

I agree that we all did a yeoman (yeowoman?) job of taking care of the March event. Whatever comes this summer will be easy in comparison.


Agreed! I’ll leave myself notes for next winter, and we can touch base about it all in June at the first summer meet. Summer is generally smaller and more relaxing, and we’ll be back at Lansing this year, so there will be less stress getting onto the track.