Behind the lines…Wait for the Beep

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    Sports may not seem like it to the casual observer, but technological advances on the track, the court, and the gridiron oftentimes outdistance those of traditional society.

    The football helmet comes to mind most often. What was once just a leather helmet without a facemask has evolved into the high-tech (and extremely high cost) cushioned, hard-shelled device of today.


    Track and field is an area where technology is always breaking new ground.

    Last Friday, and again Monday this week introduced a new starting system to the runners of Fremont County. Our kids aren’t alone, the rest of the state has the same innovations.

    Tom Nirider, a veteran track official who has been a starter at the state track championships, used a speaker that emits a loud, high-pitched beep, instead of the familiar blast of a handgun at the Shoshoni Invite on Friday and again at the Riverton/Lander Dual on Monday.

    If you watch NCAA or Olympic track you’ve seen this system in action. The commands are the same for either a two-command or one-command start, but the sound is different, and the rules for the manual, backup timers at the finish line can be a challenge.


    Timers used to look for the smoke from the starter’s pistol, now it’s the flash of a bright strobe that starts the race.

    Most of us don’t care whether it’s a gunshot or a techno-beep. People tend to not want to change, and that’s the only issue with the new system.

    The system costs more than a .32 caliber starter’s pistol, but when you add up the inflationary cost of blank .32 caliber ammunition, the system makes sense. A box of 50 rounds of .32 caliber blanks now sells for about $75. At a dollar fifty a shot, that adds up. Especially in big meets where there can be as many as 50 heats of the 100-meter dash alone. That’s $75 for a single event.


    One bit of technology that moved onto the track from the business world has made coaching track infinitely easier.

    I remember our track coach, the legendary Leroy Sinner writing the Wind River Cougars entry form on Monday during business class. The meets were always on Saturdays in those days. Coach Sinner had to mail in his entries on Monday to ensure the boys (there were no girls’ sports yet) were in the correct events.

    A few years later, as head coach of the Lusk Tigers, I had to mail in the boys and girls (thank you Title IX) the same way.


    In my second year at Lusk, the fax machine became available, and I was able to send my entries to the school hosting that week’s meet. We were able to wait until Thursday morning to send in your entries.

    For those that have never coached, that extra time was crucial. Kids get better with practice, and some may choose to not complete an English paper or fail a math test. Both of these situations lead to changes in relays, events, and the entry form that allows them to happen. 

    Last-minute changes were made early Saturday at the “scratch meeting” about an hour before the field events began. A scratch meeting used to be conducted in the cafeteria at most meets with the meet official moving through each event asking if there were any changes or additions.

    It used to annoy me when some teams would have changes for every event. They’d scratch four kids, add four more, and then consult their assistant coaches to see if one or more of their kids had even been at practice that week.

    My entries were set, unless one of the boys or girls was injured, sick, or had a family emergency. I just sat through most of those meetings with a cup of coffee and on good days, maybe a donut.

    Email took over the fax, and soon after, became the standard. You were able to enter athletes, change their events, scratch them, or add new kids all with the click of a mouse. You still had a deadline, but it was usually the night before the meet. Once this technology arrived, there were no more early morning meetings on the day of the event.

    Runnercard was great, but it took a little technological skill to enter a team and even more to pull the file, enter it into the Runnercard software, and then build heats.

    It was outstanding software. It gave the fastest kids lane four automatically and set the others in lanes three and five for the second and third fastest times coming in. It often created the perfect “V” finish that a properly seeded track meet should provide.

    Runnercard has been replaced in Wyoming, and in many states by, though Utah still uses the older technology effectively. offers a full platform for track coaches. You can conduct virtual meets and check the status of your runners or hurdlers against the rest of the conference, your classification, or the state and nation as a whole.

    It’s great stuff for a track junky.

    It’s free for anyone to view meets but has a subscription price for the advanced features.

    The magic of any meet comes in how that technology is used.

    A father/son team is busy this spring in meets across the state. Shoshoni activities director Max Mills and his son Braxton ran the meet last Friday with Drew Peregoy in the press box. There are always a few hiccups, but the meet flowed smoothly.

    Max and Braxton traveled to Tongue River to manage an earlier meet and will be in the booth at Saratoga for the Panthers’ home meet.

    The Wrangler crew will be running the show at the West 1-A/2-A Regional in Shoshoni in a few weeks as well.

    The Roy Peck Invitational commences this Saturday at Riverton High School. Roy was an excellent runner in his day, a great coach, and an even greater proponent of Wyoming track and field.

    The meet honors the man and the work he did for the teenagers of Fremont County. New technology, or old, the stopwatch doesn’t lie. That’s why so many of us prefer it to any other sport.

    Just like leaving a voice mail, wait for the beep this weekend.


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