Could Step-Over Starts Be Causing Relay DQs At SECs?

At least one SEC coach has speculated that the step-over relay start (originally popularized by Texas which you can read about here) is creating a situation where despite clean relay takeovers, swimmers are being disqualified due to the reaction judging pads thinking that they left early at this year’s SEC Championships.

In a step-over start the swimmer prepares for the takeover with one foot on the wedge and one foot behind the wedge on the back portion of the block. When initiating the motion, the swimmer brings their foot onto the front edge of the block with their toes. At no point is there full contact with the foot on the portion of the block in front of the wedge.

Although it’s just speculation, the belief is that the Relay Judging Platform (RJP) is recording swimmers leaving earlier than they actually are due to position of the foot; most likely the step foot leaving the front of the block an instant before the wedge foot does, or the front foot not registering at the front of the platform.

While there’s no proof that this start is causing the false readings from the pads, there is video evidence of disquadlified relays that appeared to be safe but show negative takeovertimes from the RJP.

Beginning with Wednesday’s preliminary session, the RJPs were turned off at the meet for both individual and relay swims. No relays were disqualified in the men’s or women’s 200 free relays on Wednesday evening.

As of now, the following relays have been disqualified at the SEC Championships

Women’s 200 medley relay

  • LSU
  • Vanderbilt
  • Arkansas
  • South Carolina

Women’s 800 freestyle relay

  • Vanderbilt 

Men’s 800 freestyle relay

  • Missouri

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Grumpy
5 years ago

Or maybe they actually left the platform early! If the proposed theory is true, the delta would be extreme. The DQ’s are a couple tenths of a second at most.

With this decision to disable the devices, the SEC teams successfully gained an advantage over other conferences for the remaining relays. The NCAA should consider disallowing these times for NCAA entries.

This decision actually raises questions concerning the integrity of the meet committee, and places doubt concerning the integrity other times achieved during this meet.

Franklin
5 years ago

I think it’s a combination of issues. I think the incompetence of the University of Tennessee’s aquatic staff should also be blamed. The staff is using hand held iPads on deck as a source of video review. The staff never stand in the same position and make it difficult to judge every lane with varying angles. Sometimes standing behind the end of the pool! When the system misfires, like what is described, they recall the iPads which don’t provide an unbiased angle of the exchange. After the first night debacle the staff have ruled out use of the system and officials are doing all of the DQs by sight. Multiple teams are left with glaring point deficits. Is this fair?… Read more »

Swimfever
5 years ago

How can it even be possible? “most likely the step foot leaving the front of the block an instant before the wedge foot does”

Seems to me with forward movement that would be impossible without causing something awfully funny looking! Think about it…

FRANK
5 years ago

is there any chance of these DQs getting overturned? Missouri’s dq seems to have gutted them

NYC Unicorn
5 years ago

Everybody wants to be like Texas

JJ W
5 years ago

Possible? Yes absolutely. This is why you need High Speed Video to confirm the DQ.

tea rex
5 years ago

Is it possible to remove the wedge after the lead-off swimmer starts?

I have never used the starting wedge, so I do not know how easy they are to move.

Admin
Reply to  tea rex
5 years ago

tea rex – some are easier to remove than others.

barbotus
Reply to  Braden Keith
5 years ago

Is it venue specific, that is, dependent on the type of wedge? Quoting form the Pre-Championship Teleconference memo it would appear that there is no rule to prevent removal during relays.

“Starting Blocks/Wedges/Ledges:
All of these items must be identical for all lanes. They cannot be different. If using the track style ledges that can be removed from the block, there should be information presented as to the procedure for removing and replacing the wedges (especially during relays) and who will be doing this.

There is no rule preventing wedges from being removed during individual legs of relays.

When using backstroke ledges, they must be identical in all competitive lanes. There should be a protocol for who will be… Read more »

barbotus
Reply to  barbotus
5 years ago

This was meant to respond to ACC Fan.

Acc fan
Reply to  barbotus
5 years ago

That must be new for this year. Within the last couple of years, I was sure it was restricted! Thanks for confirming.
It should be a requirement to remove if they are at fault for the relay DQs (unless they add sensitive pads to the wedges).

Acc fan
Reply to  tea rex
5 years ago

This used to be allowed, but a couple years ago they restricted the removal of the wedge during the relay. The rule is now you must use the wedge for all four swimmers or none at all.

tea rex
5 years ago

Sometimes I wish that instead of entirely DQ’ing relays (where a team can lose 50 points in 1/10th of a second), if a relay swimmer leaves early, multiply the negative reaction time by 10 and add it to the relay’s time. So if a relay goes 1:35.00 but one swimmer had a -0.08 reaction time, their final time is scored as 1:35.80.

That’s still a pretty steep penalty, but seems more fair than scoring zero points in a conference final where even last place is guaranteed 30+ points.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  tea rex
5 years ago

Nah, that’s bad. Like BaldingEagle’s post outlines, it should be a mix of judges and electronics that determines it.

Acc fan
Reply to  tea rex
5 years ago

The reason they are disqualified is because it is just plain unfair that they got off the block before they should have. In a relay, if a team is ahead, it creates a completely different outcome for the swimmer in the water (they will likely swim A LOT faster). If a swimmer has mastered their take off so that they have a 0.00 differential, then that is their risk to take. There is no reason why a swimmer can’t be a bit more safe if they aren’t used to exchanging with the swimmer in the water.

About Mitch Bowmile

Mitch Bowmile

Mitch worked for 5-years with SwimSwam news as a web producer focusing on both Canadian and international content. He coached for Toronto Swim Club for four seasons as a senior coach focusing on the development of young swimmers. Mitch is an NCCP level 2 certified coach in Canada and an ASCA Level …

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