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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Joel Lin
4 years ago

Yes.

And another problem is the lack of uniformity in the review process. At thes conference meets & at NCAAs there should be an absolute digital margin below which every relay exchange is reviewed. The number is arbitrary. Let’s call it everything under 0.15 seconds.

Per that trigger, each relay exchange is video reviewed. If there is a video camera fixed above the start end, it can’t be considered too burdensome to take a look for the toes on block versus the hand of th finishing swimmer. Review everything, get it right. Takes 5-10 minutes after each relay to qualify legal versus DQs & it winds out fair.

KTHW
4 years ago

It is interesting that more of the DQs were women’s relays, I wonder if perhaps the men are still applying more pressure (weight) to the pad in the blocks when they leave? Could be just a coincidence

JVJ
4 years ago

Not sure how the front foot would leave the block before the wedge foot.

Acc fan
Reply to  JVJ
4 years ago

The front foot typically starts on the back of the block, so once the swimmer lifts that foot up, the only foot remaining is the one on the wedge (not touchpad sensitive). It seems as though the touchpad is registering the back foot being lifted up as the swimmer leaving the block. Once the front foot makes it to the front of the block, it is too late, because the touchpad has already registered the swimmer leaving.

RickJ
4 years ago

This is exactly what happened with the UVA Medley relay getting DQ’d at ACCs (and should of been two other relays in the same heat using the same logic). I don’t think the rule was correctly applied IMO but that is another topic for debate.

It is not necessarily the “step over start” that is causing the negative reaction times, it is the placement of the toes on the front of the platform where it is not being correctly recorded.

I have about 30 high definition photos of both the UVA and Duke relays which accurately shows the problem. The UVA relay had a -.08 reaction time because it did not record the swimmer’s toes on the front of the… Read more »

Admin
Reply to  RickJ
4 years ago

RickJ – we’d love them. Can you email to share.com, please?

RickJ
Reply to  Braden Keith
4 years ago

Braden, I sent you a link on how to access them.

Doug
Reply to  RickJ
4 years ago

Agree

Baldingeagle
4 years ago

I think that the Tennessee pool uses Daktronics. If so, the pads are called Relay Take-Off Platforms, RTOPs. I’m not sue how the Colorado pads work, but Daktronics RTOPs are capacitors on a normally open circuit. Those are not pressure-sensitive. When a swimmer steps on the block, the capacitor charges with a very small load. At the instant when the last tiny bit of contact is removed from the blocks (i.e., the Last toe is touching the top), the capacitor discharges and closes the circuit, sending a signal to the computer. The first step over the wedge should not trigger, provided that some contact is still on the pad by the other foot.

However, I just did a quick… Read more »

barbotus
Reply to  Baldingeagle
4 years ago

I’m unclear about the last paragraph regarding the NCAA rule. I’m going to quote Article 6c, 6d, and 6f from the current NCAA rules, which appears to me to completely take the human judges out of the equation when RT is between -.01 and -.09. Seems to that the machine is the only judge within that range unless there is conclusive video evidence to overturn. Outside of that range the “two out of three” applies.

Am I misreading the rule?

NCAA Rules Article 6

d. If the electronic relay takeoff equipment detects an exchange differential (takeoff pad time minus finish pad time) of –0.09 through +0.09 second inclusive from the manufacturer’s starting point, the decision(s) of the human judge(s)… Read more »

tea rex
4 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
4 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
4 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.

tea rex
4 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
4 years ago

tea rex – some are easier to remove than others.

barbotus
Reply to  Braden Keith
4 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
4 years ago

This was meant to respond to ACC Fan.

Acc fan
Reply to  barbotus
4 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
4 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.

JJ W
4 years ago

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

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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