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


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.

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

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.

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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