MileSplit Minnesota recently caught up with Wayzata Results Owner and Event Operations Director Josh Gerber to talk about how COVID-19 affected his timing company, the results of the MSHSL restrictions on the cross country season, and what to expect for the upcoming track and field season.
What was your initial reaction when you heard that the MSHSL was mandating only 2-3 teams per meet for the cross country season?
I was actually invited to the coaches meeting with the MSHSL to try and create a plan for the season, so it wasn't fully a surprise to see the limit on teams. I was just happy to have a season, regardless of what it looked like, I was just happy that the athletes and us as timers would have a season.
How did that affect your usual plans for XC?
From a business perspective, it was mixed, I went from thinking we had our schedule fully done, to thinking we are going to be overloaded with requests and wondering how we were going to cover all these extra meets.
I went from having a full schedule planned out to having 2 of our larger conferences that we time for, tell us we were not going to be needed this season (due to budget reasons and small meets). So I went from thinking wow I'm going to be overloaded to thinking wow I hope I get enough meets to pay my workers. Then another conference approached us and we picked up most of another conference's meets so we filled our schedule with those events.
So surprisingly we were pretty much just as busy as we were in past years, the meets were just smaller than in the past.
Overall, how did COVID affect your timing experiences last fall?
In the grand scheme not much, we did have to learn how to time with waves, so we had a small learning curve with that, but once we figured that out it wasn't that much of a difference than in the past.
The biggest change was moving from a reusable chip option (shoe tags) to using just chips in the bibs. We offered both shoe chips and bib chips as timing options in the past but removed the shoe chips because we didn't have the ability to clean chips after each race in the manner we would have needed to feel safe from race to race. At meets: each meet was different - my first meet back was in North Dakota and that was, I believe, a 12 hour meet, from start to finish. With different races and teams coming and going throughout the day. So it was nice to get my timing skills back at a low-key meet, it was draining because of the length of the meet.
Iowa meets were pretty much "normal" they had no restrictions during covid (local areas had mask mandates but that was pretty much it), they mostly ran "normal" meets.
For MN meets it was kind of nice having smaller fields, but we did have to pay attention to when races start because of wave starts, but mostly the meets lasted maybe 30 minutes longer than in the past.
What were some challenges you had to face as a timer with the pandemic going on?
For us, the biggest thing was buying supplies. How much to buy and when to buy it. Most of our basic equipment, (pins, labels, and bags) I had enough leftover from previous years that I didn't need to buy again, but when we switched to just bib chips, the biggest concern I had was how many to buy and when to buy them. So I bought 3 batches of bibs/chips throughout the season to cover our meets.
Another change was making sure our scoring software and live results software could handle wave starts and showing the correct results online. It took some fans a little longer to understand why the results kept changing (because someone in a later wave ran faster than someone in an earlier wave), but most people got it by the end. Our software made it pretty simple to see people's results and who was still out there on the course.
How do you see the pandemic affecting the upcoming outdoor track and field season?
While I have no knowledge of the MSHSL plans for the spring, my guess would be that we will see a limit of teams per meet again (probably 3, maybe 4 max), with a total number of people at the venue at around 250. So you might see a max number of "entries" at 225 (total athletes at the meet). And unless you are a larger school hosting a dual meet you should be fine. As for meets in general I think most coaches and athletes will be happy to get out and compete, regardless of the restrictions.