7 Lane Track Lane Assignments

November 2006

WHICH FOUR PERFORMANCES most captured your attention in the now-completed season?

For me, I’d have to say, in chronological order it was X-Man’s 19.63, Tyson Gay’s 19.68, Sanya Richards’ 48.70 and Wallace Spearmon’s 19.65. The last three of those are all covered in this issue.

There’s a bond among all those times that’s not immediately obvious, because results never make any mention of it. And that was the lanes out of which each of those superstars ran. Carter was in 8, Richards was in 7 and the Arkalums were in 6.

It’s rare to find runners of their caliber running that far outside. If it’s a meet such as the WC/OG, IAAF seeding rules will put the fastest qualifiers into the “preferred” lanes—3-4-5-6. And when it comes to the major invitational meetings, athletes with their kind of pedigree have enough clout to ask for the lane of their choice, which leads to a heavy preponderance of 3-4-5.

At this point, some history: until ’85, the IAAF still operated under quaint 19th-century ideas of fairness, which dictated that lane draws should always be completely random. The NCAA—being light years ahead of the internationals—had long recognized that people should be rewarded for performing well in prelims. Heat winners got the middle lanes, 2nd placers went around them, etc. When the  IAAF modernized it adopted its current system, which splits an 8-lane track in two, with the top four seeds put into a random draw for 3-4-5-6 and the bottom four randomly in 1-2-7-8.

That leads me to two pointed questions:

•Why should there be any random aspect to the draw in any race?

•In a sprint around a curve or two (200 or 400) why is the middle of the track given preferential status when it’s clear that the farther out you go the easier the bend is, thus leading to the possibility of a faster time with the same expression of effort?

In response to the first query it strikes me that running well in preliminary rounds (just as those jumping/ throwing well in the first half of a field final will) should lead to a defined order of running. No half-and-half grouping.

In answer to the second, not only would I question why the middle is given preference at the WC/OG, I would also get radical and suggest that each race is different and the athletes should be given their choice (choice?! omigods the peasants are storming the castle!), just as they get in invitationals.

Typically, star sprinters have not chosen outside lanes in the invitationals because they want to be able to see their rivals (I always thought this mind-set cost Michael Johnson a few World Records in the ’90s; his 19.32/43.18 came from 3 & 5). But perhaps the results of this summer will change some minds. “I like  running in the outside lane because I’m big and I’m a fighter,” said the X-Man after his lane-8 heroics. Spearmon was originally in 4 in Korea but switched to 6 later on.

I can see 10 good minutes of TV coming out of an Olympic 200 final’s seeding meeting, run just like a pro draft. Top-rated runner A is concerned with being able to see everybody so he takes 8, then seed B hates the curve so he takes 7…

I want to see the athletes with the chance to maximize their potential, and inner lanes just don’t do that. Of course, the truly radical solution is to get rid of the curves, but that’s a bit of fantasy for another column.

Click Events from the Main Menu Bar and click Add or Edit Event.

 

Once heats, sections, or flights have been assigned, then the placement of athletes or relays in lanes or positions must be determined.

 

Field Events Choices

Best to Worst
Worst to Best
Random
Alphabetical
Competitor #

 

Position assignments within flights have the five choices listed above.  All athletes with no entry marks will be placed at the beginning of the flight if Worst to Best is chosen, and at the end of the flight if Best to Worst is chosen. By choosing Random, all position placements will be random.

 

Running Event Position Assignment Choices

Standard Lanes
Custom Lanes
All Random
Standard Alleys
Custom Alleys
Waterfall Start

 

This is the most difficult and complex part of seeding track events because there are so many ways to assign lanes or, in the case of distance events, assign positions or alleys.

 

MM assumes the following rules:

 

1.All individual events less than 600 meters and relay events 3200 meters or less must be run entirely in lanes or start in lanes, and so the lane range choices are 2 to 10 only. Lane assignments can use standard lanes or custom lanes (Standard Lanes or Custom Lanes) only. (See randomization rules in the following paragraphs).
2.600 and 800 meter individual events may be run either entirely in lanes or partially in lanes. If Standard Lanes or Custom Lanes above is selected, then it is assumed they are run entirely in lanes and the lane range choices are 2 to 10. If "All Random", "Standard Alleys", or "Waterfall Start" above is chosen, it is assumed they are run partially in lanes and the number of athletes per heat or section can be any number you wish (up to 160).600 and 800 meter individual events may be run either entirely in lanes or partially in lanes. If Standard Lanes or Custom Lanes above is selected, then it is assumed they are run entirely in lanes and the lane range choices are 2 to 10. If "All Random", "Standard Alleys", or "Waterfall Start" above is chosen, it is assumed they are run partially in lanes and the number of athletes per heat or section can be any number you wish (up to 160).
3.        All individual events longer than 800 meters and all relays of over 3200 meters are assumed to run partially in lanes. The only choices for position assignments are "All Random", "Standard Alleys", or "Waterfall Start", and the number of athletes per heat or section can be any number you wish (up to 160).
4.        In lane races use the Randomization Rules found in the Seeding Preferences Section of the Set-up Menu.

 

Standard Lanes and Custom Lanes

Standard lanes means use the standard lane preference pattern set-up in the Seeding Preferences.
Custom lanes means use a custom lane preference pattern for use by one event only.

 

Note the following about standard lanes and custom lanes:

       Both use randomization rules established in Seeding Preferences.
       Both are only for events run in lanes.
       Both have a 1 to 10 lane range.
       Custom lane preferences are set when the event is set-up.

 

There are four randomization rules , one of which must be applied to each of the following 3 types of events:

 

Types of Events

Timed finals
Round 1 of several rounds
All rounds following round 1

 

The Four Randomization Rules

 A - No randomization

 B - Randomize all lanes

 C - Randomize half and half

 D - Randomize in pairs

 

To clearly understand this part, assume a heat has 8 athletes assigned to it and the lane preference pattern is fastest in lane 4, 2nd fastest in lane 5, 3rd fastest in lane 3, 4th in 6, 5th in 2, 6th in 7, 7th in 1, and 8th in 8 (4-5-3-6-2-7-1-8). If the randomizing rule for the round is no randomization (rule A), then there is no change to the lane assignments. However, if all lanes are to be randomized (rule B), then the lane preferences are of no consequence in the given round and all athletes in lanes 1 to 8 will be mixed within lanes 1 to 8. If the rules call for randomizing the fastest 4 athletes and then the next fastest 4 as two distinct groups (rule C), then the four athletes in lanes 3-4-5-6 will be mixed randomly within lanes 3 to 6, and the four athletes in lanes 1-2-7-8 will be mixed randomly within lanes 1-2-7-8. If the rules call for randomizing the 8 athletes in pairs (rule D), then lanes 4-5 will be mixed, 3-6 will be mixed, 2-7 will be mixed, and 1-8 will be mixed.

 

Random Position Placement

Random position assignments can be used for any track event of 600 meters or more and all relays of over 3200 meters. It means to mix all athletes within a heat or section and to place them randomly in positions.

 

Standard Alleys

 

Custom Alleys

 

Waterfall Start

Also known as the "arc start", athletes and relays are assigned positions based on a position preference list set-up in the Seeding Preferences Section of the Set-up Menu.

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