It might not be the Olympics, but even in the world of competitive youth swimming, victory and defeat can be separated by mere hundredths of a second.
No one at Friday’s first day of the 2017 Madison All-City Swim Meet knows the importance of precise timing better than Middleton native Austin Lacey, a former High Point swimmer who has been timing All-City meets since 2010.
He has served as the administrative official of the annual community event since the role was introduced by USA Swimming in 2013.
Lacey, a 22-year-old University of Wisconsin student, competed with the High Point squad from age 6 to 13. He started timing the team’s home meets while watching his siblings.
“My siblings both swam, so I started doing the scoring at our home meets because I had to be there anyway,” Lacey said. “I’ve always liked technology.”
This year’s meet, held for the first time since 1964 at Maple Bluff Country Club in its newly renovated 25-yard pool, boasts high-tech tools ranging from touch-pad timers to real-time results to live-streamed events.
Lacey’s role is to make sure all the times are properly recorded and sent out, down to the millisecond.
Lacey and his 10-person team collect the entries, process the data, seed the meet, and oversee scoring operations using Hy-Tek Sports Software’s Meet Manager program.
“I am ultimately responsible for making sure everything is accurate,” Lacey said.
Precise measurement proved valuable, even on a day packed mostly with preliminary events.
Swimmers broke several records on the first of three days. The event is expected to attract more than 2,000 competitors and 5,000 spectators, according to meet communications director Kelly O’Driscoll.
Lacey said the timing system is fully automatic, equipped with touch pads in the pool and backup buttons.
All volunteer timers wear manual watches in case the technology fails.
“We compare the pad (times) to the button, and if there is more than a 0.3-second difference, then we check the manual watch times to make sure there is not some sort of error,” Lacey said. “The younger kids don’t always touch the pad hard enough, so it won’t stop it and that flags our system.”
The pads are only installed on one side of the pool, so they don’t work for the age 8-and-younger group that sometimes swims just one length of the pool.
Lacey also runs a web development company called Mod9Multimedia. His team designed and produced this year’s meet website, with results uploading almost instantly.
Lacey isn’t the only technology-savvy person involved with this year’s meet.
Maple Bluff’s team works with Yuriy Gusev, an entrepreneur who has produced video and live streaming of national, junior, and world ski championships since 2003.
Gusev, who moved from Russia to Madison in 2002 and graduated from UW, is working with local tech company 5Nines to stream the meet on monitors around the venue and across multiple online platforms.
“We have wireless transmitters sending video to the two tents, and those transmitters can send (video) up to about a kilometer, or 3,300 feet,” Gusev said.
Two viewing tents have been set up, one to the left of the Maple Bluff Country Club’s scenic first tee and another just off Lake Mendota at Maple Bluff Beach Park, in full view of the Madison skyline.
Another monitor is located on the country club’s new outdoor dining and bar terrace.
The event is also being streamed live on the event’s website, facebook page, and isthmus.com.
Gusev said Maple Bluff’s $5 million improvement project has given him vantage points to set up cameras. Previous meets, he said, have streamed only one bird’s-eye view shot.
“We want to show a little bit more emotion around the event, so we’re getting close-up shots around the bleachers and on the athletes before the start and right after the start,” Gusev said.
As of Thursday, he had six cameras placed around the pool. He wants to add four more over the course of the weekend.
Gusev is used to working bigger events with audio and video engineers on site, but attested to how much he’s enjoyed partnering with the all-city meet this year.
“It’s a really good group. They are pretty well organized so it’s easy to work,” Gusev said. “For this level of event, it’s pretty impressive.”
First medals given
Thursday was mostly full of individual preliminary races to determine spots in Saturday’s finals.
But a pair of 200-yard medley relay teams in the 11-12 age group left the Maple Bluff pool with some hardware.
The Hill Farm boys relay won (2 minutes, 4.27 seconds), as did the Seminole girls team (1:59.85).
The new Maple Bluff pool opened in May 2016, so many pool records are expected this weekend. Pool records were set in all 32 events held Thursday.
Also, six All-City records (for pools configured in yards) were set: Nathan Lamers (Middleton), boys 13-14 100 freestyle (:49.48); Katrina Marty (Seminole), girls 15-19 100 backstroke (:57.03); Gabriela Pierobon Mays (Hawks Landing), girls 13-14 100 individual medley (1:00.72); Alexander Moen (Maple Bluff), boys 100 individual medley (:56.63); Kiara Bissen (Ridgewood), girls 13-14 100 breaststroke (1:06.43); and Henry Miller (Shorewood Hills), boys 15-19 100 breaststroke (:59.01).
Results in Scoreboard. D5