Debate lingers over record

by Scott Bradley

Gophers senior runner Paul Michalek is the first to admit that computers are only as good as the people who use them.
At the Jesse Owens track and field meet Sunday at Ohio State, the automated timing system broke down, causing times to be recorded by hand. Michalek finished second in the 800 meters, running the event in 1 minute, 48.0 seconds, which is a school record.
Or is it?
Although Michalek broke Ed Twomey’s 1969 record time of 1:48.2, Gophers coach Phil Lundin is still waiting to hear what the official time is from meet officials at Ohio State.
According to NCAA rules on hand-timed running events, an additional .24 seconds should be calculated into the original hand time. That would put Michalek .04 seconds behind Twomey in the record books. But when Twomey ran at Minnesota, times were always recorded by hand, and the NCAA rule did not exist.
Today, everything is fully automated. For instance, the starting gun is hooked up to the timing device, and there’s a special camera on the finish line that records exactly when the runners finish.
Considering Twomey did not have the additional .24 seconds added to his time, Michalek now holds the fastest hand or automated time in school history. Michalek, who has provisionally qualified for the NCAA championships in the 800 and 1,500, said it’s tough recording a time by hand.
“It depends on who is calling the shots,” he said. “There’s no real accurate way in figuring the time out. That’s just what they (the NCAA) figure as the discrepancy between auto and hand time. So it could have been faster or slower.”
Resting up for Big Tens
With the Big Ten championships just two weeks away, Michalek said he will not compete at the Gophers home meet Saturday at Bierman Track and Field Stadium.
He is just one of several Minnesota athletes resting this weekend in preparation for the biggest meet of the outdoor season. Before the conference meet, athletes will have an opportunity to compete at the Minnesota Last Chance meet, which begins at 11 a.m.
Junior Rick Obleman, who is still hoping to qualify for the NCAA meet in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, is among those who won’t compete this weekend.
Michalek said he feels pretty confident about his chances at the Big Ten meet. Minnesota has not won a conference title since 1968.
“I feel pretty confident about Big Tens,” Michalek said. “I think most of the guys are ready. Everybody’s been looking pretty good lately as far as competing and performances. We should fare quite well.”
Ready to rumble
Four Minnesota athletes have either automatically or provisionally qualified for the NCAA championships beginning May 29 in Eugene, Ore.
The Gophers have sent at least a thrower and pole vaulter to the NCAAs every year since 1991, and that tradition will continue this year. Junior discus thrower Jason Schlueter and freshman pole vaulter Vesa Rantanen have qualified for the meet.
In his first collegiate decathlon at Minnesota last month, Jensen automatically qualified in the decathlon by scoring a school record 7,590 points. He joins Schlueter as the only other automatic qualifier.
Michalek is provisionally qualified in the 800 and 1,500, but he said he plans to compete in only one event. A provisional mark does not guarantee athletes a spot in the NCAAs, but Michalek is ranked high enough nationally that he will likely earn a spot in the meet.
Minnesota has not sent more than four athletes to the NCAAs in the 1990s, but this year there are several other Gophers close to qualifying. Rick Obleman and high jumpers Wil Kurth and Tyler McCormick are close to earning provisional marks.