The Timing Crew Streamlines High School Track and Field Meets

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – John Jeren has a stack of  note cards in front of him to help him double check the relay race results on his two computer screens. He is confirming the correct groupings of four runners for each school at a track and field meet at Austintown Fitch High School.

Cameras flank either side of the finish line, and nearby is The Timing Crew trailer where Jeren works.

The Timing Crew, which has a staff of six, assists Ohio High School Athletic Association officials in running quick, efficient meets for the athletes, coaches and onlookers. It utilizes $85,000 worth of, including Hy-Tek sports software, in monitoring the finish line.

Jeren, Ted Marroulis and Jim Fox founded The Timing Crew in 2011 to streamline the results of meets like Wednesday’s Division I Regional at Austintown. Schools are charged a flat rate for these services, Jeren says.

Jeren practiced as an attorney until a couple of years ago. Marroulis is a financial adviser in Salem. Fox retired as the Boardman High School athletic director about 20 years ago. All of them had children who competed in track and field years ago.

“It’s a way of giving back,” Fox says. “Somebody did this for us. We just found a way that could be a lot more efficient to do this.”

The crew uses desktops, laptops and finish line cameras that can freeze-frame incoming runners at a thousandth of a second to determine the winner.

The stopwatches that once were the determining factor have been made obsolete by technology such as the FinishLynx timing system.

“We have broken virtual ties down to thousands of a second,” Marroulis says. “It’s about what’s right and who actually qualifies to advance. When you’re going from districts to regionals and regionals to state, you’ve got to make sure you have the right top kids.”

Meanwhile, Fox works with the OHSAA officials at the meet – starters, timers, announcer and clerks of the event. Clerks are responsible for relaying the rules of the race and promptly getting competitors to their starting marks for each particular event.

The Timing Crew co-founder John Jeren double checks lineups to ensure each school has the proper runners listed before examining race results.

“With fully automatic timing, if you’re not in the right heat or right lane, it’s an automatic disqualification,” Fox says.

The OHSAA requires fully automatic timing, which is what systems like The Timing Crew provides.

“It’s the most accurate time you could get,” Jeren adds. “When that [starter’s gun] goes off, the concussion from the gun will start our computers up. If you’re doing hand time, you have to add .24 seconds because they figure your hand is quicker than the gun.”

As a race completes, John Jones evaluates the finish of the race – looking at the still shots of the runners or the adjoining video screen to make sure the athletes are in the correct order.

“He starts the evaluation process, saves it and ships it to me,” says Marroulis, who sits at a desktop computer next to Jones. “I evaluate. He’s getting the next race. I’m keeping the ball rolling. Once I’m done, [Jeren] pulls it and does the scoring.”

Jeren and Marroulis are the mainstays on middle school, high school and collegiate meets The Timing Crew handles, averaging 32 during the spring, Jeren says. Marroulis says they are booked for 35 in 2022. They’ve been everywhere from Bowling Green State University to California University of Pennsylvania.

“There are not enough weekends for us,” Jeren says. “We’re limited.”

The Timing Crew saves coaches, athletes and spectators from waiting for results to be printed and stapled on a nearby board, as in years past. There is a link for unofficial results through TimerHub on the company’s website to view results minutes after the race has finished, a service they have provided for the past five years.

Austintown Fitch High School head boys track and field coach Seth Steiner says The Timing Crew enhances the meet’s overall experience.

“Those guys take pride in what they do and try to go above and beyond to provide a great service, such as live results being accessible immediately after each event on your phone or tablet or displaying results on the stadium scoreboard,” he says.

“We’ve been to a lot of big meets across Ohio and it’s safe to say that they’re one of the best at what they do.”

Pictured: Ted Marroulis points out to John Daubenspeck the end of a race using the FinishLynx system, which allows video to be freeze-framed to a hundredth of a second.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.