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Milliseconds Matter

Over the years, (and recently) I've been approached and asked why our district runs on a point system rather than aggregate times. My short answer: milliseconds matter.

A millisecond is a unit of time equal to one thousandth (0.001 or 10−3 or 1/1000) of a second. Our sport is timed to the thousandth; and that millisecond can be the difference between the bottom of a division and the top of another.

Consider these tidbits: a human eye blink takes somewhere between .100 and .400 seconds. It takes the North American hummingbird .018 seconds to beat its wings a SINGLE time.

So, back to the original question. Why do we use a point system instead of aggregate times?

  • Our #1 reason: We run in different arenas, with different pattern sizes. Dropping your slowest/least desirable time doesn't help when we run on both indoor and outdoor patterns.

  • Additionally, an aggregate time series where your least desirable time is dropped does not mesh well with our double-header races; where you can roll your time to the second race.

There are a handful of members and friends that I've had the opportunity to converse with regarding both pros and cons of the point system and the aggregate time system. I myself, have been victimized (LOL) by having points in the 2D, 3D, 4D and 5D in a single season.

Out of fairness, let's take a look at reasons for and against both methods. Let's assume a 6 month series, 1 race per month, for a total of 6 races.

Pros of Aggregate Times

  • Rewards consistency against the clock

  • Dropping your slowest/least desirable time benefits the contestant

  • Dropping your slowest/least desirable time allows for mistakes or missed races

Cons of Aggregate Times

  • Ground conditions fluctuate: overwatered or underwatered, deep ground vs not, weather exposure, etc. These variables over the course of a series can affect how contestants clock.

  • Barrel placement: Can we guarantee that every barrel, every time it's moved, is set directly over the top of a stake in the ground? How often have we watched a (well meaning!) volunteer set a barrel slightly off of the marker?

  • Pattern consistency: Do we know with certainty that the eye is placed in the same location at all 6 events and that the score length remains the same?

Pros of the Point System

  • Helps mitigate inconsistency in pattern size, score, barrel placement, and ground throughout the season

  • Rewards consistency against other riders

Cons of the Point System

  • Contestants may land in a range of divisions

  • Contestants may not earn points at all, if they place too low in a division

Here's my challenge for you: pull out a stop watch that has the thousandth place (or use this online stopwatch).

How quickly you can shut the clock off? After 10 attempts using a mouse and computer, my fastest reactionary time was .079. If it takes me at best .079 to click a mouse, I'm willing to bet that any of the above variables will affect the clock too.

As a producer, I will always try to maintain consistency on race day. As contestants, we've all experienced ground that gets faster or less sticky as the day goes on, and sometimes even ground that deteriorates as runs are made. This is a challenge that we will continue to have at both single header races and double-headers, but know that it is one that I am cognizant of.

Feel free to drop a comment - let me know what your start/stop time was!

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