Facts, Not Fiction

 
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    Multiple Finish Lines
    #1
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    If you go to the link below, and perhaps monkey with the controls some, you'll see the homestretch at Stanford's Angell Field. The photo is probably from the 1930s or 1940s, and looks toward the 220y straight start and the football stadium.
    https://searchworks.stanford.edu/view/wd966cz1041

    Both the track and the football stadium were then in the same locations as today's corresponding facilities, and the alignment of the track oval is identical to today's or very nearly so.


    I'm wondering why there are two (2) separate finish lines, each with posts for the finish tape and stands for the timers. It cannot be to accommodate the 110m or 120y hurdles, because they've got plenty of straightaway, indeed, enough for the 220y straight race, thus not requiring a non-standard placement of the finish line like some old European stadiums do because of the 110H. Even the finish line farthest away from the sprint start area isn't quite all the way to the end of the straight.

    I have some guesses, but I'm not at all sure any are correct. I have also heard that Edwards Stadium at Cal used to have multiple finish lines.

    So, can anyone figure out why Stanford had the 2 finish lines as shown in the old photo?
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    #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Charley Shaffer View Post

    So, can anyone figure out why Stanford had the 2 finish lines as shown in the old photo?
    Obviously, the four guys at the finish line are arguing about who's going to take the blame for failing to delete the incorrect finish line from the plans!

    If that's not persuasive, I would say that a 1930's track maintenance team would recommend that the 100yds start be pushed back before the circular lanes so that sprinters could dig holes to their heart's content and also allow necessary repairs to be undertaken without holding up circular races.

    Note also that they have a third finish line at the 220s start as well.
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    #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by El Toro View Post
    Obviously, the four guys at the finish line are arguing about who's going to take the blame for failing to delete the incorrect finish line from the plans!

    If that's not persuasive, I would say that a 1930's track maintenance team would recommend that the 100yds start be pushed back before the circular lanes so that sprinters could dig holes to their heart's content and also allow necessary repairs to be undertaken without holding up circular races.

    Note also that they have a third finish line at the 220s start as well.
    You were persuasive; that's a good theory that I hadn't thought of. However, a subsequent inspection of an aerial photo from 1948 reveals that even the finish line farther from the camera isn't far enough back toward the 100y start area to get those holes off of the oval (all 3 finish lines and timing stands can be seen). BTW, the pre-synthetic configuration of Angell Field had considerably longer straights than today's 84.39m--it looks like they were 110y to 120y, and 100y back from the start area that is more distant in the photo would put the start in the last portion of the curve, and not quite out of the way. One would need yet another finish line 10y to 13y further back to get the starting holes off the oval.

    I assume that the finish line at the 220y curve start is in case they needed to run races "backwards" to avoid headwinds.
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    #4
    Back in those days, weren't a lot of lap races run with the start/finish in the middle of the straight, rather than aligned with the common finish line at the end of the straight?
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    #5
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    Yes, they were.
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    #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Charley Shaffer View Post
    I'm wondering why there are two (2) separate finish lines, each with posts for the finish tape and stands for the timers. ...
    So, can anyone figure out why Stanford had the 2 finish lines as shown in the old photo?
    I believe those are starting lines, not finish lines, since they are curved. There are timer stands for the timers to observe the start, after which they would walk to the other side of the track (probably grumbling all the way about the enforced exercise) to get the finish.

    If I assume that this is a 440y track with a mid-straight finish, these lines are in about the right place for 5000m and 3000m starts, but it's hard to tell without other markings.
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    #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by wamego relays champ View Post
    Back in those days, weren't a lot of lap races run with the start/finish in the middle of the straight, rather than aligned with the common finish line at the end of the straight?
    From what my parents(!) say that was the norm in the UK as well. I can see some advantage in having the 880/mile/2miles etc starting on a straight rather than at the start of the bend/curve.
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    #8
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    From the 1948 aerial photo on Google Earth Historical Imagery, which is scalable, it appears that the finish line nearest to the camera in the old still photo was necessary to fit in the 220y straight race. However, that 220y straight finish line was past the end of the stands, so all the other races probably finished at the other finish line, which, while not centered, was in front of the seating area.

    Note that neither finish line is at the end of the home straight, as is the standard arrangement these days. As several have noted, in the 1960s and earlier it was not at all uncommon to have most races finish along the straight, even in the middle of it.
    Last edited by Charley Shaffer; 08-25-2019 at 08:34 PM. Reason: Clarity
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    #9
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    I vote with Warmego relays Champ and DoubleRBar that the timer stands are for finish lines not starting lines and the one at end of straightaway was for the 100 yd and 120 yd HH finish lines. The timer stands in the more middle of track was for all of the distance races (440,880,mile, etc). I ran not quite in the 30's but more like the 50's and 60's and we always finished in the middle of the track for 880 yds and mile races. Sometimes we would begin the 880yd at the far end of the 220 yard start and have to run only three turns and finish at end of straightway on opposite side of track.
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    #10
    There are several problems going on here, the first of which has little to do with track and everything to do with cameras and lenses. Kuha, where are you these days?! Your expertise is required!!

    From my understanding and limited experience, this photo of Angell Field appears to have been taken with a wide-angle lens, which creates an interesting set of problems. People using old cameras with a wide-angle lens may notice one of two forms of distortion at the left and right edges. If there are straight lines, they often will appear to be curved.

    A second distortion is commonly seen today with the use of cell phone cameras for taking group photos in which the figures at the edges appear to be considerably broader than in real life. People have often noticed that If you want to look as slender as you believe yourself to be, stand near the center of the group, at the focal point. If you stand to the sides, you’ll want yourself cropped out of the photo, as you appear much broader than you know yourself to be! The curvature and broadening at the photo edges are merely two aspects of the same distortion.

    This photo of Angell Field, probably from the 1930s or early ‘40s, if taken with a wide angle lens, has created the perception of curved lines on the track. I believe this is the distortion, and the finish judges stands at the three lines on the track (two in the foreground homestretch of the track, one in the background backstretch) would confirm this. There was no need of a second marker outside the track to indicate a starting line, but there was the need for a finish line so a finish yarn could be stretch above the finish line between the two markers.

    Another distortion of a wide-angle lens is the foreshortening of the background. The 220y track, I believe stretches back from the oval a good bit farther than one is led to believe. And yes, Angell Field was of similar construction to most American tracks built before the switch to the metric system in the late 1970s, that is, of close to equal segments of 110 yard on the straights and 110 yards on the curves. The length of the straight beyond the oval is most likely considerably longer than it appears.

    A final example of the same distortion is evidenced by the broad jump runway on homestretch side of the infield. This runway runs parallel to the track, not angling away from the track as the distortion represents.

    The stands at each of the three lines on the track are judges stands, not for the timers. In fact, if timers were to be working a one-turn 440y or three-turn 880y, the would have been either at the finish (and well away from the start), somewhere between the two points, or where the gun was fired but in position to move immediately to the finish. They would not place themselves on a stand from which they had to climb down.

    As for the location of the judges stands, the backstretch stand is for the finish of a one-turn 440y and a three-turn 880y. The two homestretch judges stands most likely are for the finishes of the 100y and 120y Hurdles. I believe this to be the case based on the placement of the hurdles to the outside of the track, with the 10th set for the 120y Hurdles placed between the two finish lines, ready to be put on the track the required 15 yards before the 120y Hurdle finish.

    A common placement of these finishes on old tracks would allow for the starting holes to be dug away from the curve of the track so as not to have holes dug on the turn. However, turn races at this time would seldom (never?) have been run in lanes, so holes dug in lanes 3-8 seldom would not have interfered with a 3-turn 880y or with a longer race.

    One of these finish lines would also have been used as the common finish for the mile and two-mile runs, more likely the 100y finish as it was closer to the midpoint of the straight as was common at the time.

    What is not seen in this photo is a finish line for the 220y and 220y Hurdles. Is this finish line obscured by the foreground trees, or is it possible that the foreshortening of a wide-angle lens distorts our view of the length of the straight so much that the 220y finish is actually the bottom finish line, the one I mention earlier as being the likely 120y Hurdle finish?

    What we really need is further photographic evidence. And Kuha!
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