For those who want the math, an indoor track with a maximum recommended curve radius of 21 meters (I don’t know the measurements of the ND track) would be reduced to a radius 20.9m when accounting for the absence of the curb (i.e., the 10cm difference that is being discussed). The total length of the curved part of the track (both ends) is equal to pi times the diameter (or pi times twice the radius). So the total length of the curved part of the track goes from 3.14x2x21=131.88 meters with the curb (as in previous years) to 3.14x2x20.9=131.25m when not curbed (as in 2009). This is a difference of 0.63m per lap (which is about 8.6m over the length of the DMR). Now, if the ND track was originally designed and certified for a curb, but the curb was not used, this would require that the outward face of the cones coincide with the edge of the white line closest to the track (i.e., away from the infield). Even then, the track has a smaller radius by 10cm (or 0.63m per lap). In other words, if the track had been certified without a curb, the white line would have to be 10cm out from where the curb normally goes to be certified for the same length (320m). This is because lane one is measured 20cm out from the line when there is no curb. Putting the cones on the inside edge of the line (another 5cm) is not only the incorrect placement when a curb is temporarily removed, but actually has the effect of permitting another 5cm of encroachment on the inside edge. A 15cm reduction in the radius is almost a meter per lap (0.94), or about 13m for the DMR. A miler running at 4:06 pace is going to take about 2 seconds to cover this distance. (Actually, it looked like the cones were even inside the line, and not even touching it – now we’re talking 2.5 seconds? 3 seconds?) No matter who ran on the line or who didn’t, who ran on the outside of lane one for most of the race, or whatever, that happens in every race. The dynamics of those two DMR heats were no different than any other. But a smaller track is a smaller track, no matter what, and the whole pack winds up running a shorter race, on average. That’s why the regulations are precise – because it matters.
You don’t even need to do the math. It makes no sense that 15 teams in 2 separate heats auto-qualified in the DMR. When has this ever happened before? Certainly never at this facility. It can’t be explained by a fast heat, a good day for a few teams, or anything else other than a change in the length of the race. And that is exactly what happened. The track was changed. The effect was across the board. Every team in both heats qualified in some fashion, even the crappy ones.
The bottom line is that the ND track either was certified with curb or it was not. If it was, then there is no question that the cones were in the wrong place and the track ran shorter than in previous years. If the track was certified without a curb, and it was “corrected” this year, then ND ought to be equally embarrassed for running it long for all those years. If you look at the past 3 years, in the longer runs (mile, 3000, 5000, 4x400, and DMR), there were 16 autos and 24 provisionals (16/24) in 2009, 0/17 in 2008, and 4/29 in 2007. And even though there were 3 autos and 15 provisonals in the DMR in 2007, the average time for the autos and provs was a full 7 seconds slower in 2007 than in 2009. It was also a full 7 seconds slower in 2008. If the curb was pulled in 2009 and the markings were changed accordingly and recertified, which I doubt, then there is no problem – every 2009 auto-qualification is valid, and good luck to the DMR 15 teams in Texas.
ND needs to provide the track certification for public scrutiny ASAP, before the field is selected for the championships. If there was a violation, then every coned race on that track should be thrown out. If there was not a violation this year, then they owe some apologies to the athletes that competed there all those years and missed auto-qualifying by tenths or hundredths of a second.