In this week's installment of the Official's Corner MileStat reviews hurdling and the many ways you can get disqualified or not disqualified.
For those that have ever watched an elite hurdle final, you know how violent and chaotic things can get if someone hits a hurdle at full speed. Hitting a hurdle is-by the rules-not against the rules. It is actually seen as a disadvantage opposed to being an advantage. Though this could be potentially true, we are going to examine a few aspects of how and why this can be both true and false, as well as analyze the punishments and real-world applications.
Let's go over some of the basics before we discuss some of the philosophical areas of the rules. In the hurdle races you must go over the barrier (hurdle) and not move or touch the hurdle with your hand. You may not "hook" the hurdle with your trail leg either. What is meant by that is that you may not bring your trail leg below and around the edge of the hurdle (applicable in staggered hurdle races and on the outside lanes).
Now that you know the basics of the rules, and yes they are very basic, let's discuss the more complex and judgement calls.
In a hurdle race, particularly the guys hurdles where they tend to knock over many more hurdles, you run the risk of having interferences happening. This can usually happen one of two ways. The first way is that a runner hits a hurdle and comes off the hurdle weird and impedes by coming into the other runner's lane or falling into it. The other way, and less common way is having someone hit a hurdle and it going into someone else's lane. Both of these can be quite troublesome and frankly very dangerous, the latter of the two can be extremely dangerous.
So let's say the first scenario happens, a runner runs into another's lane. In this case the judgement should be made on this simple call- if the runner being impeded on had to adjust their steps then the impeding runner must be disqualified. It is a simple and easy call to make. But it also can be looked at in a different light, something we will do shortly. The second scenario is much more catastrophic and difficult to call in regards to a number of things. First was the action malacious? Was the runner trying to knock the hurdles over or was it an accident? Was the runner attempting to hurdle and something went wrong? Or did another runner hit the hurdle and change its trajectory? What is the fair punishment and action to be taken?
First let's address how to rectify this for hurdlers who were adversely affected. If you were impeded on, then simply you deserve a re-run. You have to do this the proper way putting them into the same lane with hurdles on both sides. In a perfect world, you only re-run the race if the athlete was at a championship meet or in scoring position when the fall happened. Though by the rules, all athletes follow the same rules and deserve the same chances to re-run their race.
Now that we know the hurdlers are allowed another chance, to not be impeded on, let us look at what happens to the impeder. One of two things can happen, they get disqualified for impeding or nothing. Usually the latter happens and nothing is done, that is to say for when a hurdle goes into another lane, unless it is egregious. But the really interesting thing is to ask who is at fault when a hurdle does go into another lane? It really shouldn't be that easy since they should be weighted properly. It is a fault of using cheap hurdles? Is it the hurdlers fault? Or maybe the hurdles were not set on a straight line and that affected the trajectory of the hurdles (scary sounding I know). It is truly a complicated matter.
In all honesty, hurdles flying into other lanes (that is to say when they are hit with the lead leg) should be an anomily. When it happens something is aloof. Throughout this article you have seen pictures of the melee that can quickly ensure. Those pictures were from Colorado's state meet and speak volumes to how dangerous and systematic one hurdler can be at derailing an entire final. But it goes back to the question, who is to blame? He seemingly cruises the rest of the way meaning it was his lead leg that scraped the hurdles and his hurdle was knee'd by another runner causing the issue (for as much as I could see). He technically obeyed all the rules and actually ran slower by doing so. What would you suggest doing? Should the hurdler be disqualified or should no action be taken against him?
Now that you have been asked close to twenty questions, let me chime in and give my perspective as an official. To me, the judgement becomes did the athlete make an honest attempt to clear the barriers. In my opinion and understanding of the rules, a runner must make an honest attempt, emphasis on honest attempt, to clear the barrier. That means to me they must actually try and clear the hurdles and not just plow through them. I have actually made this call against a hurdler before. Here is the scenario that happened.
A hurdler continuously plowed through hurdles and knocked every single hurdle over. This would have been fine except for the fact that he did so in the prelims of the 110, 300, and then again in the finals. I warned him and made him aware of the rules. The following week he continued to do the same actions and I subsqequently disqualfied him from the race for not making an honest attempt to clear the barriers. This ruling was over-ruled by the games committee after an appeal was filed because "it is actually slower to hit the hurdles". That makes sense and all but it is still not making an honest attempt. Then again, at the end of the day, any official can make a call based on sportsmanship as well. Though I think he should have been disqualified, I was only a judge and not the referee who makes the final call. It is a good example of how officials have checks and balances in the sport on making calls. I personally do not mind having my calls over-turned and think it is a great way of collectively making judgement calls. I still stand firm against plowing through hurdles, not only on the principle of making an honest attempt to clear the barrier but moreso on the fact that it can lead to much more dangerous and damaging things.
In the pictures above, the runner who ran in lane 5 was disqualified for impeding. Was that fair? He technically did not hit a hurdle into another lane but it was infact the catalyst in starting a chain reaction that led to having four runners awarded a re-run.
Now that you know my opinion and some of the rules and examples of it, where do you stand?
Special thanks to CO.MileSplit and Alan Versaw for providing these great photos! Read more about their hurdle debacle here!