Tony's Take: To Win Or Not To Wind

Sprinters had the benefit of a strong push at the Belleville West Invitational (HF Track and Field photo credit)

I sat on this article for several weeks before finally deciding to publish it. One reason was I got underwater with several projects and the other had to do with presenting the proper angle.

Intro wind weather related terms you should know-

Blustery wind: Descriptive term for gusty winds that accompany cold weather.

Breezy: Wind in the range of 15 miles per hour to 25 mile per hour with mild or warm temperatures.
Brisk: Wind in the range of 15 to 25 miles per hour when the temperature is cold. 
Extended outlook: A basic forecast of general weather conditions three to five days in the future. 


The wind describes the prevailing direction from which the wind is blowing with speeds in miles per hour. The wind forecast is included in the first three periods of the zone forecast.

Sustained WindSpeed Descriptive Term
0-5 mphLight/ light and variable wind
5-10 mph/ 10-15 mph/ 10-20 mphNone
15-25 mphBreezy (mild weather) Brisk or Blustery (cold weather)
20-30 mphWindy
30-40 mphVery Windy
40 mph or greaterStrong, dangerous, high, damaging (High Wind Warning Criteria)

We have the weather talk every spring- 
Every spring we seem to have a debate regarding weather conditions and how it affects our great sport of track and field. Sometimes our manhood and womanhood gets called into question depending on temperment when facing critical decisions on the sport. I once read where a newspaper sports reporter suggested that high school athletic directors and the state association should either move the baseball opening day to May 1 or make it a fall sport like the Arizona Fall League. Unfortunately, most high school programs don't have the luxury to travel two weeks to a warm weather destination like college teams do. 

Instead of debating how the cold or rain effects the mental state, we will spend a moment talking about the wind. In the Midwest, you can almost check off against any great performances in mid March to late April due to Mother Nature and her mood swings. The only thing that I can positively equate with wind in the spring is sail boating and flying a kite. This is not a joke. I knew several aquaintances in college who owned sail boats and they would often fantasize about wind speeds somewhere far into the sea. Well, and the kite, we all loved to fly them until they got stuck in a tree.

Let's talk about wind in track and field- 

Wind assistance is the benefit that an athlete receives during a race or event as registered by a wind gauge. The maximum allowable is two meters per second or +2.0. 

In track and field terms wind conditions often come into play. Our esteem  MileSplit Illinois contributor

Pierre Nealon has stated aloud on multiple occasions the need for wind gauges at meets. Whether it's good or bad he has a great point. Time matters but accuracy matters more. Remember that wind legal marks for sprint races are 200m and under as well as the triple and long jumps. What sounds better for 100m: 10.15 (+2.0) or 9.99 (NWI)? It depends on who you speak to. If you are a casual fan the no wind indicator time appears more appealing. However, it is first time that takes preference in the legal books. It is the fastest legal time this season by Anthony Schwartz (Jr., Plantation, FL), who by the way has run at all meets where wind gauges have been present. The second time is the fastest time ever recorded by high schooler regardless of conditions. Unfortunately for Floridian Trayvon Bromell his all-time legal best is 10.27.

The debate whether we should go to using wind gauges at big meets reminds me of the wide spread push against manually timed meets to Fully Automated Timing (FAT) of the early 2000's. It is the standard now, the norm if you will. You can barely find a meet that does not advertise FAT. In fact, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) has officially mandated that all sectional championships be conducted with FAT. We may see wind gauges in vogue in our state within the next few years.

To be honest there are only a select few good reasons in competing in bad conditions like the wind. Here are some: 1) Sprinters and jumpers like wind to their backs. This is true because they receive assisted aid which may help them earn a personal best or school record or even sneak into a prestigious post-season meet that often does not check wind readings. The majority of high schools in the United States don't factor wind aided performances against their school record boards. That's because most high school meets don't have wind gauges. Many timing companies don't have them and the ones that do are often told by meet directors not to use them. 

This past week, Waxahachie, TX senior Jalen Reagors went 26 feet, 0 inches in the boys long jump. Watch here. His effort was semi-wasted because there was not a wind gauge to record the incredible feat which does not count for official ranking purposes.

Carl Lewis and Mike Powell staged the best 1 on 1 competition in long jump championship history (IAAF photo)

The wind and win does matter-

Imagine if we did not have technology to record some of history's greatest track moments? We would have never seen the first legal men's 110 High Hurdles under 13.00 by the great Renaldo Nehemiah. In that epic Zurich, Switzerland race against Greg Foster, Nehemiah clocked 12.92 with a wind reading -0.2.

I was fortunate enough to watch the greatest competition in track and field history, the 1991 Tokyo World Championship long jump competition between Carl Lewis and Mike Powell. Lewis, the G.O.AT track and field athlete in history, had never lost a long jump competition in world or Olympic competition was ready for the jealous challenger Powell. This is what made the anticipated battle so great. Villian vs. champion would be chasing Bob Beamon's world record that held strong since 1968. I still have the Sports Illustrated edition that depicted what I originally witnessed live.

The action packed competition didn't heat up until the third round. Eventual third placer Larry Myricks put momentary pressure on Lewis and Powell with his 27-7 supreme effort. I remember thinking Lewis leaping over 28-feet every measured attempt as though he had no choice. Powell fought back like a challenger seeking his first title against the reigning champion. After Lewis connected on 28-11.25 and then a wind-aided 29-2.75w all-conditions best ever, Powell put his feet and mind to the ultimate test on his 5th jump and rocketed past Lewis for 29-4.25!! The wind read +0.3 for the WIN and LEGAL ALL-TIME BEST! 

I remember turning away learning alot about legal conditions and the athletes who cared about winning and winning with official legal intentions behind them. It is another reason why I love our sport so much!