I'm the kind of person who skips to the conversation when reading a book.
“What?!” I said, surprised. Billy is one of our best 10 year old swimmers. His fly is technically very good and he’s not the kind of kid to make mistakes. We had both watched the race and had thought he had a great swim.
“I’ll check on it,” I told her. Having been an official for more years than I’ve been a coach has its advantages. I know the ins and outs of the system.
I found the chief judge busy disqualifying small children behind the blocks. Actually, the way it works is that the officials with their eyes on the swimmers radio to the referee and chief judge what they see. If the disqualification is confirmed by the referee, the chief judge writes it on his clipboard and talks to the swimmer. And let’s just say that with young swimmers, sometimes there are a lot of disqualifications and a fair amount of tears.
Anyway, I found the chief judge, waited for him to finish talking to a swimmer, and approached him. “Can you check on a disqualification from Event 24?” I asked.
“No problem,” he said, flipping through the pages to find the event I was asking about. “Which heat?”
“Heat 2, Lane 2” I told him.
“Got it,” he said, finding it on the sheet. “I’ve got Heat 1, Lane 2, and Heat 2, Lane 3. It looks like the table may have made an error. Let’s go fix it.”
We walked to the table on the pool deck. The table consists of several computers, a printer, and a whole bunch of people. It is the heart of the swim meet, where everything that happens on the deck is converted to a number on a piece of paper.
The chief judge spoke to one man at a computer. “Can you pull up Event 24, Heat 2 for me?” he asked.
“No problem,” the man answered, clicking away on different tabs and buttons to get to the page we wanted. Sure enough, beside Billy’s name the DQ box had been checked, and lane 3 was not.
“I need you to uncheck lane 2 and check lane 3 for a disqualification,” the chief judge instructed.
The man did as he was told.
“Now reprint the results,” he said, and turned to me. “Done.”
I thanked him and rejoined Gretchen with the team. “The table made a mistake,” I told her. “It’s all set.”
About an hour later we both went to check the results. Billy was no longer listed as a DQ, but he also didn’t appear in the results. “I’ll take care of it,” I said again.
I went back to the chief judge who looked puzzled when I told him about it. Off we went to the table where we checked on Event 24, Heat 2, Lane 2. Billy was not checked off as a DQ and his time showed up on the computer screen.
“I’ll just reprint the results,” the man said, and clicked the printer icon.
The chief judge went back on deck. I went back to Gretchen, but something niggled at me. “I’m going to run up and check those results right now,” I told her.
The revised sheet was just being posted when I got there. I quickly scanned it. No Billy.
I headed back to the table and ran into a friend who is one of the top officials in our area. “Are you still having trouble?” she asked, having overheard one of my previous conversations. When I told her that I was, she said, “I’ll take care of it.”
Together we went back to the table. Once again I told them the event, heat, and lane. Once again they confirmed that he was no longer listed as a disqualification. Once again they printed a new results sheet. I waited to look at it before they posted it.
When he pulled it off the printer, I asked to see it. No Billy.
“My swimmer still isn’t listed,” I said.
He snatched it out of my hands to scan it. “I can’t figure this out,” he said, pulling the screen up again.
“Did you remember to rescore it?” asked another fellow sitting there.
It was a head slap moment.
“I’m so sorry,” he said, looking at me. Quickly he clicked through the screens again, this time hitting a button that said “Rescore” and that was all it took.
Billy finished 7th and his name appeared on the results.
I went down and told the chief judge, thinking he may be interested to know what the cause of the error was.
“You’re a persistent bugger, aren’t you?” he said, and I wasn’t sure how to take that.
If I don’t advocate for my swimmers, who will?
And 7th place in the 50 Fly may not seem like a big deal, but it was to one 10 year old boy.