Track and field: McCrady creates instant timing system
BEMIDJI — Depending upon who you ask, technology can be a wonderful thing or it could lead to the ruin of life as we know it.
Ryan McCrady of Bemidji is the architect of the current technology employed for all track and field meets in Bemidji, including today’s Beaver Relays at the Gillett Recreation Center, and many more events held throughout the state. As is often the case with new computer programs and software, McCrady devised a plan, tweaked it as necessary and through trial and error developed a tool that is exactly what people were looking for.
“We started in 2001 when Bemidji State bought a camera system for photo finishes at track meets but the school had no one to operate the system,” McCrady said. “Craig Hougen (the BSU track coach) said at the time that he had many high school and college meets coming to BSU and needed someone to figure out how to operate the camera and the software program that went with it.
“Very few schools in the state had that equipment and fewer had anyone who knew how to run it,” McCrady said. “At the time my wife Kristy was a student working at the BSU Rec Center and Craig knew me as an athlete on the football team so he asked if I could figure it out. So we gave it a shot.”
Hougen’s original plan was to start his own timing company and call it “Hougen’s Heros.”
“But that didn’t happen,” McCrady said. “Eventually I started the company and decided to call in Hero’s Timing.”
McCrady’s software can provide event results and finishes in real time and instantly transfer those results onto the company’s website where they can be accessed by anyone. Hero’s Timing also can snap photo finishes of each event and that ability can settle any disputes that may arise.
“This is a timing system that is equal to those used at state and national meet levels,” McCrady said.
“It is complicated and when we started we messed up a ton. There definitely is a learning curve with the system and we trained people for many of the schools that bought our system. But when those people left we had to train more people and then those people would leave. So now schools pay us to time their track meets because they know that we’ll take care of everything and they will have no worries.”
The benefits of contracting with Hero’s Timing were obvious to program officials who attended meets at BSU and before long McCrady was receiving inquiries from high schools and universities throughout Minnesota.
“The teams coming to the meets saw what we were able to do efficiency-wise and they wanted us to do the same for them,” McCrady said. “We started at BSU but then teams from the Duluth area contracted with us. And starting about 2007 we had contracts with teams in Minneapolis. And now the majority of the meets we work are in the Twin Cities area.”
Because of the added workload McCrady has expanded his staff. Drew Vogt is the program operator in the Duluth area and Don Marcussen handles those duties in the Metro and southern Minnesota.
During the next few weeks McCrady and his staff will work high school meets in Montgomery, St. Peter, Robbinsdale, Minnetonka, Thief River Falls and Barnum. They will also handle two meets held at Concordia-St. Paul plus the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference meet in Morris.
Later this spring Hero’s Timing staff will be the official scoring system for six Minnesota sub-section meets and three section competitions.
For the time being Hero’s Timing is the frontrunner in the field but McCrady knows that the competition will eventually make its way to the market. And he’s fine with that.
“This is a growing field,” he said. “For a while we were the only timing company north of Minneapolis and there was only one in Minneapolis. But right now there are two guys in Fargo who have their own company and I’m actually training them. The people before me helped me out and I’m happy to help others get established.”
McCrady’s initial goal was to create and perfect a way to immediately score a track meet and he has accomplished that. His next challenge is to expand the potential of Hero’s Timing and the next generation of automatic timing systems.
“At first I wanted to figure out the timing system for track and get my name out there,” McCrady said. “I’ve done that and now I’m looking for new markets.”
Among the potential markets are the road races that have become weekend fixtures in the Bemidji area.
“Within a 45-minute radius of Bemidji you can find a road race every weekend,” McCrady said. “And I really think those will offer a market for a company like ours.”