Athletics Otago backs relay handicap system decision

Athletics Otago is standing by its decision to trial a new handicap system for the Peninsula Relay.

The relay came in for criticism last Saturday after a new system resulted in the seventh team to finish winning.

Teams were asked to submit their own estimated times for the event. Their actual finishing times had to be within 4% of those submitted.

The first six teams across the line had either entered as social teams or fallen outside the 4% threshold.

However, Athletics Otago was happy with how the event had run. It said only three teams fell outside the threshold and it felt the handicaps were as accurate as they had ever been.

The new system had been implemented as a result of opening the race up to unregistered runners.

"The Peninsula Relay has always been a handicapped event," it said in a statement.

"In the past club teams have provided an estimated time to the centre handicapper.

"It has been up to the handicapper to verify handicaps and adjust accordingly.

"With opening up the relay to unregistered runners a few years ago it made the handicappers' job very difficult, as in a lot of cases there was little or no record of the athletes present or past performances."

That led it to trial of applying a percentage-based penalty to an estimated team time.

It challenged the teams to realise their own abilities, as well as keeping estimated times honest.

"Our thoughts based on the results was this worked really well," the statement said.

"Most of the teams came within the 4% penalty time and, in fact, some of the actual times were amazingly close to their estimated times."

However, Athletics Otago did acknowledge it could have communicated better with its clubs.

"The cross-country committee is made up of representatives from each club.

"However, this trial to achieve more accurate times and to have a competitive relay was not fully understood, hence we should have asked for comment from the clubs before implementing."

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