Roger Jennings (Phillipsburg, 1985), who finished second to David Warders (Hesston) in the 1985 Class 3A 3200, is now unique in USA track and field circles. Roger is the only American among the IAAF’s (international track federation) seven-member photo finish judges' panel. When last week’s USA Olympic Trials women’s 100 meters final produced a first in OT’s history, a dead heat for the third and final spot on the USA team between Allyson Felix and her training mate Jeneba Tarmoh, Roger became the focal point of everyone in attendance or watching the event on television. As I watched the final on television, I couldn’t help using a line we have used more than over the years in our track & field announcing career, “That’s one for the phototimers!”
Roger of Flash Results, Inc. is one of the very best in the world of international track and field at reading finish photos, and in most cases taking the timing to thousandths of a second can put a call of close races to rest, but this one was different, and Roger knew it as soon as he saw it.
"When I immediately looked at it, I could see their torsos and what I could see visually, it was in essence a dead heat," said Jennings. "But then I looked at the (right) arm position of Tarmoh [number 1] (being ahead of Felix [number 2]) which I felt was a torso coming across
ahead of Allyson's Felix's torso. So I called it on the board, unofficially, as lane one Tarmoh ahead of Felix. But I immediately wanted to get a meet referee in there. In essence, I protested it myself. We had four referees come in and look it and we all decided that what we saw visually was a dead heat and at that point we called it a dead heat for third."
After getting this explanation, LetsRun.com (which did the initial interview with Jennings) asked for a little clarification and asked Roger,
"You originally thought Felix was fourth but now you thinks she's third, what made you change your mind?"
Jennings answered, "Looking at it the way I read it, I still see lane one beating lane two from what I (was doing at first) using an educated guess on torso position, but on visual evidence, on what I can actually see in the picture, it's a dead heat so I'm comfortable with that decision."
USATF has issued an official statement on the dead heat which is very much in line with Jennings explanation.
I believe Jennings’ final statement is testament of his integrity and impartial judgment.
Check out the complete article in which Roger is interviewed for Sports Illustrated by Tim Layden (one of my favorite track & field writers) regarding what went into Roger’s thought process in making his decision in determining the final result of that historic race.
It was interesting to read Layden’s as well as LetsRun.com articles because a couple of other long-time track and field acquaintances also come into play in the deadhead decision.