Mark Pierce, right, operates the camera with guidance from Mark Dennett during an April 26 track meet in Farmingdale. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Heidi Bernier was having no luck.

The forecast was bad for this past Wednesday, so the Waterville athletic director started making phone calls to reschedule the junior high track and field meet the school was hosting.

She called Lawrence track coach Tim Alberts to get his timing services for Tuesday. He was busy, but he suggested other timers who could help. Bernier tried each one. Busy. Busy. Busy.

Waterville eventually hosted the meet — with timing by hand.

“I called six (timers),” Bernier said. “And I struck out with all six.”

Bernier’s situation was hardly an unusual one. There are only a handful of timing companies offering up their services for track meets in the state, so athletic directors know they have to race to book them early, and then pray the weather holds up.


“We got our schedule, (Winslow AD) Jim (Bourgoin) emailed Tim the second we got it,” Winslow coach Ken Nadeau said. “Saying ‘Hey, we’re hosting a meet on such and such a date, we’d like to it on this date, are you available?’ It is a scramble. I’m sure all ADs are doing the same thing.”

And if the weather does turn sour, it’s a hectic — and often losing — battle to find another open date in anyone’s calendar.

“You’re very fortunate if you’re able to reschedule and find someone,” Bernier said. “They’re usually booked to do it.”

“For our home meet, it was over April vacation. It was pretty easy to find a time where I could work with the timer I had,” said Messalonskee athletic director Chad Foye, who will also be hosting a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship meet at the end of the season. “If we had to move it to another day, that would have been difficult. … You don’t want to put kids in an unsafe position at all, but you do try your best to make sure the meets get done.”

The timers don’t look forward to inclement weather, either.

“We do kind of cover the whole state, but the problem is when there’s a rain day,” said Dave Jeffrey, who runs Brewer Timing Service and was the first to bring a timing system to Maine, bringing an end to hand timing in varsity meets. “It’s not like we open up a day and say ‘We’re going to move all the meets to this day, because we have this day free.’ We’re all busy every day. … That would not be a good business plan, to give up meets just in case somebody cancels.”


Finding timers has been tough for a while. Jeffrey’s Brewer company is one of seven in the state providing timing services to schools, along with Alberts’s Lawrence Timing System, Mark Dennett’s Lakers Track Club and Timing, Diane Fournier’s DLF Timing, Ron Kelly’s Downeast Sports Timing, Tony Myatt’s Pine Tree Race Services and Brandon Richards’s Tyler Timing. Some companies have multiple systems and can do more than one meet — Jeffrey, for instance, can get to four at a time — but that still leaves low supply for high demand.

“There are quite a few meets that happen daily, from middle school meets on to the high school meets. And even then, there are some collegiate meets, a few each year,” said Dennett, who coaches throws and the race walk at Maranacook. “It definitely adds up. … There are times when it does get frantic, and I get asked for two or three meets on the same day.”

Mt. Ararat track and field coach Diane Fournier helps set up the timing equipment at the finish line of a five-team meet on Thursday in Topsham. Bill Stewart/Kennebec Journal

The demand has only increased as the need for timing systems has gone beyond high school.

“In the last couple of years, it’s gotten to that degree because people understand that they want their kids to have the best opportunities,” Alberts said. “I ran in the days of hand-held. It’s just not accurate. … So I think what’s happening is a lot of the elementary schools (and) middle schools are saying ‘We need cameras at our meets.’ And what they don’t understand is that there are only so many cameras out there.”

“Everybody’s using the timing system, and there are not enough systems,” said Kelly, who also is the head coach at Scarborough, and whose company times roughly 12 meets a week. “Jeffrey has three or four cameras, and they’re going every day. High school, middle school, you name it. We’re right to the max.”

COVID didn’t help, as schools and conferences tried to spread out meets to limit the number of competing athletes.


“The squeeze went from needing a resource at a given track meet to three different resources to cover the same amount of kids,” Hall-Dale athletic director Chris Ranslow said. “We needed a ton more resources all of a sudden. … That really drove me as an athletic director to prioritize building the schedule early this spring.”

There are obstacles in the way of simply increasing the number of people with access to the FinishLynx system, which is the sophisticated camera and software system that all timers in Maine use. The biggest obstacle might be cost; between cameras, clocks, wiring, scoreboards, other equipment and upgrades, a system will likely run someone looking to get into timing more than $10,000.

“I personally think it’s more the cost. … Not many people can drop $14,000,” said Alberts, who said he charges around $550 to work high school meets. “I think it’s more the money than anything else. It’s not hard to train someone to help you. … It’s just a matter of getting that initial fee, paying for everything, and going from there.”

Marty Thornton records finishing times during an April 26 high school track and field meet in Farmingdale. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Jeffrey said finding people with the time to do it is the bigger hurdle.

“It’s expensive, but it’s not so expensive that people can’t afford it. What’s hard is the time, the kind of schedule that you have available to do it,” Jeffrey said. “You can’t do it as a full-time business with no other income. There’s just not enough money there. … (And) you’ve got to have the track background. You think about all the things you would need to have happen, it’s a pretty unique person.”

“We could have systems, but you’ve got to have the right person that has the right schedule where he or she can be free to get anywhere,” Kelly said. “You’ve got to have that right person who has a schedule that is free in the afternoons. If somebody is flexible and works for themselves, yeah, they can make a pretty good paycheck working four or five meets in a week.”

Timing takes a toll on the schedule, but the people who do it are happy to provide the service, everywhere they can.

“I love this. I coached for 25 years … (and) it’s kept me in the sport,” Jeffrey said. “I kind of like the idea of going places and making their meets run smoothly. That’s what we do. We’ve cleaned up track and field in the state of Maine.”

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