City makes splash with touchpad

Hillsboro swim team coach Stephanie Moss makes sure the touchpads at the Family Aquatic Center are ready for use prior to Saturday?s home swim meet. The new touchpad timing system came about through a partnership between the Hillsboro Recreation Commission, Hillsboro Community Foundation and Tabor College.A new state-of-the-art touchpad timing system is in place at the Hillsboro Family Aquatic Center as the result of a partnership between the Hillsboro Recreation Com?mission, Hillsboro Commun?ity Foundation and Tabor College.

The system increases timing accuracy in competitive swimming and is viewed by those involved as a positive, community-building enterprise between the three entities.

The beginning

The brainchild of a few parents of swim team members, the idea for a new timing system began to form following last year?s league swim meet, according to local swim coach Stephanie Moss.

The parents contacted HRC director Doug Sisk, who, along with Moss, wrote a proposal to purchase a touchpad timing system.

The proposal was presented to HCF in the form of a grant request last winter and was approved in Feb?ruary, according to Steve Noble, HCF board chair.

Following the proposal, the three entities came together to fund the new system.

?As Hillsboro is notorious for doing, we formed partnerships with other organizations,? said Noble, who also serves on the HRC. ?It just made it much more efficient for all of us to do it because we?re all going to use it.

?Tabor swim season is not during the Hillsboro rec swim season, so we use it in the summertime, Tabor uses it during the school year, and it?s getting used all the time,? he added. ?From that standpoint, it?s a win-win for both organizations.?

The HCF grant was funded by the Kansas Health Foundation.

HCF and Tabor each contributed $2,500 to the project, while HRC and additional fundraising each accounted for $1,025.

The purchase was approved in April, with the touchpads arriving in time for the summer swim season. Following a trial run the last Saturday in May, the touchpads were used in Hillsboro?s first home meet against Lindsborg June 9.

But not everything was completely synchronized. After a few adjustments, the system was up and running at Hillsboro?s second home meet last weekend. Moss said it worked well.

Touchpad timing

The touchpad timing features an automated start system that signals swimmers to begin the race and starts the timing console.

?When the horn goes off, the timer automatically starts, and so there?s no human error in the system for starting and stopping,? Noble said. ?It?s highly accurate, right down to the hundredth of a second.?

At the end of a race, swimmers touch the pad to stop the clock, and the console records the time. The results are then instantly transmitted to the meet manager software on the computer. One timekeeper still stands behind each lane as a backup.

?I think it?s going to make our meets run much more smoothly,? Moss said. ?I think it makes it easier for us to host meets because usually we have to ask three parents to stand behind each lane with a stopwatch and now we don?t have to do that.?

Prior to the new system, three individuals would physically keep time for each lane. The times were then averaged and manually entered into the system.

?It?s a huge change, huge step forward,? Moss said. ?I think we are seeing more accurate results with our older swimmers.

?For our younger swimmers, I?m still trying to teach them how to finish to the wall, like you would if you were an Olympian. We?re working on that.?

Community impact

Noble said the new system will have an economic impact on the local community, including the opportunity to host the league swim meet for the second consecutive year.

?One of the things we like to do in Hillsboro is host events, regardless of the organization?school district, churches, recreation, Arts and Crafts Associa?tion,? he said. ?This is another opportunity for us to do that.?

The Mid-Kansas League swim meet is scheduled for July 12.

?League was a positive experience,? Moss said. ?We felt like we really nailed it. We didn?t have any glitches. It was well-hosted.

?We accommodated everyone really well, so we are excited to do that again, and even more so now with touchpads because it?s going to make our job even easier.?

Sisk spoke of additional community benefits of the new system.

?Swim teams are excited about coming here so that they can use our touchpad system,? he said. ?That adds to the excitement of having them.?

For Tabor, the purchase is about investing in the future of its swimming program.

?In general, we look at the big picture advantages,? said Tabor coach Nate Duell. ?The better that area swimming is, the better suited they are, the better experience they have. It?s going to work its way up the line.

?We want to make sure that what?s going on around us is a positive experience. To me, that?s part of our job with this college program?to further, obviously, our school, but also the sport itself in this area.?

Duell said he does not foresee the Tabor swim team using the touchpads for practice on an everyday basis, especially without the presence of a scoreboard.

?The practical applications for us in helping purchase this timing system?they?re not going to be as obvious right now,? Duell said. ?It?s more about providing a good future and a good bit of support for the sport in the area.?

Noble said additional fundraising by a group of Hillsboro swim team parents has been authorized to fund additional equipment, such as software and a scoreboard.

Eventually, Moss said Hillsboro?s new touchpad system may be available to rent for use in other pools. No other team in the MKL has a touchpad timing system.

?The closest I foresee a swim team owning this kind of equipment, or even co-opting this kind of equipment with another team, would probably be Wichita,? Moss said. ?It is a rare thing to have, especially in small-town Hillsboro.?

Moss expressed appreciation to everyone who helped make the purchase possible.

?Thank-you for thinking positively, thank-you for believing in the swimmers,? she said.

?This has been a community effort, and I guess that?s what blows me away?that even in small towns with limited funding and finances, if you want it to happen, people will come together to make it happen.?

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