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TrackMeets.com

Dr. J. on Running

TrackMeets.com

Net Valuable to Runners

Published December 20, 1999 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

Three years ago, I wrote about the role of the Internet in running. At that time, many track clubs had developed web pages to post race entries and results. Few meets posted pictures, even fewer posted audio or video clips. Personal computers cost about $2,000 for a 66 MHz processor, 8 Mbytes of RAM, 454 Mbytes of disk storage and a 28.8 Kbps modem.

Rapid advances in computer and communication technology have changed the landscape significantly. The speed of central processing units has increased tenfold, and so has storage capacity. Ethernet cards have become common place, and cable modem increased Internet download capacity to 10 Mbps.

Running on the web reaped the benefits of technology, and it became common place to find entry forms and results, pictures and video clips. Live coverage of track meets and road races became common place as organizers scurried to promote the sport. Many ground breaking innovations came to light locally, including live webcasts of track meets and road races.

Leading the wave of live sports broadcasting on the world-wide web, Syracuse-based TrackMeets.com pioneered the integration of multimedia into the webcasts of local and national athletic events. Staffed primarily by student interns from Syracuse University's L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, TrackMeets.com defined the fourth medium of communication as the value-added sum of the three traditional media of print, radio and television.

The young TrackMeets.com boasts among its achievements the world's first live multimedia webcasts of an indoor track meet at the New York State scholastic indoor championship, of an outdoor track meet at the Glenn D. Loucks Memorial Games and of a road race at the Utica Boilermaker 15K. Last November, TrackMeets.com introduced Tandem Multimedia Simulcast (TMS) technology at the BIG EAST Field Hockey Championship, making it the nation's first conference championship in any sport to be webcast live on the web.

The challenge of integrating the three media into a cohesive broadcast fell on the shoulders of undergraduate students from various disciplines. Lauryn Taubman and Stacy Kosko led a production crew including fellow Newhouse students Jessica Gardner, Mary Cybriwsky, Linnea Johnson and Erika Lindhome, Greg Dorchak provided the commentary, and computer engineers Kobby Quayenortey and Benjamin Faulring converted the live productions into streaming data.

In a world where image is as important as function, graphic designer Jennifer Manell worked closely with computer scientist Kyeung Lee on developing a functional website for the company, while Anne Perfield, Cheree Hicks and Marlon Samuels handled the promotional and public relations effort.

Unlike other commercial web sites that feature postage-stamp-size broken video and cartoon-voice audio, TrackMeets.com boasts near-TV quality 76,800-pixel images at 30 frames per second, and stereo-quality audio. In addition, TrackMeets.com is the only company to integrate text, pictures, audio and video into a cohesive webcast.

TrackMeets.com's production of the Cornell Relays on December 4 gave proof to the success of this student venture. Over one thousand viewers watched the live webcast of this six-hour track meet, and an additional nine thousand viewers tuned in to watch the archived video files on-demand in the following week.

The calendar of events at TrackMeets.com is filling up rapidly, and features two to three productions per week. Notable commitments during the indoor track and field season include the Knights of Columbus Indoor Games in Saskatoon and the Cornell Invitational in January, the Syracuse Invitational and the BIG EAST Championship in February, and the Onondaga County, Section Three, New York State and National Scholastic Championships in March.

The interns of TrackMeets.com are certainly not resting on their laurels. As they perfect TMS-technology webcasts, plans are under way to introduce multi-stream webcasts, giving the viewer a choice of which events to watch. Much of this research will take place at Manley Field House during the weekly webcasts of Section 3 indoor meets.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He receives email at jabbour@syr.edu.


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