In these times where we are ALL wrapping our minds around the fact that there will not be a 2020 track and field postseason for the first time since World War II (1942-1945), it's allowing us an opportunity to take a step back and show appreciation to those who have made the prep running scene in California so great!
With that, we look to a true pioneer of the sport in Chris Drescher. The founder of the omnipresent SoCal-based timing company Finished Results, Drescher has transformed how all of us view the sport as a whole, especially, when it comes to receiving live results and taking advantage of what modern technology has granted us.
Many of us still remember in our younger days, when you had to wait until the next day to see results in the local newspaper. Often, those were few and far between with only certain top marks reported. That was also dependent on a coach submitting those results the night before in time to make the paper's deadline. Even glancing at newspaper clippings in my personal achieves, I only see the top results per event, per division for the Southern Section Finals!
Once the internet rolled around in the late-90's along with independent websites sharing additional results, we stepped into the modern age of broadcasting the sport to the public. But taking this to a new level, along with the advent of a more advanced smartphone roughly 10 years ago, Drescher created Finished Results. With every year since, they have become the premier timing company in California, the largest in the United States, and an innovator in providing efficient and accurate results.
Knowing Chris personally since he began coaching at Rancho Verde High School in the early 2000's, I first admired how he took that program to greater heights, developing it into one of the best in the U.S. In 2007, Rancho Verde's girls ended a a 15-year stranglehold of the Long Beach Poly/Long Beach Wilson programs in capturing the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 team title.
As Drescher began successfully timing his own meets, expanding to local invites, the seeds of Finished Results were planted. Correlating this with school districts throughout Southern California approving the upgrades of all-weather track and field facilities, also including timing systems, Finished Results was the perfect operation, properly equipped to coordinate and train coaches for these increased opportunities.
While all of us have been set back by the cancellation of the 2020 outdoor season, we used the break as an opportunity to sit down with Drescher and learn more about how Finished Results grew into the largest timer in the country and how it is managing during this tough time.
Before the shutdown, the company was scheduled to time more than 20 dual meets on a weekly basis along with more than a handful of invites on any given weekend. It became commonplace that I would spend an afternoon glued to the Finish Results free app watching 'online results' from a handful of separate meets all on my cell phone.
Finished Results has truly revolutionized how we interact with the sport as a whole.
When did you move out to California from New York and when did you begin teaching and coaching?
I moved out to California in 1999. (His brother Tom, who already lived in SoCal) had a job as a high school counselor at Paloma Valley High. Through him, I met several other educators. I began subbing at Rancho Verde High and took a position as an assistant track coach. In being that I did not do the sport, I attended as many clinics as possible, including the free LA84 ones held locally. After being asked to coach football, I accepted a full-time position in physical education at the school. I became the head track and field coach in 2001 and by 2003, we had assembled a strong coaching staff that paved the way to being one of the best in the nation. We developed one of the more competitive meets in the state as the Inland Empire Championships began in 2004.
In 2010, I stepped away from head coaching responsibilities and began experimenting with the idea of creating a timing company. We were fortunate enough to receive a FinishLynx timing system as part of our new stadium construction bid. I put in endless hours of learning every in and out of the software and equipment. In time, others began asking us to time their meets, including invites and league finals. With that, Finished Results was born.
While I want to be sure to give credit to everyone who has helped us along the way, Brian's influence goes beyond just Finished Results. From our FR Live Results to online entries that allow for more accuracy and easier access for coaches, to even providing team scores and splits during cross country races. ...
Brian has truly been the innovator behind taking FR to another level in regard to online integration with the coaches, athletes and spectators. It has truly become a model and expectation at every meet. Brian oversees our IT development and is also a partner in Finished Results.
I can't begin to outline all of the positive aspects he has introduced as his extensive knowledge of coding, networking, software and hardware development goes beyond our mind's ability to imagine. He's building and creating features that seem to consistently be a step ahead of anyone else. The key component is how he builds the user interface to our app and website as he has designed aspects where all one has to do is click onto one or two buttons to access multiple features of of information.
Interesting sidenote ...
... is that both of us are from the Buffalo/Rochester area of New York, with very little roots to the track and field/cross country community. Needless to say that we both appreciate the weather here as compared to Upstate New York.
As the largest timer in the country, tell us about your weekly/weekend meetload?
This changes each year as we've grown, exponentially over the past five years. From one-two meets a day eight years a go to a peak of 16 dual meets in one day! We got so in demand on the traditional Wednesday/Thursday dual meet schedule that we started offering Tuesdays and Mondays at discounted rates. We have timed over 50 dual meets in a week while we have timed 14 invitationals on just one Saturday alone! Adding in Friday only and Saturday only invites and that expands out to 20 in one weekend.
How many dual meets does FR time in a normal week? How many invites on a normal weekend? What is the most meets FR has timed on any one day?
We equip our timers with the tools, knowledge, support and timing equipment to time their own dual meet. Once they graduate to timing an invitational, we can elevate our timers to assist in timing a larger, collegiate meet requiring three finish lines with primary and backup systems, live field event results with LED displays at each field event, stadium scoreboard integration, etc. We currently have a total of 22 timers that can time their own meets while successfully balancing their availability with the demand of scheduling.
How are you and Finished Results managing during these times where all meets, high school and college, have been cancelled?
While we want to provide a top-notch service at its highest quality, how we treat our clients is paramount. We love when coaches/meet directors specifically request a particular timer for their event as further validation of that relationship building.
Now that we've, like all small businesses in America, fallen on tough times, we have been moved and humbled by how generous many of our clients have been. Many have offered to financially assist us. Many others have given us partial payments to help us absorb our losses while many others are offering to pay us portions of this year's contracts that will be used as down payments for the events in 2021.
Without the support of our clients, the loss of a full competitive season would be disastrous to our company. I've been able to pay my full-time employees half of their regular pay, which would not have happened without our clients' support.
The amount of support we have been shown has been very moving. One of the pillars that we focus on at Finished Results is the importance of building personal relationships. We emphasize and remind ourselves that we are in the service industry. We know our clients have other options while turning to another service or simply timing their own meets. In the end, it's all about relationships that we build are what we want to be remembered by.
Tell us about your partnership with MileSplit.
We're all about improving the experience of track and field/cross country for all stakeholders involved. Becoming teammates with MileSplit in this endeavor means we are now partnered with people that are experts in registrations, leaderboards and results. With us now being linked directly with Milesplit, we can share data and have real-time updates to seasonal and lifetime personal bests (PR's) all linked to specific athlete profiles that everybody can readily access via the FR Live Results Application.
This will be a game changer for the sport! Collegiate coaches seeking future athletes along with those athletes will love us for this access. We're also excited about the possibilities of having all of our finish line photos we take (specifically during cross country) be integrated into the athletic profiles.
With us being at as many events, we can participate with the live streaming capabilities that MileSplit offers to its clients. Between the two sports, during the 2019-2020 year, we had 578 events on our schedule and ALL of that data will now be linked directly to all MileSplit profiles!
Mark Gardner is a high school teacher, former coach, and in-demand announcer who serves as the Southern Section editor for MileSplitCA.