- BC Games
INSTANT REPLAY: A photo finish like no other
It’s the rarest result in track and field… far rarer than a new record… much more unusual than a disqualification for running out of lane.
In baseball they say a tie goes to the runner. But in track and field runners never tie. Photo finishes make it virtually impossible.
But on May 12, 1998 – 15 years ago this week – the inconceivable happened when Caroline Piggott of Sentinel and Shannon McGregor of West Vancouver tied for first place in the senior girls’ 400 metres final during the 38th running of the North Shore secondary schools’ track and field championships at Swangard Stadium.
It’s the only time in the long 52-year-history of the meet which began in 1959 (there were no meets in 1967 or 1987) that a dead-heat tie has been awarded in a track event.
Once previously, in the 1969 meet at Empire Stadium, West Van and Balmoral were given identical times of 3:46.3 in the junior boys’ 4x440 yards relay final. It was a time that stood as a record for 17 years, even after the event changed to a 4x400 metres distance which is 31 feet shorter. However, it was not a tie because West Van was declared the winner by inches. Timing then was done in tenths of seconds.
However by 1976 the timing was improved to hundreds of seconds and by 1998 photo finishing had been implemented for the meet for the first time making a tie even less likely.
The tie came in the 11th running event of the 1998 meet under an early-morning cloudy sky that turned sunny for the rest of the day.
Tracking down Caroline and Shannon last week wasn’t difficult but coming up with a photo of the actual race was a very long shot until Caroline’s parents, George and Wendy Piggott, and Shannon’s parents, Glen and Mary McGregor, went to work looking through their photo boxes and files. The Piggotts found a video of the race and the McGregors came up with the photo on the previous page, taken just as the two exhausted runners were about to reach the finish line, deadlocked with a time of 1:01.65.
Caroline, running in lane one, made up the stagger on Shannon (in lane two) and was desperately trying to hold the lead against her fast-charging opponent as the two strained to reach the finish line first.
“The 400 really wasn’t my thing,” Caroline notes the other day on the phone from San Diego where she is now Dr. Caroline Piggott, a dermatologist in the Scripps hospitals there, following degrees at Harvard and Vanderbilt universities and her residency and fellowship at University of California at San Diego. “I was more of a jumper and 100-metre sprinter. The 400 was a bit too far for me to do well. I remember that we were pretty close to each other and I was completely out of gas at the end. I had nothing left so I just threw myself at the finish line and hoped for the best… and I fell right on my face.”
Besides being concerned about her opponent running next to her, Caroline was also faced with a scheduling problem because the 400m and long jump were set to start within 10 minutes of each other. Later she would compete in the 100 metres and 4x100m and 4x400m relays.
“I remember being very worried because I have absolutely no endurance and I was worried that once I finished the 400 I would have no energy to do my long jump which was my main interest. I was always a mess after the 400. Somehow I was able to get in one long jump before the 400 which was a good one.”
Meanwhile Shannon, who now lives in North Van with husband Dave Brett (founder and owner of Griffins Boxing Club in Lower Lonsdale) and their three-year-old twins and an 18 month old, recalls her own set of problems back on that day: shin splints.
“I absolutely loved track,” she tells me. “My best friend Chrissy Redmond and I, we thought it would be a really good thing to run around Stanley Park on the concrete on the weekend before the meet. We were always doing silly stuff like that. So I got shin splints.”
Which is not great when just two days later you have to run the 400m and 400m hurdles, along with the 4x100m and 4x400m relays, plus compete in the high jump.
For Shannon, the 400m was her first event of the day, a day that would bring her the senior girls’ individual aggregate award as she also collected a first in the high jump and a second to Handsworth’s Claire Poliquin in the 400m hurdles. Caroline earned a second in the long jump to Argyle’s Tamsin Anstey and another second in the 100m to Maureen O’Connor of Collingwood.
Had Caroline won the 400m outright, it would have given her a tie with Shannon for the aggregate title, each with a win and two seconds.
Instead they settled for an unbreakable tie in the 400m and a special spot in North Shore track history.
This is episode 479 from Len Corben’s treasure chest of stories – the great events and the quirky – that bring to life the North Shore’s rich sports history.
Outlook columnist Len Corben’s new book PLAY IT AGAIN! A Century PLUS of North Shore Sports Stories is now available.
The 232-page book includes a foreward by Bob Lenarduzzi and more than 100 fascinating stories beginning away back in 1897 with the building of the first golf course on the North Shore at Moodyville and continuing through each decade into the 21st century. There are stories featuring well-known North Shore names as well as tales about those who are just now getting their 15 minutes of fame. Each story is augmented with historic photos.
The book is available at Larry’s Sports, 2029 Lonsdale in North Van, The Dog’s Ear T-Shirt Shop, 1493 Marine Dr. in West Van or by contacting Len Corben at firstname.lastname@example.org or 604-988-0455.