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Given to Fly

June 22, 2006

Given To Fly: ISU track coach guiding hurdlers at USA Championships

TERRE HAUTE — John McNichols is no stranger to a hurdle.

He’s obviously done a pretty good job coaching the hurdles at Indiana State. The Sycamores have had two NCAA champions in McNichols’ tenure, Aubrey Herring in the 2001 indoor season and Chris Lancaster during the 1990 outdoor season.

The ISU Track and Field Coordinator’s expertise has been employed by the USATF Men’s Development Committee as the Hurdles Broad Event Chair since 2000. Before taking on that responsibility, he had worked as the 110-meter hurdle coordinator since 1989.

His job is to work with the nation’s top athletes to further the development of American hurdlers. With the U.S. Track and Field Championships going on this weekend on IUPUI’s track at Indianapolis, McNichols has a busy weekend. Also, helping him with analyzing video of the hurdlers is Al Finch, an ISU professor of exercise science, who serves as the biomechanist for the USATF Elite Hurdle Development Committee.

He and McNichols analyze film of hurdlers and copy the film into a visualization software called Dartfish.

“[Video analysis] was going on well before I got involved,” McNichols said. “We do what’s called touchdown times. We take the athlete’s time as they step down off of each hurdle. The hurdles are an equal distance apart so we can break it down in perfect increments.”

McNichols and Finch work with America’s elite down to junior athletes.

“You can compare the same athlete to another athlete, run a junior next to an Olympian to show them the correct technique,” McNichols said.

“You put the elite athlete right over the screen of the junior kid and they can really compare where the trail leg drives to. It’s a good program. It’s pretty intensive.”

The technology is nice, McNichols said, but it can be time consuming.

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