Tony Jones (left) and Bob Geiger are the co-editors for Dyestat.com’s Illinois edition, the one-stop source for anything related to cross country and track and field.
Fourth in a series about high school sports Web sites.
Track and field coaches, like swimming coaches, like to indulge in a fun exercise. I guess you can call it “Predict the state champion.” Both sports are measured by ticking seconds, or more accurately, ticking by one-tenth seconds. Web sites in both sports keep detailed list of “honor rolls,” a list tracking the top times in each event. Dyestat.com’s honor roll is called Leaderboards.
If athletes were robots and always performed to their peak at the state meet, followers can try to predict the outcome by awarding point totals to the competitors based on their top times. Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way. Neuqua Valley’s boys swimmers had the best seed times heading into the state meet, but Naperville Central pulled off the upset in the meet’s final event to also win the state trophy.
Dyestat.com has it all for the track and field enthusiast: a coaches’ poll, meet results, photos, job postings, meets wanted openings and links to team Web sites. It’s free, but one former track and field coach told me that he is on the site nearly every day and would be willing to pay a monthly fee for its use.
The site’s co-editor, Bob Geiger, answered questions via email:
Q. Have you been with Dyestat since the beginning? How old is the site?
A. I have not. We joined Dyestat in 2008, having previously run the (now defunct) Web site illinoispreptoptimes.com
Q. Who is Mr. Dye and is he still involved in the company?
A. John Dye founded Dyestat in 1996 while following his kids who ran track & field in Maryland. Originally, he was just listing Maryland rankings, but in 1997 he moved into nationally ranking athletes and writing more feature articles.
Q. How did the Web site get started?
A. We took over the illinoispreptoptimes.com site from (current Naperville Central football coach) Mike Stine and Neil Duncan. They originally distributed a newsletter via postal mail to hundreds of coaches, athletes, and parents throughout Illinois. In 2002, they felt the need to develop a Web site, but only listed the top ten rankings in each event, and made a push to obtain more subscribers.
When we took over the Web site (in 2004), we expanded the Web site a lot. We started publishing results, pictures, and articles as well as a complete list of rankings. By 2006, we were averaging nearly 100,000 viewers per week. The newsletter, Illinois Prep Top Times, can be traced back to the 1940’s. Prior to it being called Illinois Prep Top Times, it was called Timely Times, and there was also Illinois Runner. The guys in the early days would type up the rankings on a typewriter and run it off on a mimeograph machine.
Q. Does it seem hard to believe the site is now owned by one of the world’s largest multi-media companies — Disney — through its ESPN Rise branch? How did that happen?
A. It does. From 2006 through 2008, I put a lot of my own money into the Web site, and volunteered all my time, as did Tony Jones. There were several times when I felt like just giving it all up. Twice we received a donation from the Illinois Track & Cross Country Coaches Association just to keep things running. In late 2007, we got a phone call from John Dye asking if we would be interested in joining his Web site. Dyestat at the time was owned by Student Sports, based out of California. A lot of what John said reminded me of what we were doing. It wasn’t at all about getting rich, it was about getting information out to athletes, parents, and coaches and doing it the best that we can. John spoke about the years he spent in his basement at a computer doing the same thing we were doing, until he got his break (with Rivals.com). We really liked the sincerity and enthusiasm he brought to the table. There was another nationally based Web site also trying to persuade us, but it really felt very corporate, all about numbers and making money.
About three months after we were part of the Dyestat team, we got another call from John telling us that ESPN had bought Student Sports and they were going to be making a big push into the high school market. ESPN RISE was being developed and they wanted us to be the High School track editors.
I still expect big things from ESPN, however the economic downfall has delayed the plans ESPN has for us. We are just now starting to transition into their domain, and hope to see a lot of great things happening this fall.
Q. Does ESPN Rise give you leeway in content you wish to post on the Web site?
A. We have complete freedom to post what we want, so long as it is responsible reporting, accurate and credible. The only thing we lost was the ability to post results in a .pdf format. This was a technical glitch, but coaches have come through and are really stepping up to the plate when sending us results, now in text format.
Q. The site appeals to athletes and coaches, but are college coaches taking notice as far as recruiting?
A. Definitely. Tony and I are both high school coaches as well as editors (he at Lane Tech, myself at Whitney Young). We are approached all the time by college coaches asking about kids from throughout the state. They can go on the site to see their times, but they know that because of our interaction with the kids, we can recommended them based upon their personality and the level of intelligence they appear to have. We both feel we have a way of noticing that “diamond in the rough” and have let coaches know when we feel that a kid would be a good fit. Last month I recommended a kid to the Iowa coach based upon a feeling that this kid could be a great Decathlete. He is now being recruited by them, when before he was just considering going to the local college.
The parents and athletes themselves are aware of this too. We are constantly being updated by parents and athletes about how their kids is running, which is great. It all comes to a head when we get that email their senior year noting their college commitment. Having done this for so long, it’s neat to follow a kids progress for four years and to think that we may have had something to do with them getting where they are. It’s not a lot, nor do we intend on taking credit, but we get a lot of thank you emails from kids after their senior year which is very, very nice.
Q. How long have you and Tony Jones been together as co-editors?
A. Since 2004, at the very beginning. Tony originally obtained the Web site from Mike Stine, and asked if I would be interested in being the meet director for the Indoor Classic, and there was another guy that wanted to do the web editing. The web editing guy pulled out soon after, so I stepped up and did the editing.
Q. Have you always been a track and field coach? How did you get started?
A. I have been coaching since 1991 (at 20 years old) after having been an All-State runner at Bloom High School, and running at DePaul University.
Q. Where have you coached before arriving at Young?
1991-93 St. Martin DePorres (Chicago-Now closed)
1994 Homewood-Flossmoor (while student teaching)
1995-97 Notre Dame HS for Girls, Chicago
1997 T.F. North
1998-2004 St. Patrick High School
2004-05 Rolling Meadows High School
2006-current- Whitney Young High School
It’s hard to believe that next year will be No. 20.
Q. Many have the Young girls in contention for a state trophy this year. How good are the Dolphins?
A. I think that if they have a good day on the day it counts the most, they could come home with a trophy. We try to focus on what we can control. There are many great teams out there this year, Palatine, Hinsdale Central, Homewood-Flossmoor, East St. Louis, Lincoln-Way East, and Morgan Park. The state meet is where it all has to happen. Any one of those teams can step up big time and come away with a trophy. We just have to do our best on May 22.
Q. Are you still president of the state track and field coaches’ association?
A. Nope, my reign of terror ended in 2008. Don Helburg of Wheaton North was in control from 2008-2010, and Andy Pruess of Glenbard South is now in charge. I am back to being the publicity director for ITCCCA, which works out well.
Q. Cassandra Geiger is credited with many of the photos on the site. Is she related to you? How important are good photos to your Web site?
A. Cassandra is my wife. She ran for me at Notre Dame in 1995, and went on to run for North Central College. We were married in 1998. She is the greatest track coach’s wife ever. She is extremely supportive of everything I do. She has coached with me, done a lot with the Web site, and started taking pictures two years ago when she noticed it was interfering with my coaching. She has really taken to it and has had some of her photos published on the ESPN RISE national site. She is currently a college counselor for the Schuller Family Foundation at Warren High School, and we have two children, Sara, 11, and Parker, 8..
In this day and age of instant information with the internet, you don’t always have the time to put up a long, detailed recap of an event, but the old adage “a picture is worth 1,000 words” certainly holds true even in the internet era. I can put up a picture online in an instant, and people will know a lot about how that event has gone. It buys time until a recap story can be put up.
Q. What’s the toughest part of putting together the Web site? Your accumulation and archives of track and field results is impressive.
A. The time put into it. I really don’t have a lot of free time, I have to make it. Or as I tell folks, I can choose when I want to be busy. Saturday evenings are the worst. I get home from a meet and can spend another 8-10 hours working. If I have a wedding to go to, or another event, a lot of stuff gets pushed off until Sunday or Monday. We really hear about it then, but sometimes, family has to come first.
Q. Will the site always remain free? Has the advertising slump affected the site much?
A. We are unaffected by the advertising slump. We will always keep our site free.
Q. Do you and Tony also run the Illinois Prep Top Times meet? How many months of preparation goes into that event?
A. I am the meet director for the Indoor Classic. It is a year round planning process. We are hoping to make some great improvements to the 2011 event. I truly consider the 2009 event to have been disastrous, and we all worked very hard to improve the event for 2010, and it went very well. I’m hoping to keep that momentum going into the 2011 meet and bring together one of the best indoor classic meets ever. Of course, we couldn’t do it without the support we get from Illinois Wesleyan. They are fantastic in terms of what they do to make the event as good as it can be.
Q. Can you tell me more about your IPTT outdoor meet at Benet in June? How do athletes qualify for that meet or is in invitation only?
A. It is a Decathlon and Heptathlon, events normally not contested in IHSA meets. Anybody can enter, and we have an open division as well. The Decathlon is ten events, the 100-meter dash, long jump, high jump, shot put, and 400 meters on the first day and the 110 high hurdles, pole vault, discus, javelin, and 1500 run on the second day.
The Heptathlon is seven events: the 100 hurdles, the high jump, shot put, and 200 meters on Day 1 and the long jump, javelin, and 800 run on Day 2.