TullyRunners - Article
One Measure of Success at NXN Nationals
by Bill Meylan (June 29, 2011)
Introduction ... I began preparing a cross country article entitled "Losing Interest in NXN Nationals - One Guy's Perspective" (I plan to post the article later this summer ... been planning it for a while ... might annoy a few people, but editorial articles are meant to express opinion and hopefully deliver some insights) ... In the process, I came across some stats that might be of interest to viewers, but not relevant for that article.
Several e-mails prompted this article ... There has been a re-occurring internet "opinion" that the New York Boys do not deserve their own NXN region because they simply are not good enough in comparison to other states and regions ... and the only reason New York is a separate NXN region is due to the success of the NY Girls ... Clearly, the success of the NY Girls was a factor in NY becoming a separate region (or so I assume).
But how successful have the NY Boys been at NXN in comparison to other states and regions?? ... Rob Monroe (a.k.a. Watchout, who does XC ranking for ESPN-Rise DyeStat) has posted some statistics on the ESPN-Rise DyeStat Forum (under High School Elite, 2011 Boys NXN Hopefuls) that the NY Boy's performance at NXN ranks them only 6th or 7th best of the nine regions ... I guess that's one veiw-point.
This article presents a different result based on a widely-accepted measure of success.
Measure of Success ... How do we measure success in sports?? ... It can be done with statistics and opinion (Lots of opinion in anything sports-related) ... But sometimes it is useful to ask casual fans of a sport about success, so that's what I did ... The most common answer was "Who Won" (yes, winning is a great measure of success) ... and when talking about national or international competition, the "Olympics-mentality" of gold, silver and bronze medals is frequently invoked.
NXN recognizes the top three finishing teams (the "podium teams") ... This corresponds nicely to the gold, silver and bronze medals of the Olympics ... Newspapers and television commonly list the Olympic "medal count" by country (4th-place is usually forgotten unless you are Steve Prefountaine).
The stats for this "measure of success" by State are shown in the following table (1st (gold)-2nd (silver)-3rd (bronze) or the NXN podium teams) ... By this standard, New York is the second most successful State for Boys at NXN:
I never thought about it from this "medal" point-of-view ... If you ask various "rankers" about "which States have the best Boys XC teams??" (no criteria given), you might hear California, Illinois, Washington and Texas (and I might agree), and those are four of the top five "medal" States at NXN ... Maybe the NY guys deserve a little more credit.
The dominance of the New York Girls at NXN is well established ... and their "medal" count is just another example ... Interestingly, If you ask various "rankers" about "which States have the best Girls XC teams??" (no criteria given), you would likely hear New York, California, Colorado and Texas among the possibilities, and those are the top four States above ... The NY Girls have won 12 of the 21 "medals" at NXN from 2004 to 2010, and that overshadows the results (skews the stats) with respect to some other States with very good girl's teams ... But the medal count "is what it is", and the successful States are noted above.
NOTE ... I am NOT determining which States have the best XC teams in general ... That is very subjective and depends on criteria - and for my purposes with respect to NXN, it does NOT matter ... For example, I believe the California Girls teams have the deepest talent-pool in the United States with many schools having an ability to perform at a very high level ... But exceptional depth like that has limited meaning with respect to NXN because NXN limits each State to a maximum of four bids nationally ... The consideration becomes "How well can the top four teams from each State compete at NXN??" ... And when considering four teams from one State, it leads to the At-Large selections.
At-Large Selections at NXN ... The table below lists the NXN At-Large selections and their respective finishing position at NXN Portland Meadows for all seven years:
The NY Boys have received only one "at-large" bid, and that team won (the Saratoga Boys 2005) ... They are the only at-large selection to win NXN ... I guess the NY Boys are in contention for an at-large bid only when they seem capable of winning ... That's OK if the same criteria is applied to everybody else ... And Yes, I realize selecting a NY Boys team in many of the years would have been difficult based on their XC performances compared to other States ... But a fair number of at-large selections performed poorly at NXN, and I suspect different selections from the top "podium States" (e.g. IL, WA, NY) could have done better.
Girls At-Large Selections ... Easy to see how superior the NY Girls at-large selections have performed compared to everybody else ... Hilton 2006 and Saratoga 2007 were "podium" teams.
Smoky Hill Co (2004) was the only other girl's podium team ... Two "early" at-large selections were made in 2004 (Smoky Hill was one) ... They had three Footlockers Finalists on that squad (although Footlocker 2004 had not been run at selection date) ... They were clearly second-best to powerful Saratoga 2004 based on their team races, so "at-large" status was subjective (versus regular bid).
Same could be said for Hilton 2006 ... Hilton was the defending NXN champion with much of their team returning (but a group of unknown girls from Fayetteville-Manlius beat them at States & Feds, and who thought FM could have a good girl's team?? ... entering November 2006, FM was not even ranked nationally) ... The ability of Hilton was demonstrated at Footlocker Northeast when Allison Sawyer finished 8th and Caroline Schultz 11th (missed qualifying by one second) - Those were the "olden" years when NY'ers could run both NXN and Footlocker.
The lowest at-large finish for the NY Girls was Bethlehem 2004 ... Their top runner (Emily Malinowski) had oral-surgery (wisdom teeth extraction) before going to Portland Meadows and that was the only race all year she was not their top runner (she was #3 at NXN) ... an average race by her would have lifted Bethlehem to 5th, but many teams have "stuff" happen at Portland Meadows ....... Many NY'ers thought Bay Shore should have been invited in 2004, but they weren't ... Bethlehem finished 3 points ahead of Bay Shore at Feds, but Bay Shore's #2 runner (Mary Liz McCurdy) finished #4 for the team when she was sick ... At Footlocker Northeast the following week, Bay Shore's Laura Cummings qualified for Footlocker Finals (along with Nicole Blood, Aislinn Ryan, Hannah Davidson, Caitlin Lane, etc) and Mary Liz McCurdy finished 12th (just ahead of Danielle Tauro and Neely Spence) ... Bay Shore was capable of finishing 3rd to Saratoga and Smoky Hill CO, but did not get invited.
Saratoga Girls 2006 also did NOT get invited to NXN ... I still remember the NY Federation race where Saratoga finished 3rd to FM and Hilton, and the NXN guys saying "Saratoga only finished 3rd - Guess they're not that good" ... WHOA Guys - It depends on who you finish 3rd to ... Unfortunately in the large forest of opinion, I was a lone voice who thought FM and Hilton were two of the top four teams in the nation at that point ... Saratoga had beaten FM and Hilton at Manhattan and finished a decent 3rd to them at States and Feds ... FM and Hilton finished 1st and 2nd at NXN, and Saratoga was capable of finishing 3rd, but did not get invited.
A couple of bullet conclusions based strictly on what has happened at NXN Portland Meadows using my totally unbiased (or not) opinion:
National Cross Country Participation Numbers ... Thought this might be of interest to some viewers ... I collected the most recent XC participation numbers from the National Federation of State Associations web-site (http://www.nfhs.org/) ... The available data are listed in the table below.
The number of schools for NY (554) seems appropriate for the NYSPHSAA schools with both boys & girls teams (the school numbers are the same for both boys & girls in their data) ... seems to exclude the NY Catholic league, PSAL league in NY City and the independent schools, but the NYSPHSAA is by far the largest of the NY Federation associations ... I assume the survey methodology is similar in other States.
I thought California would have the highest XC participation, but Texas tops the list (guess Texas likes to do things big) ... I'm not sure how to "use" these numbers for performance comparisons, but they are interesting to look at.