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Footlocker & NXN Participation Numbers 2009

Bill Meylan ... (December 27, 2009)


This article is an extension of last year's article which compared the Footlocker and NXN participation numbers through 2008 (this article updates the numbers through 2009) ... Nike added individual runners to their championship races in 2008 which created a direct competition with Footlocker.

Both Footlocker and NXN are great meets.  Footlocker and Nike use these events for advertising purposes, and in the process, many runners get some excellent opportunities and experience ... It's a win-win situation for both the companies and the runners ... Cross country runners are fortunate to have these opportunities for post-season competition. 

Competitor Numbers

Last year, I compiled some numbers to see how many runners had been competing in the Footlocker regional and NXN regional qualifying races in hopes of seeing some impact-trends of NXN on Footlocker.

After updating the numbers through 2009, I showed them to a couple of co-workers at my real job and asked for their impression (they are scientists who commonly evaluate numbers for environmental and biological assessment tasks and are joggers who occasionally compete in 5K road races, but have only a casual knowledge of high school XC).

The participation numbers are shown in the table below:


Number of runners competing at the NXN and Footlocker Qualifying Meets between 2003 - 2009

To get the numbers below, I used available on-line results and added-up the number of high school boys and girls who competed in each meet ... There were seven regional NXN meets (the NY and NE regionals are combined into a single event) ... California does not have an NXN regional (they use the CA State Meet ... the CA State Meet numbers are excluded from all years for consistency).



                                            Actual Number of Runners Competing
  Qualifying Race     2009 Date       2009   2008   2007   2006   2005   2004   2003
  =================  ============     ====   ====   ====   ====   ====   ====   ====

  NXN NY & NE        (11-28-2009)      896    540    444    --     --     --     --
  NXN Southeast      (11-28-2009)      476    414    271    --     --     --     --
  NXN Southwest      (11-21-2009)      870    776    513    --     --     --     --
  NXN South          (11-21-2009)      696    552    393    --     --     --     --
  NXN Midwest        (11-15-2009)      728    586    328    --     --     --     --
  NXN Heartland      (11-14-2009)      712    716    492    --     --     --     --
  NXN Northwest      (11-14-2009)      857    760    606    --     --     --     --
                                      ----   ----   ----
                          NXN Total   5235   4344   3047

  Footlocker West    (12-05-2009)     1596   1759   1805   2022   2117   1995   2156
  Footlocker NE      (11-28-2009)      842   1389   1552   1951   1910   1810   1944
  Footlocker South   (11-28-2009)     1372   1418   1502   1736   1730   1584   1690
  Footlocker Midwest (11-28-2009)      970   1053   1259   1405   1506   1444   1483
                                      ----   ----   ----   ----   ----   ----   ----
                   Footlocker Total   4780   5619   6118   7114   7263   6833   7273

    -------------------------------  -----  -----  -----
    Combined NXN + Footlocker Total  10015   9963   9165


To me, one number in particular jumped-out in 2009 ... The same number was immediately obvious to my co-workers which is the big drop in participation at Footlocker NE in 2009 (1389 in 2008 vs. 842 in 2009) ... The increase at NXN-NY-NE in 2009 explains only part of it.

Both co-workers went on-line for more information and both came up with the same reasoning as as me ... As one co-worker noted "location-location-location" - 2008 was at VanCortlandt Park in NY City and 2009 was at Sunken Meadow on the coast of Long Island ... We suspect that accessibility to VCP is easier for more people than the mid-section of Long Island, and possibly caused some runners to switch to NXN as a result.

Look at the combined participation numbers for Footlocker Northeast plus NXN-NY-Northeast over the 2003-2009 time span:

                                         Footlocker Northeast  &  NXN NY-Northeast
  Qualifying Race     2009 Date       2009   2008   2007   2006   2005   2004   2003
  =================  ============     ====   ====   ====   ====   ====   ====   ====
  NXN NY & NE        (11-28-2009)      896    540    444    --     --     --     --
  Footlocker NE      (11-28-2009)      842   1389   1552   1951   1910   1810   1944
                                      ----   ----   ----   ----   ----   ----   ----
                              TOTAL   1738   1929   1996   1951   1910   1810   1944

NXN NY-NE Has Not helped the overall participation numbers for the Northeast ... As one co-worker noted, "Both meets are on the same day in the same general region which means they are drawing from the same pool of potential participants which must be divided by definition".

The combined NY-NE participation rate was relatively consistent between 2003 and 2008 ... The one variable that changed in 2009 was the location switch to Sunken Meadow by Footlocker ... and that location switch coincided with a significant drop in participation that is not occurring in other regions of the country.

The combined drop in 2009 is probably due to the location of Footlocker NE on Long Island (IMO), but I see no reason to believe the numbers will go up significantly as long as the meets are held on the same day.

With the exception of the Northeast and NY regions, overall participation numbers have increased in the US due to NXN and its additional locations and dates (dates that do not conflict with Footlocker).

Wouldn't it be nice if Footlocker NE and NXN-NY were held on different days??

Quick Side-Note on the Sunken Meadow Location ... Immediately after Aisling Cuffe set the Sunken Meadow course record at Footlocker NE, I received an e-mail from a prominent coach asking if I would be posting Footlocker predictions and picking Aisling Cuffe to win ... I was planning to post predictions and past performance charts for the top contenders, but decided not to because of Aisling Cuffe's excellent performance ... Her performance was so good that it would have caused me to say something negative about her chances at Footlocker Nationals, and I do not want to post anything negative about any specific NY runner before a race if possible ... Sunken Meadow is a tough course and I have watched it "suck the life" out of a runner's legs after a demanding race ... I was afraid Aisling Cuffe's performance (which appeared to be "too good" for a qualifying race) might hurt her chances at Footlocker Nationals against competition such as Meghan Goethals and Chelsey Sveinsson ... Sunken Meadow can be an exhausting course for a qualifying race.

Participation Numbers Conclusions

(1) Footlocker participation numbers decreased immediately from the onset of NXN regionals in 2007 ... The decrease was about 14% in  2007 (or about 1000 fewer participants) ... 2008 had an additional decrease of about 500 participants followed by another decrease in 2009 (839 participants).

(2) The combined Footlocker + NXN participation rate in both 2008 and 2009 was roughly 10,000 (the increase in 2009 was less than 1% which is insignificant) ... This suggests that under the present system (four Footlocker + eight NXN qualifiers) there exists a pool of about 10,000 total participants.

(3) Prior to 2007, the participation pool for Footlocker was on-the-order of about 7,000 participants ... NXN has increased the overall pool by about 3,000 participants ..... The increase is probably due to an increase of qualifying sites and dates introduced by the seven NXN locations.

(4) In 2009, NXN gained a slight participation edge over Footlocker (5235 to 4780) ... It is possible that the switch in Footlocker NE locations contributed to the NXN edge to some degree.

(5) There may be a finite number of high school runners available (or willing) to run post-season meets ... The current 10,000 participation number seems quite good, but it does depend on participation in races other than the championship qualifying races ... Including both NXN and Footlocker, there are 24 separate championship races for boys and girls (8 Footlocker + 16 NXN races) ... If all 10,000 participants competed in the championship races equally (10000 divided by 24), then each race would have 417 runners .... My co-workers thought that might be OK for road racing, but I think it might be impossible for the XC courses being used .... Conclusion - The number of qualifying races "could" limit the number of participants in the championship races depending on the race courses being used.

General Questions:

(a) Would the current total participation number (10,000) decrease IF Footlocker stopped racing altogether?? .... We assume yes because four locations would be eliminated (but how much is uncertain).

(b) IF Footlocker stopped racing altogether, could NXN handle the influx of runners to the championship qualifying races without imposing some "restrictions" on individual runners or teams who want to race in the championship race?? .... For example, the NXN-Northeast Boys championship race had 226 runners in 2009 ... The Seeded Boys race at Footlocker NE had 146 runners, of which 103 were from the the States competing in the NXN-NE race ... 226+103 =329 total runners ... Could Bowdoin Park handle a race with 329 runners?? (Would you want a race with 329 runners at Bowdoin Park, even though I'm sure they could try it??)

IF the numbers in the championship races have to be restricted, who will NXN restrict?? ... Will they limit the number of team runners or the number of individual runners?? ... It does not really matter since it probably will never effect New York.

Just Looking at Numbers:

Sometimes the perspective of observers not totally familiar with a subject can be interesting:

Current participation between NXN and Footlocker is roughly the same ... NXN wants both the best team runners and the best individual runners ... Footlocker wants just the best individual numbers ... NXN needs to qualify 398 boys and girls to Portland Meadows ... Footlocker needs to qualify only 80 boys and girls to San Diego ... As one co-worker noted, "the Footlocker National thing needs only 20% of the runner numbers going the Nike National race, so Footlocker does not need a qualifying pool as large as Nike to get their quality runners" ... I chimed in "that depends on who's in the qualifying races".

The co-workers wanted my opinion of the "quality" of the Footlocker and Nike National races over the two years of competition for individual runners, which is: (1) Nearly all of the top girls have competed at Footlocker and (2) the top boys have been split about equally ..... Another question - "Does one race offer more incentive than the other to the qualifiers??" ... I responded that qualifiers from both get all-expense paid trips and other goodies that any red-blooded teenager will appreciate.

One co-worker's summary question: - Nike and Footlocker are competing for the individual talent.  Nike is definitely taking runner numbers away from Footlocker at the qualifying races and now has at least half or more of the participation numbers.  But Footlocker is still getting the top girls and half the top boys.  As long as Footlocker is offering free trips and goodies, why are we considering that Footlocker will stop ................ Answer - Contingency Plans are useful so "Just Do It".