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A Look at NTN & Footlockers - Runners Who Ran Both Races

Bill Meylan ... (December 15, 2004)

Purpose of this article ... 2004 was a banner year for high school cross country in the US ... The first-ever NTN (Nike Team National) Invitational was held in Portland, Oregon bringing together forty-one of the nation's best boys and girls teams for head-to-head competition ... One week later, the annual Footlocker National Finals were held in San Diego, CA ... A fair number of runners competed in both NTN and Footlockers ... This article briefly examines the performances of runners who ran in both races and the possible impact of NTN on Footlocker runners and the Footlocker race.

With respect to this article, it should be noted that I am strictly a "journalist-spectator" having no "conflict-of-interest" (meaning I have absolutely no contact or part of NTN or Footlocker as an employee, volunteer, ranker, associate, or gift-receiver (money, travel-expenses, shoes, bags, clothes, or anything else).

The Basic Numbers ... Race results for the NTN - Footlocker runners are listed in a table below ... Twenty runners (12 girls, 8 boys) competed at both NTN and Footlockers ... Therefore, with a total of 80 runners entered, 25% of the Footlocker runners raced the week before at NTN (that's a fairly significant percentage).

How well did they run at Footlocker?? ... Only one of the twenty NTN runners finished in the top five at Footlockers (Ramsey Kavan finished 3rd) ... Brie Felnagle (6th) and Robbie Barany (8th) were the only other NTN runners who finished in the top ten ... Five of the eight boys (all of them finishing in the top 13% at NTN) finished in the bottom 20% at Footlockers ...  On the girls side, all 12 NTN runners finished in the top 10% at NTN ... but at Footlockers, 8 girls finished in the bottom 50% ... Yes, statistics can make it seem worse than it might be in reality (because the overall quality of individual runners at Footlockers is much better than NTN), but overall, the Footlocker performance looks pretty dismal.

Girls ... I think both Ramsey Kavan and Brie Felnagle ran very good and relatively consistent races at both NTN and Footlocker ... By comparing the time differences between Kavan or Felnagle and the other girls at both NTN and Footlockers, it becomes apparent most of the other girls ran slower races (on a relative basis) at Footlockers (some of them much slower); Allison Eckert is the one exception.
Boys ... I think Robbie Barany ran a bit better at Footlocker than NTN (some people I know disagree and believe he ran about the same in both races) ... It doesn't really matter - checking the time differences between Barany or Brandon Bethke with the other boys runners (both races), it is obvious that most of the guys ran much slower on a relative basis ... Here's an example - at NTN, Matt Dettman was 6.4 seconds behind Bethke - at Footlocker, Dettman was 49 seconds behind Bethke.

Quick Comparison to Footlocker-Only Runners ... Let's be honest - the NTN runners do not have exclusivity on "off" performances at Footlockers - some of the Footlocker-only runners share the spotlight very nicely, and that's always been the case at Footlockers ... For most runners, the biggest challenge is qualifying for Footlockers at one of the four regional qualifying races which typically requires an "all-out" or peak performance (and the subsequent race at Footlocker Finals is "less than peak") ... But there is one big difference between NTN and Footlocker in this regard - the poor performances at Footlockers are always off-set by some exceptional and/or better-than-expected performances (Ken Cormier is a perfect example) ... NTN runners had no such performances at Footlocker.

Performance Conclusion ... When viewed as a group, the NTN runners did not run as well at Footlocker as they did at NTN ... although a few NTN runners ran well at Footlockers, most ran poorly by comparison.

Reasons for Slower Performances by NTN Runners at Footlockers ... Enter the world of conjecture and subjective judgement ... There is no definitive answer ... But, I believe that "disruption of normal patterns" might have something to do with it.

Consider the normal high school race preparation ... train during the week, get on the bus race-day, run the race, go home the same day (reasonably close supervision by coaches) ... Occasionally, an over-night trip, but much the same as before (and this even applies to racing at Footlocker regional races).  By comparison, NTN and Footlocker Finals are very very different ... Travel distances for most runners are much longer ... Time-zone changes and jet-lag will affect some runners ... arrive on a Thursday, attend special events, meet famous people, rub elbows with Suzy Favor-Hamilton, Alan Webb and others, socialize, have photos taken often and answer endless questions, attend banquets, dances, have a great time ... and, oh yes, run a race! ... Obviously conducive to a "peak performance" (just ask Aislinn Ryan or Ken Cormier, but they went through it only once) ... The NTN runners did this twice in back-to-back weeks ... talk about disruption of a training regime!

Interestingly, three of the NTN runners who ran decently at Footlockers (Felnagle, Barany, Bethke) are from the west, and are not subjected to the time-zone changes as are the eastern runners.

Impact of NTN on Footlocker .... This really depends on your point-of-view ... possible examples:

Runners point-of-view ... This is great ... What could be better than two weeks of incredible fun?

NTN point-of-view ... No problem here ... NTN was a great event!

Interested Fan point-of-view ... Both NTN and Footlocker are super events ... It is great to see the best race head-to-head ... But it is disappointing to see many outstanding runners perform at sub-par levels at Footlockers because they ran the week before at NTN ... Is Footlocker just a good-time anti-climax for the NTN runners??

Skeptical Fan point-of-view ... Why does Footlocker need the NTN runners at all?? ... They had almost no impact on the individual results (and hurt some regional team scores) ... Footlocker use to be special because everybody had to compete head-to-head at regional qualifying races, and now there's 40 runners instead of 32 ... Why change something that was so special?? ... Does Footlocker really think this is better??

My Own point-of-view ... I'm not really certain ... maybe some of all the above (I haven't decided yet) ... I wonder what the Footlocker point-of-view might be?? ... Initially, I was in favor of combining NTN and Footlocker into one race ... After thinking about it and talking to a few runners, I don't think it's fair to the Footlocker runners - I think it detracts from the special nature of a national individual championship ... And like it or not, NTN is an "invitational" race - it is not a true championship race for several reasons, (1) worthy teams are left out because ignorant State associations won't let them come and (2) there are no regional head-to-head qualifying meets ... Don't get me wrong, the NTN ranking process worked fairly well with the involvement many good people - and the best teams in the nation did win, so NTN is a huge accomplishment.  But Footlocker has a history of excellence as a separate entity.

An acquaintance posed an interesting question to me ... If I was a contestant on Donald Trump's TV show "The Apprentice" and was given the task of managing the Footlocker National Finals to make it the best race possible, how would I do it?? ... Heck of a question (I'm a scientist, not a politician) ... He gave me a hint - He said if I left it exactly the same as this year - "You're Fired!".



 Race Results for Footlocker - NTN Runners 2004

Place  Runner                   Club-School            Time         Rating
-----  ---------------------    ------------------    --------      ------

 NTN Results for Footlocker Girls

   1   Ramsey Kavan             3-D Running           18:05.37      (161.2)
   2   Brianna Felnagle         Hilltop Belles        18:15.02      (158.0)
   3   Nicole Blood             Kinetic RC            18:20.72      (156.1)
   4   Katelyn Kaltenbach       Sisu XC               18:24.41      (154.9)
   5   Keara Sammons            Sisu XC               18:24.72      (154.8)
   6   Hannah Davidson          Kinetic RC            18:34.66      (151.4)
   7   Lindsey Ferguson         Kinetic RC            18:36.40      (150.9)
   9   Crystal Reed             Fount Val             18:52.72      (145.4)
  11   Brooke Upshaw            Southlake XC          18:55.10      (144.6)
  12   Caitlin Lane             Kinetic RC            18:58.57      (143.5)
  13   Allison Eckert           Four-Pointers XC      19:07.31      (140.6)
  14   Miranda Walker           Southlake XC          19:07.70      (140.4)

  Footlocker Results for NTN Girls

  3    Ramsey Kavan (12)        Yankton            SD   17:47       (162.3)
  6    Brianna Felnagle (12)    Bellarmine Prep    WA   18:02       (157.3)
  11   Keara Sammons (11)       Smoky Hill         CO   18:20       (151.3)
  15   Katelyn Kaltenbach (12)  Smoky Hill         CO   18:28       (148.7)
  21   Nicole Blood (11)        Saratoga Springs   NY   18:34       (146.7)
  22   Allison Eckert (10)      Sioux Falls Roosev SD   18:35       (146.3)
  23   Hannah Davidson (9)      Saratoga Springs   NY   18:40       (144.7)
  24   Lindsey Ferguson (11)    Saratoga Springs   NY   18:48       (142.0)
  28   Brooke Upshaw (11)       Southlake Carroll  TX   18:54       (140.0)
  31   Miranda Walker (11)      Southlake Carroll  TX   19:01       (137.7)
  36   Crystal Reed (11)        Fountain Valley    CA   19:40       (124.7)
  38   Caitlin Lane (9)         Saratoga Springs   NY   19:50       (121.3)

 NTN Results for Footlocker Boys

   1   Sean Mc Namara           Kroy XC                15:43.9      (203.4)
   2   Brandon Bethke           Beach Dudes XC Club    15:55.5      (199.5)
   3   Robbie Barany            Yakima Harriers        16:02.1      (197.3)
   4   Matthew Dettman          Kroy XC                16:08.5      (195.2)
   8   Robert Bedsole           Birmingham XC          16:15.9      (192.7)
   9   Thomas Gruenewald        Stotan XC              16:16.6      (192.5)
  12   Benjamin Schulz          The Woodlands XC       16:25.2      (189.6)
  18   Andrew Mc Cann           Stotan XC              16:33.5      (186.8)

 Footlocker Results for NTN Boys

  8    Robbie Barany (12)       Eisenhower         WA   15:35       (201.7)
  11   Brandon Bethke (12)      El Toro            CA   15:41       (199.7)
  12   Sean McNamara (12)       York               IL   15:42       (199.3)
  32   Robert Bedsole (12)      Hoover             AL   16:21       (186.3)
  34   Matt Dettman (11)        York               IL   16:30       (183.3)
  36   Thomas Gruenewald (10)   FM                 NY   16:33       (182.3)
  37   Andrew McCann (11)       FM                 NY   16:47       (177.7)
  38   Benjamin  Schulz (12)    The Woodlands      TX   16:49       (177.0)