The answer is
YES ... The graph below is just one piece of the evidence, but it
shows the difference very nicely ... The graph below also illustrates
the foundation of my approach to determining how fast or how slow one
cross country race is compared to another. Always, my first step
in determining the speed of a race is to graph the race (race time
versus place) whenever possible ... graphing requires a reasonable
depth to results and a reasonable number of runners ... Complete
results from large invitational races and sectionals are incredibly
important to my methodology.
One point needs to be emphasized
(especially to the coaches and others who believe that the speed
determinations by TullyRunners.com are just the opinion of one person
(at best) who occasionally fudges the numbers for his own benefit) ...
That graph below IS NOT MY OPINION  anybody can produced exactly the
same graph by going to ArmoryTrack, collecting all the varsity results
for the girl's races in 2002 and 2003, and then plotting the results
... Likewise, anybody can perform precisely the same steps with the
sectional championship races for a really good comparison of the
sectional races.
Only one assumption is required
for direct comparison of two races on the same graph  that the
ability of the "midlevel" (average) runners in one race is
approximately equal to the same group in the other race ... On these
types of graphs, the "elite" and "above average" runners are
designated by the curved part of the line ... the "midlevel" group
starts where the line begins to straighten and is usually the biggest
group of runners in a race (just like "C" students are the biggest
group in school) ... I usually ignore the elite and most above average
runners on these graphs and focus on the midlevel runners ... In
any large race with small, medium and large schools and good, mediocre
and belowaverage teams, the "midlevel" runners are approximately
equal from race to race, section to section, and state to state
(they don't have to be exactly equal ... Yes, it can be demonstrated)
... One point  the elite and aboveaverage groups of runners
have been growing recently as a percentage of runners in NY (that's
great).
Now back to the graph below ...
Was the overall quality of the varsity girl runners at the Manhattan
Invite (nearly 700 runners deep) about the same in 2002 and 2003?? ...
the answer is easily Yes (a good diverse group for statistical
evaluation) ... Therefore, just examine the graph and measure the time
difference between the two lines ... it mostly varies from about 10 to
16 seconds ... I used a 12 second difference for my speed ratings ...
I don't consider that 12 second adjustment to be much an opinion ...
anybody can read the graph a determine a similar adjustment  and the
same holds true for any large invitational or sectional race.
I could show a number of other Van
Cortlandt Park examples for this year, but I don't have time ...
In all honesty, I'm not happy Van Cortlandt Park is running faster
this year because it makes more work for me ... Over the past few
years, VCP has been remarkably consistent in its speed (good or bad
weather) ... when I noticed the change, I had to actually start
examining the races more closely (not all VCP races are large and
diverse like Manhattan and a graphic solution is not possible at
times).
