TullyRunners - Article
Evaluating NXN Nationals - Status Entering 2013
by Bill Meylan (September 2, 2013)
This is an abbreviated article ... I was planning a more detailed article concerning "Evaluating NXN Nationals - What Has It Become?" ... But for various reasons, this is all I can do for now.
Basically, I believe NXN Nationals has become three things ... (1) a reward for the teams and individuals qualifying, (2) a spectacle for the fans and media, and (3) a National championship race ... I will briefly discuss each.
Winning a free trip to Portland, Oregon with the opportunity to visit the Nike campus, meet world-class runners, participate in fun events, and compete against top high school runners from around the nation is a great reward ... I encourage all high school runners interested in cross country to participate in the NXN regional qualifiers or Footlocker qualifiers during the post-season ... Those having the opportunity and ability to run both NXN and Footlocker should run both (these life-time opportunities are rare and special).
I have complained about the XC course at Portland Meadows for years ... The course is different than any of the qualifying courses, State meet courses or other courses used by high school runners during the season ... Some people think that's good, but I don't ... However, Portland Meadows is a great location logistically for Nike and fans.
When top teams from around the nation go through a qualifying process and then come together to compete at NXN Nationals, that meet by definition becomes a National championship meet ... It doesn't matter if it's run on a golf course, a common high school course, a road course or Portland Meadows ... Somebody will finish first, second and third, and that's all that's necessary to crown the top teams in the nation.
A retired central NY coach use to put together "Select" track meets ... He would tell the coaches involved that he wanted "No Goobers" entered ... By "Goobers" he meant athletes not qualified or able to compete at an upper-level.
NXN Nationals has "No Goobers" ... It is a top-level meet with top-level teams (literally from top-to-bottom) ... There are always a few teams not able to participate or not-qualified that are worthy of a Top 20 National ranking (and should be competing at an NXN-type meet), but the teams at NXN are a good national representation of top talent.
"Stuff" That Happens Portland Meadows ... Using the Fayetteville-Manlius Boys at NXN 2012 as an example ... Five of the FM guys were knocked to the ground during NXN 2012 ... FM's top runner (Nick Ryan) was effectively "tackled" to the ground ... Two of FM's NXN scorers ran the majority of the race with only one shoe (Bryce Millar and Adam Hunt) ... Entering NXN 2012, the FM guys appeared to rank roughly 8th to 12th in the field according most knowledgeable observers (me included).
With all that "stuff" happening to the FM guys, they were still able to finish 16th in the field of 22 teams with their top three scorers performing well below normal performance levels ... I find it astonishing that a team having that much "stuff" happen to them could beat 27% of the teams competing in a National meet with "No Goobers" and nothing but top talent .... How is that possible?? - Short answer - "Stuff" is happening to too many teams and individuals at Portland Meadows ..... This was not the first NXN race where FM's #2 runner ran the majority of the race with one shoe ... I shutter to consider the number of runners who have lost shoes at Portland Meadows ... Does that bear any resemblance to high school races during the regular season??
Note ... MileSplit has recently posted an article - Nike wants cleaner conditions at 10th NXN - http://usa.milesplit.com/articles/110202-nike-aims-for-cleaner-conditions-at-portland-meadows-for-10th-nxn#.UiH4ghZLf6E ... I wish Nike could find a more conventional-type high school course near the Nike campus, but it seems they have tried and failed in that endeavor.
I also believe the Reward aspect of NXN is a factor in hindering some performance levels ... The primary focus of some teams and individuals is to simply "make it to NXN Nationals" ... The whole NXN experience (and perhaps course conditions) might encourage some teams and individuals to simply enjoy their time at NXN ... They earned their qualifying spots, so I can't complain (just form an opinion on what I see) ... Similar things do happen at Footlocker, but my opinion, not nearly to the extent as NXN because Footlocker has better weather and far fewer runners making it obvious what each Footlocker runner is doing ... It is far easier to get "lost" as an individual by the sheer number of mud-covered runners at NXN.
So What Has NXN Nationals Become? ... NXN is a super reward for those who qualify ... NXN is a national spectacle in the tradition of the Roman Coliseum ("slight" exaggeration intended) ... It is a National championship meet where some teams and individuals compete like heck to win and others do not ... It is meet where far to much "Stuff" happens.
And as I noted in a previous article about Mary Cain, the race needs to be run to determine who wins.