Tully Runners Article
Responses & Thoughts - Pre-Season Rankings & Other Stuff
by Bill Meylan (Aug 3, 2015)
Pre-Season Ranking Lists ... I know many good horse handicappers ... We socialize at the race track and exchange opinions on up-coming races ... Often we agree ... But often we have different opinions ... With very rare exception, we are interested in the different opinions because it can affect winning or losing money ... we make our final decisions and bet accordingly ... sometimes I win ... sometimes I lose ... But different opinions are welcomed.
Tolerance of different opinions is not universally accepted in the realm of high school cross country teams and individuals ... When I first started ranking high school cross country runners years ago, I immediately discovered that many parents, coaches and runners take rankings quite "personally" ... That did not surprise me too much as any public rankings are expected to get complaints and differences of opinion ... I try to put my pre-season rankings in context and note it is one person's opinion ... and I welcome other opinions, especially those that get posted to the public.
Let me use one e-mail example to summarize a bit of intolerance ... To paraphrase and cleanse this e-mail's intent (from a coach), "Rankings should not be posted unless they agree with the coach's opinion, and any rankings not agreeing with the coach are just plain wrong" ..... Guess what?? - the TullyRunners guy has a different opinion ..... Interested viewers are looking for some information and opinion ... I think it helps promote the sport.
Why is Christina Aragon Missing from my Pre-Season list of National Individual Girls?? ..... I had several inquiries wondering about this (they were not really complaints, just questions) ... This is a good example of how I evaluate some runners for an upcoming XC season ... In general, I am more interested in looking towards the end of the season at NXN and Footlocker, and runners and teams that might impact those events ..... Last year, I excluded Allie Ostrander from a full individual profile because she had skipped all NXN and Footlocker qualifiers throughout her high school career ... so expecting her to skip those post-season races again, I wrote full profiles on other runners instead.
Christina Aragon (Billings HS in Montana) is a super talent and clearly one of the best distance runners in the country ... she won the adidas Grand Prix Mile (4:37.91) and Brooks PR 800 meters (2:04.00) in very fast times ... she ran 55.87 for 400 meters which puts her at a high school level near Mary Cain for that distance ... For track distances from 400 meters to 1-Mile, Christina Aragon is likely the top high school runner in the nation (and one of the best ever) ... However, her track resume is missing a fast 3200 meter time (her PR is only 10:48.71), but that's probably because she has never attempted to run a fast all-out 3200 meters in good conditions.
When ranking XC, I give much more credit for proven ability at XC in relation to proven ability at track ... Other rankers have a different opinion which I do respect because there is a statistical correlation between XC times and track times (but it varies a lot).
In XC last year, Christina Aragon finished 33rd at the NXN Northwest regional ... she was 4th at Montana States Class AA (beaten by Annie Hill (by 39 seconds) and two other runners) ... Annie Hill, Makena Morley and Bryn Morley all beat her by a substantial margin at the Mountain West Classic ... So her XC performance level from 2014 did not merit a top national XC ranking entering XC 2015 ... In contrast, her track performances say something very different.
So I looked back at Christina's 2014 track performances to check her track ability entering XC 2014 ... Her 2014 track PRs at 400m, 800m and 1-Mile were 56.72, 2:11.64 and 4:44.33 ... Obviously not as good as her 2015 track times, but still at a national elite-caliber level ... and in 2014, she did not have the opportunity to run elite races such as the adidas Dream Mile and Brooks PR Invite where she could have lowered those marks even more ... So entering XC 2014, Christina had the speed to be a top national XC runner, but it did not happen ... In addition, I saw a recent article which said Christina considers herself to be a gymnast first and then a runner ... All things considered, I decided not to profile Christina Aragon ... But I expect she will be highly ranked by others and I can't disagree with that opinion.
Team Depth .... Teams like Great Oaks CA and Christian Brothers NJ have shown an ability to form multiple 7-runner units from their large teams that can compete well in invitational races ... Team depth is an important factor in pre-season ranking and in post-season projections at NXN ... Having quality #6 and #7 runners capable of scoring well if needed is very desirable ... Having a team 15 or 20 deep seems even better.
But as a handicapper, I realize only 7 runners are allowed to compete for each team at NXN Regional and National races ... so I focus on only the top seven runners for each team (that's adequate for evaluation purposes) ...... In an e-mail, one out-of-State parent noted that the Tully Girls were the NY State Class D champions, but his daughter's team could put together several teams after their top 7 that could beat Tully ... My response was "It might be true, but it doesn't matter ... your school is many times larger than Tully (average class size in Tully is now 81 kids per class in HS) ... your school's XC team dwarfs the Tully girls in numbers (last year's State winning team had a grand total of 8 girls on the varsity+JV, and two of them were 8th-graders so Tully could field a complete team) ... and, if by miracle, Tully did race at NXN, the best you could do is put 7 girls in front of Tully's first girl, and since she will be quite good this coming season, I doubt that would happen" ... Handicapping goes 7 deep.
Depth can also mean depth within a State or region ... For example, I have six California boys teams ranked in my pre-season top 30 national teams ... But for post-season NXN purposes, only the top four teams matter ... same goes for the other NXN regions ... I know it matters to the California coaches if the State goes 10 teams deep ... For my pre-season rankings this year, I wanted to determine the top four teams from each NXN region and place at least the top two in my top 30.
Speed Ratings & Course Distance ... Several viewers have been trying to correlate my speed ratings with course distances and race times and are coming up with poor correlations ... They have back-calculated my speed ratings at specific courses to determine the race corrections I used to make the speed ratings ... The resulting course correction charts seem incorrect based on course distance and indicate the speed ratings are wrong.
I posted an article several years ago, "Distance & Speed Ratings" ... Bottom-line is that all 5K courses are not 5K in actual distance ... I ignore course distances when making speed ratings ... Speed ratings are based strictly on the final times of the runners ... Course distance, difficulty, and the weather are excluded ... The final times take all of that into consideration ... If the course is long and difficult, the times will be slow ... If the course is flat and short, the times will be fast ... I use statistical methods to correlate the times, and speed ratings come from that.