Thursday, May 20, 2010

The best meet that isn't

From Jim Crowhurst and the Press Democrat
You may have noticed on my site that I do next to no opinion pieces.

This will be one of the few negative stories about the sport I love.

What brings all this on? The NCS/Redwood Empire Championships.
This meet is unlike any other I know of. This is where the top runners in the area all must
gather to compete, to advance on toward State, yet the best never run against each other.
Check out the heat assignments and look at what could have been.

If you are unfamiliar with how this meet is run, I'll try to explain. The top 6 from the 4
leagues that compose what the NCS calls the Redwood Empire, come together to see which 7 kids
in each event move on to the NCS MOC. In most of the running events, the kids are broken up
into 3 balanced heats. So the 3 fastest 100 runners are all in separate heats and so on.
They run the heats and then call the heat winner with the fastest time the champion. And the
top 7 times go on. They even do team scoring on the meet and hand out a pennant. This is all 
done so that the meet can be done in one day.

So, if you're in one of the three 800 heats, forget about running a tactical race. Only the
winner is assured of going on. And should one sprint heat have a head wind and another a tail, 
oh well, thats the breaks.

Ok I'm done ranting for the year.

Just so you know the NCS 1A meet on Saturday will be at Montgomery High. It will also be a
one day meet but they will run trials in the morning and true finals in the afternoon. This of 
course, is a killer for the sprinters, but at least it's not a meet on paper rather than on the track.

Opps I'm ranting again.

If you want to say "Hi" I'll be selling t-shirts at the 1A meet.

Jim Crowhurst
Totally agree with Jim in regards to the seeding of the Redwood Empire meet.  I am not sure why the best runners are separated in that fashion.  There is no reason why you can't have a slow and a fast heat if you are going to have multiple heats.  That way you can have fair competition for the coveted 7 spots that automatically advance to the NCS MOC.  

As for the trials at the Class A Meet.  The top sprinters cruise the trials so it's not that big of a deal for them.  Since only 3 advance to the NCS MOC from that meet, it's necessary that the athletes with a shot to advance go head to head.

No question that for the majority of my athletes, the NCS Class A meet was their favorite meet of the season.  It is very much sorely missed now that we are in CCS.


that guy said...

Tri-Valley meet is seeded the same way.

Andrew said...

So is Bay Shore.

John said...

Essentially they are treating Redwood Empire, Tri-Valley, Bay Shore, etc as the preliminary heats for MOC and I guess seeding is done by results from league meets.

Making fast and slow heats defeat that purpose plus penalizes athletes who didn't have to go far, fast, high in their league meet to advance unless you seed by best year performance.

If you want to make Redwood, Tri-Valley, etc true championship meets then you'd have to turn them into 2-day affairs. A one day meet where some events have trials (100/200, hurdles?) and others are timed finals with fast/slow heats (800, 1600, 3200?) is not optimal either.

Peter Brewer said...

The reason the area meets went to the current format was a culmination of a series of format changes the NCS went through.

At one time the qualifying rounds were a mixture of geographic and school size meets. We had the Class A meet, the 2A meet north, the 2A meet south, and the 3A meet. These were all apportioned qualifiers to make 16 total to advance to the NCS MOC.

One of the major concerns at the time was that when one region was strong in an event, at times a top athletes was left home who would have moved on from another regional meet. This resulted in the NCS MOC opening up to 24 total entrants.

With the current arrangement of the the three regional meets (Tri-Valley, Bay Shore, Redwood Empire) plus the Class A, the regional meets were allotted 7 qualifiers.

Well, it quickly became apparent that with a 2-day format, 8 finalists would qualify to the finals, and then run another race to eliminate just one position. Concerns were raised that this was essentially a wasted day, with little more than pro forma performances by the athletes and an additional day off from classes. Hence, the format was changed from to a one day, timed final format.

Complaints that there were top athletes still being left behind were addressed with the at-large standards.

I distinctly remember Doug Courtemarche giving me an earful after the first such Redwood Empire meet, where he was tremendously upset about the format change since it did away with what Jim Crowhurst pointed out. There was no head-to-head competition and therefore no direct determination of either an individual champion or team champion. Apparently, this sentiment still runs strong in the Redwood Empire, but is barely a whisper of a thought in the other two regionals. Personally, I think that the regional pride of the Redwood Empire is to be admired, and does much to promote the sport and the competitive level of performers in such a wide-spread area. However, the NCS does have this format set up, and so it goes.

Perhaps the Redwood Empire could ask for some regional autonomy, and ask to reinstate a two day format just for themselves. The top 7 qualifiers would still move on, and the legitimacy of the winners would be validated. I know that many of the participating schools have to travel quite a distance in any case, and an extra day is not an inconvenient factor. (The Bayshore and Tri-Valley meets do not involved anything upwards of an hour's travel for any team, if that.) I don't know if this idea has been floated in the past, but it might be worth a try.

I just wanted to add a little historical perspective on Jim's "rant" so that folks can see his frustration with a qualifying process that has trumped a long-standing regional championship meet.

Peter Brewer

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