Who makes Varsity

psycho_dad

Well-known member
I got into this a little last year and would like to again. How do schools/coaches determine who to give Varsity Letters too? It's obvious for the top 7, but do you just leave it at that? At our Conference, we might have 17-20 boys that would be top 7 on any other team in the League. Should that be a consideration? I'm sure there are coaches that have a time standard. Not sure how that would work, but it could. How do big Schools like Mason or Centerville do it? Do you reward leadership? Can a kid make varsity by contributing more than just legs and running ability?
 

CoventryTrackXCguy

Well-known member
At Coventry it is those who are top 7 in at least 75% of the meets. This year, only 6/17 kids lettered; our 7th spot was a revolving door between like 3 kids based on who ran faster the previous meet.
 

ccrunner609

Active member
We have a points system where kids get points for everything from participation in team events to performance on time and places in meets. Also top 7 earn points. I can have my 9th guy get it and my 7th not get it.

It has proven to be very accurate. Talent alone cant get it.
 

madman

Well-known member
8 points needed for a letter

4 pt - beat prior year's XC pr at early season 5k time trial or a time standard:
Fr - 20:00 (3 pt)
So - 19:30
Jr -19:00
Sr - 18:30​

2 pt - finish top 5 for team in an invitational
1 pt - finish 6 or 7th for team in an invitational
1 pt - beat at least half the 5th men from other teams in an invitational if you're not in our top 7

4 pt - finish top 5 for team at conference championship
2 pt - finish 6th or 7th for team at conference championship
1 pt - beat at least half the 5th men from other teams at conference championship if you're not in our top 7

Represent team at District, Regional, or State Championships = automatic letter.

In 20+ years of coaching, I've gone through several iterations of standards. At the end of the season, this tends to yield letters in a manner that "feels" right to me. I've given a "coach's choice" varsity letter one time, to a kid with disabilities that worked their tail off during the season for 4 years.

I've never felt a need to give a letter to a 4-year participant. I think if they really wanted a letter they could work hard enough to earn it with the time trial and points for beating other teams' 5th men. The thing I am most likely to tweak would be the points for the time trial - I would reduce the number of points for just coming into the season in shape.

Note that I do aggregate times for meets that have JV/Open and varsity times so that the 5th man is the 5th fastest man for each team on that day regardless of which race they ran.

It seems kind of harsh, but I don't have exceptions for injuries that curtail a season as I don't have a method of doing that fairly.

It's far from perfect, but as I said it has tended to yield results that feel about right to me and encourages coming to season in shape and performing well at the end of the season.

Years ago I had a time standard for meets as well. That was a complete disaster for a multitude of reasons - a short-lived experiment early in my career. One short course and afterwards you've got lots of varsity runners without a need to run well when it counts. It means kids hate slow courses (hills, mud, etc - all the stuff that makes for a great race).

I complete agree that on really deep teams there needs to be some objective way of earning a letter other than being top 7 at the end of the season.
 

psycho_dad

Well-known member
Interesting. My thoughts were more towards how do kids that are on stacked teams earn a letter other than by being top 7. Didn't cross my mind that you could be top 7 and not earn a letter. I have to give that some thought. Not sure I agree with that, but I do like the idea of points given for other things. We do that for track and field.
 

madman

Well-known member
Since everyone who runs Districts, Regionals, or State meet automatically earns a letter there's no way for less than 7 to get a letter unless you run less than 7 in those meets. I've had roughly 50% of the team earn letters on really deep teams. They get the 4 pts from the early season time trial and keep beating other team's 5th men.

Each year the last guy to earn a varsity letter has usually run 18:00 - 18:30 at some point in the season on a legit course.
 

ccrunner609

Active member
Interesting. My thoughts were more towards how do kids that are on stacked teams earn a letter other than by being top 7. Didn't cross my mind that you could be top 7 and not earn a letter. I have to give that some thought. Not sure I agree with that, but I do like the idea of points given for other things. We do that for track and field.
That is why i made my system
 

Newton's Third

Active member
Psycho, I did not have deep enough teams but I have seen coaches use the time of the 5th or 7th runner for the middle placing team at conference other than your team as a standard. Being able to be varsity for the top half of the conference on other teams, so that you are not penalized for being on such a good team. This has been one of several criteria that has to be met but is comparing to other teams not just your stacked team.
 

CoventryTrackXCguy

Well-known member
Interesting. My thoughts were more towards how do kids that are on stacked teams earn a letter other than by being top 7. Didn't cross my mind that you could be top 7 and not earn a letter. I have to give that some thought. Not sure I agree with that, but I do like the idea of points given for other things. We do that for track and field.
To be fair for us, our system has been in place for many years, long before our recent improvements. Perhaps we might consider changing it. I mean, we had like 17 boys in our middle school team. At that clip, we could have something like 30 boys on our high school team in 3 years, so we will have to see.
 
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CoventryTrackXCguy

Well-known member
Psycho, I did not have deep enough teams but I have seen coaches use the time of the 5th or 7th runner for the middle placing team at conference other than your team as a standard. Being able to be varsity for the top half of the conference on other teams, so that you are not penalized for being on such a good team. This has been one of several criteria that has to be met but is comparing to other teams not just your stacked team.
It would still be fairly difficult to letter in the PTC under that system. 5 teams qualified to regionals last year from our league.
 

Newton's Third

Active member
It would still be fairly difficult to letter in the PTC under that system. 5 teams qualified to regionals last year from our league.
Do you want it to be easy or an award valued by those that achieve it? Also in the programs where I have seen this it is just one of several criteria in which the athlete has to achieve X number of the criteria. This was just one possible way to avoid being penalized for being on a good team when you would be on varsity of at least half the other teams in the conference. I bet Woodridge's #8 could be top 7 for at half of the other teams in the conference. This is for guys like that, not middle of the road team's JV guys.
 

SOTT

Active member
For our girls team:

Must run sub 22:30 at least once AND earn 1250 points.

Points come from:

Percentile in which they finish during a race (JV race times get input into varsity race and percentile is calculated from where they would have been).

Best time ran

Varsity races participated in

Perfect practice attendance

Perfect race attendance

A few other odds and ends

We typically have 15-18 per year achieve the standards on a team of close to 60.
 

psycho_dad

Well-known member
Do you want it to be easy or an award valued by those that achieve it? Also in the programs where I have seen this it is just one of several criteria in which the athlete has to achieve X number of the criteria. This was just one possible way to avoid being penalized for being on a good team when you would be on varsity of at least half the other teams in the conference. I bet Woodridge's #8 could be top 7 for at half of the other teams in the conference. This is for guys like that, not middle of the road team's JV guys.

Woodridge put 21 guys in front of the second place teams 7 at the league meet. 28 in front of the 3rd place teams 7. Regional Qualifiers!
 

Mr. Slippery

Well-known member
When I ran, my school's criteria was to meet at least 1 of the following:
- Be a senior (school policy is that seniors automatically letter if they fulfill their team obligations)
- Be top 7 on the team in at least 3 meets
- Break 18:40 (basically 6:00 pace for 5k)

12 guys broke 18:00 my junior year, and another 5 went under 18:40. We were DII and had about 32 guys on the team that year. The team finished 6th at state. #1 had an off day, but 4th looks to be the best they could've possibly placed if everyone ran well. Even our '01 and '02 teams that placed a respective 6th and 4th at state didn't have that much depth.

The time standard has been reduced to 19:00 since then, but I can't tell you the last time my school had a team that was so stacked that a boy lettered strictly for hitting the time standard. If a kid breaks 19:00 on the teams of recent years, he's very likely to have enough top 7 finishes to letter.


The former girls coach used some convoluted points system where points could be earned for running the race, finishing above a certain percentile in the race, and improving one's time. Long story short, even a 30:00 runner could letter if she ran every race. I have no idea what time standard the current coach uses in the event that the girls team has more legitimate talent than varsity spots.
 
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ccrunner609

Active member
Sounds like many of use alot of the same criteria. We give points for:

1. recruiting new runners
2. running races in the summer
3. turning in a running log and getting points for every 500 minutes
4. participating in fund raising
5. attending summer conditioning
6. PR for 2 mile and 5k (once per year)
7. running races and finishing top 25% of total runnners
8. Points for 19, 18, 17, 16 minute times (points from 3 to 10 for time)
9. girls get time points for 22, 21, 20 , 19
10. getting runner of the week from teammates
11. being in top 7
12. auto letters for top 7 if they win leagie or make regionals and state.

Points can be taken away for all kinds of stuff. You have to get 175 points a year. If you total out all "participation" points you can get about 120. the rest are on performance.
 

Run4Life

Member
One thing I cannot understand is how any runner doesn't letter if they have been on your varsity all season? For a team that must make a time standard, what if you have a slow group (it happens to many schools), you only letter the top 2 or 3? How do you get kids to come out again?

After my team numbers began to grow, started at 5 and 5 and grew to more than 30 both teams, I always liked getting more letters than just top 7. We would rest kids and move secong runners up to get them in invitationals and varsity races. If they were reserve/open runners but raced faster than a top 7 runner they got credit for a varsity race.

I always wanted my squads to be large in number and awarded those that made us better thougout the season. I noticed early that the more the kids felt successful the more our numbers grew. As our numbers grew our success also grew. Just something to think about I guess.
 

ccrunner609

Active member
^^^^^THat is why we put a bigger importance on participation. It leads to better times.

Kids really track and are more involved in their commitment level knowing that everything gets them points.

PM me and I will send anyone my points system.
 

gatornation

Active member
Finish top half in the varsity race(JV/Open times moved into race) in half the meets.
Automatic letter if qualify to run at Regional(most likely already meet first requirement).
Automatic letter to a 4 year Senior.
Had only 7 boys this year and 7th did not meet any of above requirements, lettered him anyways. Hard to not letter a kind who ran varsity in every race this season.
 
I like to give more letters rather than fewer myself, so I give a letter to anybody who runs in the top 7 during the course of the season, even if it's just one time. If you were good enough to represent the school as a varsity runner on that day, why wouldn't you be good enough for a letter? I also give one to anybody who beats the #7 time for the middle team at the League meet, and any senior who works hard and contributes to the team. With smaller teams, that has sometimes meant that everybody letters.

This year, I did break the rule a little bit. I had a freshman girl who worked her way up the list from 18th on the team but was outkicked and ended up 8th twice. She also was an alternate for district and regional who was excited to be there and worked her butt off for two extra weeks without getting to run.
 

yj_runfan

Well-known member
I like to give more letters rather than fewer myself, so I give a letter to anybody who runs in the top 7 during the course of the season, even if it's just one time. If you were good enough to represent the school as a varsity runner on that day, why wouldn't you be good enough for a letter? I also give one to anybody who beats the #7 time for the middle team at the League meet, and any senior who works hard and contributes to the team. With smaller teams, that has sometimes meant that everybody letters.

This year, I did break the rule a little bit. I had a freshman girl who worked her way up the list from 18th on the team but was outkicked and ended up 8th twice. She also was an alternate for district and regional who was excited to be there and worked her butt off for two extra weeks without getting to run.
As I was reading through this thread I was thinking "If a runner represents his school as a top 7 in a varsity race why would he not get a letter?" When I got to your post I was glad to see someone thought the same as I did. My son earned his letter on his college team that way. He was never one of the 7 best on the team but as the top runners took races off and other runners got moved into the lineup they were varsity runners competing for and representing DePauw University.
 
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