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Old 10-02-17, 10:20 PM
mathking mathking is offline
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God sometimes I feel like Sisyphus. OK, the problem most people have with MMOC (and Galion, and Trinity, and ...) is not really that they believe they are the wrong distance but that they are too fast. Before you blow up, think about it. If someone mis-measured a course and it was 5055 meters long there would not be the sense of moral outrage that we see here in this thread. People would tell their athletes "hey the course was long" and go on about their seasons. Even though that would actually be an illegal course. Furthermore, there are plenty of courses I know that have enough non-roped turns that if the course is legitimately measured at 5000 meters the athletes are running well under 5000 meters. But most of the those aren't super fast courses, so no one complains. So the problem is really a sense that somehow the times set at MMOC are cheating. No I don't think anyone is accusing the athletes running there of cheating, but there is a definite undertone of "those times are not legitimate" in this discussion. But think about that for a second. Why is it that so many are having a visceral reaction that those times are not legit, but we have people holding up CVNP as an example. If anything I would argue that CVNP is the course not representative of the typical XC meet. (That IS NOT A SLAM ON CVNP!!!! Repeat it is not a critique. If it were closer to us I suspect we would have asked Woodridge to be in the meet five or six years ago. We almost did anyway.) No one questions whether CVNP is regulation distance, they just say it has tough terrain therefore it must be the right length. So the problem with MMOC is not really a question of its legitimacy but rather how fast it is.

That happens with pretty much any fast course. Usually I don't bother measuring courses. (It's a pain. I spent 45 minutes on Saturday when I could have been doing something different. Though I did get a couple of nice pics out of it. Took a couple at the end of the process because at 2:45 there was literally no one left on the fields at all. It was kind of eerie by comparison to the crowds that had been there.) Because we don't really care about how long a course is, we just want to know how to compare times on one course to times on another. I have measured MMOC a couple of times, usually when the weather was great (2013, 2017) and times were smoking fast, to verify that the course was not significantly different than other times we have run there. I measured the Eisenhart course once because a coach I know insisted that he wheeled it and it was only 4850 meters long. And that I didn't know what I was talking about in terms of how accurate wheels were and using a laser rangefinder. So we measured the Thomas Worthington football field a couple of times then the course. I measured the Central Ohio Invitational course at Three Creeks the first year we ran their because I didn't have enough data to make a guess at how to interpret the times. I would love to have measured Lebanon in 2010, because tons of people here spent lots of time explaining how the course had to be short and that no one would run faster times that year. But it wasn't important enough to drive back down. Darby and Thomas are both under 15 minutes from Coffman. But I digress, even if I was trying to make a point. So back to the "fast courses are immoral" theme. I submit again that the negative reactions are that the course is somehow unfair. That some coach may say "that's the school record" when the course isn't legit. Again this is why we keep lists of who runs the fastest on each course, and try to compare each athlete's time to their time on the same course in prior years. And even more importantly, to other athletes in the same race. As impressive as Kreft's time was, it was more impressive to me that he beat Horter so decisively and all in the finish. It was also impressive how big a margin of victory those two had over the field. Bons didn't get to run in August because of injury, so he is "behind" in his training, but he is definitely getting back into good shape. He won at Lancaster fairly easily last week and he was 44 seconds behind Kreft. That is a lot of distance over a very good runner. Look at some of the runners who have run at MMOC over the years and still been much slower than Kreft and Horter were.

The really amusing thing for me now is I feel like the defense attorney for MMOC and I don't even particularly like the course. Although it is very well marked and prepared, which I appreciate. Personally I always liked hilly courses because I was better at them. In college I would finish 10-20 places better on the hilly courses than the flat ones and usually a couple places better on my team. But when we set our schedule for the year we thought MMOC would be at Bradley and the OCC meet would be at Davidson. Then both meets were moved to Darby. Oh well. I really do think a mix of courses is a good idea. But you should go to meets for a reason. We go to Pick North because it is the regional course. We go the DeWine meet because the dual meet structure helps remind kids that ultimately XC is about trying to beat other runners. Mason and Lancaster we go to because they are more physically challenging courses (I really do wish we were closer to CVNP), MMOC we go to in order to get as close to a state meet level of competition as we can. We go to Eisenhart because it is a good course and the one constant for us over the past couple of decades. That really helps in evaluating where the team is relative to other teams. I remember when the state meet moved to National Trails. There were tons of complaints about the course, including several from coaches complaining that their kids were disadvantaged because they don't get to run any flat, fast courses like that. (Interesting side note, if you use the USGS mapping software to compare Scioto Downs and National Trails, the difference in elevation changes between the courses might surprise you.) In this thread people have been arguing the opposite. For my part, I am not at all convinced that NT is significantly faster.

Here are the boys D1 athletes who competed in the final year at Scioto Downs and the first year at National Trails. Along with their 2010 and 2011 times:

Khalid Omar 15:37.6 16:25.9
Adam Davidson 15:39.2 15:42.3
Tsehaye Hiluf 15:48.4 15:21.5
Tony Howkins 15:52.3 15:41.7
Grant Onken 15:56.1 16:09.1
Jacob Dumford 16:04.9 15:42.3
Mitch Baum 16:06.4 15:56.0
Jack Miller 16:07.5 15:50.9
Nick Vogele 16:11.5 15:41.1
John Sotos 16:19.0 16:00.7
Matthew Krakora 16:22.4 15:43.8
Jake Graboski 16:25.6 16:29.2
Drew Michel 16:26.4 16:21.8
Kevin Blank 16:27.8 16:05.2
Max Haiss 16:29.7 16:32.2
Brian Brennan 16:32.4 16:14.7
Vince Bartram 16:34.6 16:28.3
Andrew Galang 16:35.0 16:22.6
Mark Ruf 16:35.9 16:30.6
Austin Bach 16:37.3 16:22.1
Kyle Lach 16:37.3 16:30.0
Connor Van Blaricom 16:39.8 16:46.0
Alex Notton 16:40.4 16:41.0
Dan Urbanek 16:40.6 16:25.6
Tom Clark 16:44.0 16:27.4
Mike Smithhisler 16:45.3 16:38.9
Jordan Shepherd 16:47.9 16:23.3
Trevor Norris 16:53.4 15:58.2
Grant Behnke 16:56.4 16:39.5
Sam Slingluff 16:59.0 16:56.0
John Riordan 17:03.1 16:35.7
Anthony Maraldo 17:08.4 16:50.8
Ryan Sanders 17:14.6 16:55.5
Kent Ford 17:16.9 16:14.0
Will Nouse 17:29.7 17:11.4

Both years were fantastic weather, so I counted that as pretty much the same. The average improvement was 15.4 seconds. That improvement is actually a little under typical year to year improvement. When all divisions and both genders are considered the average improvement is remarkable close to what was been typical for Scioto Downs. (I don't have data for state meets before Scioto Downs.) So my first level conclusion is to give the courses about the same rating. Subsequent years have lead me to conclude the NT is a little, but not much, faster. The real test will be when we have actual bad weather at NT. I keep data on all of the courses we run. And I look at it a few times, trying to do as much as I can to make it useful for making predictions and comparisons. For example, I throw out athletes that obviously had singularly terrible races and don't use them when I do the regression. Over the years I have developed a pretty good idea of how to compare times between courses and use those to make predictions.

So back to the original point. Why all the hate directed at MMOC? I think it is mostly because of the recognition that some receive. And I get it. There have been plenty of times in my coaching career when some course has been short and I have been viscerally bothered by that. Generally if it is within 100 meters then I really don't care. But there is a legitimate feeling of being cheated if you feel as though your team's race on the course they ran was actually more impressive than another teams race on a faster course. Yes it is absolutely true that for whatever reason Darby has a super fast course. OK. The Trinity-Valkyrie course is super fast. Galion is super fast. In fact almost all of the top times in the nation get set on super fast courses. If you think about it, it would be crazy for that not to be true. This Saturday it was not only a super fast course in great weather, it was two of the four best runners in the state running side by side for the great majority of the race. If you are in the "there is something wrong camp" then you should be happy. You explain to your kids that the times their can't trusted and that you will be able to surprise people down the road because you haven't run on a course like that.

Side, side note. The server I use to store and analyze is going away. I really need to write a new model that is less computationally intensive. If anyone is interested in the process I have been thinking about open sourcing the project, depending on how ambitious I get this winter during busy season (when indoor track and FIRST robotics overlap). In particular if anyone has programming skills I have been thinking that a better bot to do the data gathering would be good. Milesplit has become much less useful for that task.

Last edited by mathking; 10-03-17 at 07:27 AM..
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