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Old 11-20-17, 01:20 PM
mathking mathking is offline
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Track on Grass?

How much different are XC courses now than back in the day? That question was rolling through my head on a drive this weekend. It started rolling around there because of the discussion about the BG golf course. There are relatively very few XC courses on golf courses these days compared to 30-40 years ago. I thought about the courses we ran on this year:

Pick North(twice), DeWine, Mason, Otterbein, Lancaster, Darby(twice), Eisenhart, Watkins and National Trails

Darby is absolutely a track on grass. Oddly, we were not supposed to run it all. We were originally scheduled to run MMOC at Bradley and OCC at Davidson. But both of those courses are basically similar to Darby, just not as smooth and fast. Bradley does have woods so I guess it's not really fair to call it track on grass. Of the other courses (not counting NT) Eisenhart is the closest to "track on grass" status, but since basically the same course was in use in the 80s it doesn't represent a change. Maybe Pick North is kind of that way, but there are woods and a hill(ish) so not really. DeWine, Mason, Otterbein and Watkins are definitely not tracks on grass. That's just our schedule, so it doesn't really prove anything.

My general sense of the disdain for "tracks on grass" is that it is at least in part because of ridiculously fast times. Some of that is obviously environmental. All you have to do to see that is look at three different weekends of races at Darby this year to see that. But that got me thinking about times now, and wondering how fast they are compared to "back in the day." All you have to do is look at district, state and regional meet distance times in track to see that on the average, runners today are a lot faster than 30-40 years ago. Just looking at state XC times (I don't have as big a set of times for XC as for track), runners today are obviously faster. And by about as much as they are for track. But state meet courses are probably better groomed and designed (let's just all agree to not consider the first year at Scioto Downs when evaluating that statement). I looked mostly at 3rd-6th place times in track and 4th - 12th place in XC in order to avoid the influence of outliers. But I don't have data from many regular meets back in the 80s except for Coffman (then Dublin) HS and some Granville stuff. It might be interesting to look at some other data and see how much courses today are faster.

My general sense is that coaches and others laying out courses make fewer really bad choices now, like having lots of sharp turns, or not enough space at the start before a course narrows or turns. I do think that open, flat, fast courses (Tiffin, MMOC, Galion,...) attract a lot of teams. So it might well be that even if courses aren't necessarily all "track on grass" more teams are running on those courses.
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