It really is about time that the authorities, who are involved in the Nike Team Nationals, do something a bit differently. Let us start with the simple recognition of the fact that cross country, probably more than any other sport, needs to have head to head competition to evaluate the relative merits of individual runners as well as teams. Even assuming the accuracy of a 5K distance, courses can very so much due to terrain & altitude, not to mention weather, that times can be rather moot. Saying that two courses have hills means little even, if one had to ascend the same altitude, for how steep the gradient is can make a big change. For example a hill with a long gentle up-grade can have a beneficial effect upon time, if the downhill portion is shorter & steeper. Like track just the number & the quality of competitors makes times less dependable. It is unfair to expect anyone, no matter how knowledgeable & well-meaning, to evaluate the merits of a team. It is therefore imperative that the runners be allowed to have some control over their fate.
Rankings have been around for a good deal of time. Prior to last year that was points of conjecture, which could arouse interest & discussion. But in the end the Harrier type of rankings meant little because they had no real impact. With the creation of the Team Nationals ranking has taken on a completely different meaning & importance. As it stands now the rankings made by individuals, who may not have seen many of those teams being evaluated, determine who has a chance to run for a national title. This is categorically unfair even with the assumption of a lack of bias.
To that point let me suggest that the Foot Locker regionals, which have been used for many years to be the individual qualifiers to the National Meet in
Let some group invite teams according to whatever rankings, but let all coaches have the option to throw their hats into the ring. Just, there are no pre-anointed slots slots for our Olympic track team or Cross Country team for World, the option to compete will be there for anyone. It is after all the American way! You have to prove your worthiness.
I realize that some adherents for a selection committee will argue about affordability but with four regionals the cost will not be all that exorbitant. Individuals after all have been doing the same thing for years. As a former coach I am only too well aware that some schools are cheap and under-budgeted or simply geared to football. Such is life but let?s not punish kids for refusing to allow open competition. Personally, when I had individuals capable of national competition, I made sure they had a chance to compete & it is assumed many current coaches will do the same today.
In making such a decision we ought to look at the selection committee itself. How is it that this group has such an inordinate say in determining the fate of runners who have logged hundreds of miles & put in thousands of hours? Let us take for example the fate of the girls from
Now we have yet another year & are the rankings any better? Hardly: one boy?s team does not even make the first page of results in an invitational yet they are ranked one of the top ten. West Valley of Fairbanks, Alaska came to town recently to win the Adidas meet handily. In spite of that, when the regional editor for Dyestat, the rankings that followed on Monday had
Then again how many teams that are being ranked by individuals have actually been seen by them? In some case the answer is not at all. I?ve seen 8 of the top 10 teams and there are still areas of debate for me but I still have seen numerous teams go head - to -head more than once. In my rankings that have been with the aid of others all of the teams have been witnessed by someone involved in the rankings. Still it is not really right to evaluate those who might contend for a championship. The runners are owed an open shot at it.
Let us get everyone together in one race - no excuses either - show & do it or shut up. Let the kids, who have put almost all of the effort in cross country have their say. If Shakespeare were writing today, he?d still probably say ?kill the lawyers? but he?d probably add ?kill the rankers.? Let?s have a real national championship & not one selected by a chosen few. Combining the meets would also cancel out the inherent advantage that
It should also be added that by combining the two qualifying meets you eliminate the problem faced by a talented individual. Last year Zoe Nelson of Flathead had that question until her team turned down the offer. (More can be added on this topic but I?ll refrain). This year there is a fear that Kenny Klotz of Central Catholic of Portland will be faced with the decision. Should he support his team & go to the Nike team meet or opt for the Footlocker individual meet? Recall that just 2 runners per region will qualify for
I am well aware that complaints have been made by coaches but little has happened, so let us be open about this process. In short, however, the essence of cross country is head - to - head competition. At the very least we should lessen the impact decision - makers, i. e. rankers, and let the kids have their say. After all they are what the sport is supposed to be all about.