Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Travel distance to NXN Regionals - a reason for rearranging the regional borders (Part I)

NOTE: I am making this post not to single out anyone’s viewpoint, but as a reason to bring up a topic I’ve mentioned several times in the past. This is a long post, so I’ll break it down into two or three entries.

So, I was reading the Track Talk message boards today, and noticed a thread on the Pennsylvania forum talking about why Pennsylvania teams don’t usually attend the NXN-NE meet. The two reasons brought up: 1. The state meet is 4 weeks before the NXN Regional meet; 2. It’s far too to travel if you live in Western PA.

Reason #1 is fairly understandable – you would have to train for almost another month for the post-season race. I don’t know if coaches are allowed contact with their athletes after the state meet in Pennsylvania, but if not, then this can be an issue (much like it is for teams in Washington or Illinois after the NXN Regional meets, waiting almost a month until NXN – though the vast majority of those teams tend to do fine…). However, if you’re one of the top teams in the state, and you want to see if you’re good enough to challenge for a spot to nationals (or get experience if you’re going to be in the same position again next year), I don’t see why this would be an issue – especially if the coaches can continue to coach their kids after the state meet (again, I don’t know the PIAA rules, so I’m not sure if that’s the case or not). If you’re one of the regionally elite teams (e.g., finishing near the top of your state, or beating/finishing close to teams that finish near the top of their state during the invitational season - you don't need some ranking's opinion to figure that out), this reason doesn’t make sense to me, but if you’re talking about “filler” teams (teams that wouldn’t be competitive, but might want to attend the meet just to say they were there), that’s completely reasonable.

Reason #2 is ridiculous in a national context, and goes to show one of two things: One, people in the Northeast might be out of touch with what a “long trip” actually is; or Two, that people in the Northeast don’t realize just how far teams out west (or in the Southeast) have to travel to get to the regional meets.

A comparison of the Northwest and Southeast population centers (CSA 600k+) and their distance to the NXN Regional meet, compared to Pennsylvania’s:
Spokane WA -> Boise ID = 426 miles, a trip that takes 6:37 according to Google
Portland OR -> Boise ID = 429 miles, a trip that takes 6:52 according to Google
Eugene OR -> Boise ID = 444 miles, a trip that takes 7:51 according to Google
Seattle WA -> Boise ID = 504 miles, a trip that takes 7:49 according to Google

… so Boise ID, the site of NXN-Northwest, is the only CSA with 600k+ in the Northwest within 360 miles, or less than 6:30 travel, of the regional meet. The average distance (including Boise) is 360 miles and a 5:50 drive.

Southeast population centers and their distance to NXN-SE (Cary NC)
Greensboro NC -> Cary NC = 71 miles, a trip that takes about 1:14 according to Google
Charlotte NC -> Cary NC = 160 miles, a trip that takes 2:31 according to Google
Virginia Beach VA -> Cary NC = 211 miles, a trip that takes 3:24 according to Google
Columbia SC -> Cary NC = 234 miles, a trip that takes 3:35 according to Google
Greenville SC -> Cary NC = 257 miles, a trip that takes 3:57 according to Google
Washington DC* -> Cary NC = 274 miles, a trip that takes 4:25 according to Google
Charleston WV -> Cary NC = 313 miles, a trip that takes 5:02 according to Google
Knoxville TN -> Cary NC = 354 miles, a trip that takes 5:34 according to Google
Atlanta GA -> Cary NC = 399 miles, a trip that takes 6:02 according to Google
Jacksonville FL -> Cary NC = 462 miles, a trip that takes 6:41 according to Google
Chattanooga TN -> Cary NC = 464 miles, a trip that takes 7:13 according to Google
Lexington KY -> Cary NC = 488 miles, a trip that takes 7:42 according to Google
Nashville TN -> Cary NC = 532 miles, a trip that takes 7:58 according to Google
Birmingham AL -> Cary NC = 546 miles, a trip that takes 8:12 according to Google
Louisville KY -> Cary NC = 559 miles, a trip that takes 8:38 according to Google
Huntsville AL -> Cary NC = 564 miles, a trip that takes 8:43 according to Google
Orlando FL -> Cary NC = 603 miles, a trip that takes 8:39 according to Google
Sarasota FL -> Cary NC = 711 miles, a trip that takes 10:31 according to Google
Mobile AL -> Cary NC = 727 miles, a trip that takes 10:57 according to Google
Memphis TN -> Cary NC = 744 miles, a trip that takes 11:17 according to Google
Cape Coral FL -> Cary NC = 783 miles, a trip that takes 11:40 according to Google
Miami FL -> Cary NC = 807 miles, a trip that takes 11:37 according to Google

Average distance including the hosting CSA of Raleigh NC is 446 miles, taking an average of 6 hours and 46 minutes.
*Baltimore is included in this CSA, and is about as far away from Cary as is Charleston WV.

Pennsylvania population centers and their distance to NXN-Northeast:
Philadelphia PA -> Wappingers Falls NY = 162 miles, a trip that takes 2:46 according to Google
Harrisburg PA -> Wappingers Falls NY = 221 miles, a trip that takes 3:29 according to Google
Pittsburgh PA -> Wappingers Falls NY = 386 miles, a trip that takes 6:22 according to Google

That’s an average trip of 256 miles, taking an average of about 4 hours and 12 minutes.
Only four states in the above regions are situated closer to the regional sites than is Pennsylvania: Idaho (host of the Northwest Regional), North Carolina (host of the Southeast Regional), Virginia, and South Carolina. 60% of the Southeast, and 80% of the Northwest, have a longer trip to their regional than the furthest CSA in Pennsylvania.

I would have brought up the Southwest as well (which also has significantly further travel distances on average than Pennsylvania), but I’m guessing those teams are almost strictly flying in due to the geography of the states (re: the Rocky Mountains).

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