Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Travel distance to NXN Regionals - a reason for rearranging the regional borders (tl;dr Summary)

A summary of the previous three posts:

Some of the NXN regions are very big, geographically. Adding on additional region, and re-arranging some others, can go a LONG ways to increasing the accessibility of the Nike Cross Nationals series, which could lead to an even bigger boost to the sport than the series has already given us.

Pros: More equitable travel time for teams around the nation, which should lead to greater participation in the regional meets (a big plus in many ways, both immediate and long-term for the sport and possibly Nike as well); more teams and individuals able to compete for a national title in Portland.

Cons: There would be a knee-jerk reaction to at least two of the changes, though if one were to look deeper they would be less important if not non-issues (NY girls in an actual regional, SE getting split up); Nike would have to pay for 10 more individuals and 6 more teams (combined).

Links: Post I - Post II - Post III

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

 (this post is part of a series of 3, see the first post here and the previous one here)

One final thought to close the post… it would be wise to consider how these changes would have affected things in years past, as that might give us an idea of what these changes might mean from if they were ever implemented.

2007 teams added: 2 boys teams from Utah, Baylor TN (SE#3) boys, Bozeman MT (NW#3) girls, Dakota Ridge CO (SW#3) girls, and two additional girls at-large teams anywhere outside of the Northeast.

2007 teams subtracted: None of boys (unless NXN#22 Thomas Jefferson got edged out at the Mid-Atlantic regional), while on the girls side NXN#11 Warwick Valley NY wouldn’t have made it out of the Northeast.

Thoughts on 2007 additions/subtractions: Bozeman and possibly Dakota Ridge were both on par with Warwick Valley anyways, and two new at-large invites could have been handed out, so it would be a net positive. On the other hand, I don’t know if the two at-large invites would have gone to teams better than Warwick Valley. Boys would essentially not be a changed field, as the Utah teams that year weren’t all that great, and Baylor wasn’t far off of the other Southeast teams but the Southeast AQ teams finished #18 and #22 anyways.

2008 teams added: Daviess County KY (SE#3), Cibola AZ (SW#3), American Fork UT (SW#4) for the boys; Hidden Valley VA (SE#3), Mountain Brook AL (SE#6), Davis UT (SW#3) and Mountain Crest UT (SW#5) for the girls.

2008 teams subtracted: either NXN#14 Lincoln-Sudbury MA or NXN#6 Newton South MA. Obviously those two didn’t finish in the same order every time out (LS won NXR, but Newton South was much better at Nationals), but it would be a loss either way. However, it is also possible that NEITHER Massachusetts team made it to nationals: NY#5 Shenendehowa scored slightly better in the NY/NE merge that year, though running head to head may or may not have changed that score as it was close (15 points between the three teams).

Thoughts on 2008 additions/subtractions: It would have been a shame to lose either of the Massachusetts teams, especially given how Newton South stepped up at the national meet, but the prospect of adding a fifth New York team that was actually better at the regional meet is interesting (and an idea that New York faithful can certainly appreciate). Most if not all of the other teams being added to the field would be similarly competitive, though. The boys changes wouldn’t be too significant – the Southwest teams probably in the middle or maybe bottom third (Alta UT didn’t have a good day with their #20 finish), and Daviess County could have been competitive with the last few teams and at the cost of no other team.

2009 teams added: Don Bosco NJ (NE#3), Mountain View UT (SW#3), and Cibola AZ (SW#6) on the boys side; Green Hope NC (SE#5), Shadle Park WA (NW#3), either Mountain View ID or Mountain View UT (NW#5 or SW#3), and TC Roberson NC (SE#6) on the girls side.

2009 teams subtracted: NXN#21 La Salle Academy RI.

Thoughts on 2009 teams added/subtracted: For the boys, Cibola might not have been all too competitive, but on the bright side there wouldn’t be any drop-off from the Eastern regions as Don Bosco would be the only addition and the only one team would have even needed an at-large invite. On the girls side, Green Hope and Shadle Park were both better than LaSalle to start with, so that’s a net gain.

2010 teams added: Montgomery Bell Academy TN (SE#4) and Albuquerque Academy NM (SW#4) plus an at-large spot for the boys; Baylor TN (SE#5), Glacier Peak WA (NW#3), and Ogden UT (SW#4) for the girls. SE#3 Hidden Valley VA also probably would have qualified out of the Mid-Atlantic region.

2010 teams subtracted: Only NXN#20 Voorhees NJ if Hidden Valley did indeed beat them.

Thoughts on 2010 teams added/subtracted: The two new AQ teams on the boys side wouldn’t add much to the field, but no team would be lost (unless Pembroke wasn’t invited as an at-large) and you gain an at-large invite which is always a bonus since you didn’t lose a team in the process. On the girls side, that’s all good news as ALL three teams (plus a fourth in Hidden Valley) would have been competitive with the field.

2011 teams added: Fort Collins CO (SW#3), Mountain Vista CO (SW#4), and an at-large for the boys teams;  Green Hope NC (SE#4), Ogden UT (SW#5), and either Bozeman MT (NW#3) or Davis UT (SW#6). Plus, probably either two more at-large invites or two more New York teams (or some combination thereof) on the girls side.

2011 teams subtracted: None, though NXN#21 Champlain Valley VT and NXN#22 Hamilton-Wenham MA probably wouldn’t have made it out of the Northeast.

Thoughts on 2011 teams added/subtracted: Just like 2010, I think all those changes would be positive: all the teams being added would have been competitive, and you’d even have the opportunity to change out the last two finishers on the girls side for two possibly better teams as at-large invites as well.

2012 teams added: Brentwood TN (SE#4), Los Alamos NM (SW#3), and Cleveland NM (SW#5) for the boys; Green Hope NC (SE#6), Glacier Peak WA (NW#3) and either one or two at-large bid for the girls (NXN#22 Voorhees NJ would not have been an AQ team).

2012 teams subtracted: Possibly Voorhees NJ, but no others.

Thoughts on 2012 teams added/subtracted: All the teams would have been competitive, and with 1-2 extra at-large spots in place of the last girls team, the meet would only have been even stronger. That would have been good news for Xavier Prep AZ and Hidden Valley VA girls.

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

(this post is part of a series of 3, see the first post here and the last one here)

Would it be so bad if Nike re-arranged the regions on the East coast and added an additional region out West? You would drastically decrease average distance to regional meets, which should increase participation numbers. Plus, if you add a fifth at-large and allow a maximum of 5 teams per region (rather than the current 4 at-large and 4 per region), you wouldn’t lose hardly any competitiveness at the national meets, PLUS you get to a more ‘round’ number of 25 teams rather than 22 as well as a more ‘round’ number of 225 athletes instead of 199. The only downside, in my opinion, is that Nike would be paying for another 6 teams and 10 individuals. That is a significant factor, obviously, since Nike is the one paying these bills, though I don't know how much the additional participation at the regional meets would help offset the costs.

Here’s what the changes could be:

-Combine New York with the New England states, the meet can stay at Bowdoin Park. Alternatively, it could be in the Albany or Hartford areas, but Bowdoin Park would still be a great location for it.

-Combine New Jersey and Pennsylvania with Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Washington DC. Hold the meet in the Wilmington DE/Philadelphia PA area. You won’t lose any kids to FLNE, and few if any kids to FLS (Southwest Virginia would be closer to FLS, the rest would be closer to NXN unlike the current set-up for the Southeast).

-Move Mississippi from the South to the Southeast, and move the meet to the Atlanta area. That should increase participation in the western half of the Southeast, though it would be further for North Carolina and eastern South Carolina athletes to travel to, but closer for everyone else. Again, that would only help the numbers compared to the draw of FLS.

-Move Utah to the Northwest while splitting off Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Hawaii into a “Pacific Northwest” region. Northwest meet could be held in Boise (it wouldn’t be any change for the current Northwest states, and Boise is closer than Mesa AZ for Utah anyways), or you could move it to Salt Lake City (closer for Utah and Wyoming, but further for Idaho and western Montana with no change for central/eastern Montana). Pacific Northwest region could be held in either Seattle, Tacoma or Portland – all which would have more (and thus probably better) airfare options for Alaska and Hawaii athletes, and the change in location should draw significantly more teams and athletes from western Washington and western Oregon (the vast majority of the population in the current Northwest).

At first glance, people might assume a few things:

1. Combining New York with another region is ridiculous, because New York girls are so good!

2. Washington and Oregon haven’t produced enough quality girls teams since the regionals started for them to have their own region

3. The NEW Northwest/Mountain West, Pacific Northwest and Southwest regions would be tiny! They’d never have enough quality teams on either side to be competitive every year.

4. The Southeast isn’t strong enough as it is to be split up, why would you want to water down the competition in that area even further?

But all four of those points are either wrong or exaggerated (in my opinion), and let me explain why:

1. Combining New York with another region would NOT mean that New York teams wouldn’t get into NXN if they were good enough to finish in the top 10. In fact, it’s MORE likely because not only are the very good New York teams (if they’re really that good) beating up on teams from what used to be other regions, they’ll look better doing it – only adding teams to the “New York” field would only make the region more competitive, which would more clearly sort out the “great” from the “good but not great”. In addition, by raising the regional limit and adding an additional wildcard, strong New York teams would have a BETTER chance of making it to nationals because there is potentially one extra spot available to them.

2. Washington and Oregon have had at least two teams in the top 3 in the Northwest every single year, and have earned nine of the 12 spots as it is (Bishop Kelly ID 2009, Bozeman MT 2010 and Coeur d’Alene ID 2012 are the only teams from outside Washington/Oregon to qualify during the regional era). In those three years, the second best Washington/Oregon teams were better than multiple teams that qualified out of weaker regions.

3. Yes, all three regions would have few states and small populations compared to the other regions in the nation. But they are also the largest states geographically, and nearly all are among the strongest states per-capita. At worst, they would still be “average” regions. At best, the National meet would be stronger because the depth of the Southwest and Northwest would be split up (on the boys side, that is certainly the case – just take a quick look at how strong the Southwest has been, and realize that Utah is about half of that resurgence – by essentially splitting the Southwest in two, and combining one of those halves with states that struggle to get in the top 10 in the current Northwest, you’re only helping Utah and the other current Southwest states get more opportunities).

4. True, losing those states (particularly Virginia, and Tatnall DE) to the Mid-Atlantic would be a big blow to the Southeast, and adding in Mississippi to the mix wouldn’t nearly make up for the loss. On the other hand, you’d be helping the rest of the region by making the meet much more accessible, and making the team competition a much more viable post-season option, and in the process make one of the weakest regions (Northeast girls) over the last few years become two of the strongest (I'm guessing the Mid-Atlantic wouldn't be quite as deep as the Midwest if you include Michigan and maybe not the remaining Southwest, but it wouldn't be far off, though it wouldn't touch California and the Northeast... but with Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Tatnall DE it would certainly not be a weak region by any stretch of the imagination). The Southeast would be a little further down the totem pole, but the girls would be perfectly fine – it’s already a deep region, and the remaining Southeast states would still be competitive at the national level. The boys haven’t been as competitive in the past, but with more participation from Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky, and more exposure for all the states in the area, the caliber of boys programs could see a more significant rise than they would in the current situation.

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).