Nick Willis has run 18 consecutive years with a sub-four mile. That’s longer than many of our readers have been alive.
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Nick Willis has run 18 consecutive years with a sub-four mile. That’s longer than many of our readers have been alive.
A quick look at some stats shows sub-elites are getting quicker in the United States.
Here is something cool to peruse the night before the NCAA Cross Country Championships.
Over the last year I’ve put together a more-or-less complete listing of the top individuals at every collegiate cross country national championship (the NCAA Division I Championships and its various predecessors). You can access them below:
The number of competitors I included is a reflection of how deep the competition was at the time. I have the top 15 finishers from 1971 to present (1990 to present for women) and gradually reduce as the years go back. Cross country is a national sport now, but was mostly a midwestern and northeastern sport from its inception through the 1950s.
I included the home nation of each competitor because cross country is among the most international sports in the NCAA. Forty-four different nations are represented in these results: Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Botswana, Burundi, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, England, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Scotland, Serbia, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Sweden, Taiwan, Tanzania, Trinidad & Tobago, Uganda, United States, Venezuela, Wales, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Virtually every important US distance runner makes an appearance somewhere. Olympic champions Frank Shorter and Bob Schul do not: Shorter’s best NCAA finish was 19th (he went on to win four USA cross country championships) and Schul’s best was 20th.
However, relatively few Americans who later won an Olympic or World Championships medal were an NCAA cross country champion first. Galen Rupp, Shalane Flanagan, Meb Keflezighi, and Mary Decker are notable exceptions. Alberto Salazar and Craig Virgin are two other NCAA cross country champions who made major international impacts, by winning the NYC Marathon and and World Cross Country Championships respectively.
Shockingly, two top finishers from the 1997 championships were part of the elite field at last week’s NYC Marathon: Abdi Abdirahman and Bernard Lagat.
While cross country is obviously a training ground for future champion marathoners and long-distance runners, milers such as Lagat, Joe Falcon, Kevin Sullivan, or Suzy Favor sometimes make an impact too. The only international champion 800 runner who ever finished in the top end of an NCAA cross country championships is Dave Wottle. He took 12th in 1971, less than a year before his world record and Olympic victory.
What do those acronyms at the top of each result mean?
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) first held its championship meet in 1938. For at least its first decade it was considered a national championship rather than the national championship. Western teams rarely competed until the 60s. The regional qualifying system was put in place in 1972; prior to that it was an “open” championship.
The Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America (IC4A) has organized collegiate championships since 1908. Now exclusively Northeastern colleges, it was national in scope through the 1940s, although generally only a few Midwestern colleges attended.
The Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) was the governing body for women’s college sports from 1969 until a hostile takeover by the NCAA in 1982. Both the AIAW and NCAA held women’s championships in 1981; the talent was essentially evenly split between the two meets and no one ran in both.
The Central Collegiate Conference (CCC) was a track & cross country conference for Midwestern colleges. Its first cross country championships were in 1926, initially a triangular between the major independent powers of Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Marquette. The NCAA Championships were an outgrowth of this meet; the early NCAAs were so midwestern-oriented that the CCC was held concurrent with it for its first decade or so.
The Western Intercollegiate Conference (WIC) is now known as the Big Ten. It held an “open” cross country championships from 1908 to 1925. The CCC was created when the Big Ten closed its championship meet to members only in 1926. Another alternate name was the Intercollegiate Athletic Association (ICAA).
The Intercollegiate Cross Country Conference (ICCC) was the first collegiate governing body for the sport, eventually transferring power to the IC4A.
Previewing all the second day’s action at the USATF Indoor Championships with CITIUS MAG bloggers Stephen Kersh, Scott Olberding and Ryan Sterner.
We take a look at the marathoning careers of Eliud Kipchoge, Wilson Kipsang and Kenenisa Bekele to see who may be favored for the 2017 Berlin Marathon.
We take a look at a few scenarios of how the team race shapes up if the last man scoring struggles, does well or fares as projected.
We’ve created a new chart that is able to display how good or bad a team’s depth is. We examined our projected NCAA championship qualifiers.
Testing the idea that there is a little “pullback” in how fast the winning times are at a World Championships following an Olympics.
We take a deep dive into the hometowns, states, and countries of all the 850 athletes competing in this week’s NCAA Track and Field Championships.
Portland, Oregon: home to several nice bridges, severe gentrification, and lovely late spring weather. The 2017 Portland Twilight meet is taking advantage of that latter fact in hosting their third annual meet.
Initially created as a qualifying meet for collegiate athletes looking to punch their tickets to their national championship, the meet has grown to feature high-quality professional talent.
Citius Mag will have some boots on the ground this weekend at the meet, and after all the running events conclude on Saturday (May 13) we will be teaming up with everyone’s favorite post-collegiate group of hot-tub enthusiasts, the Jacuzzi Boys Athletic Club, to host the official after party at Burnside Brewing. In addition to plenty of high fives and Scott Olberding singing Macy Gray’s “I Try” on karaoke when provoked, Burnside will be offering Happy Hour pricing all night for our little get together.
*If you’re going to be at the party, stick around until the end of this article to let us know so we can get a head count on how much Scott will have to fork over for mozzarella sticks and jalapeno poppers.
Check out some of the featured entries below (FYI there are three (3!) Ingebrigsten’s in the meet. Wow):
Full Entry List: Portland Twilight Entries
Let us know if you’re coming!
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A handful of Nike athletes attempt to break 2 hours in a marathon under a non-record eligible circumstances and that’s okay with me.
With the World Cross Country Championships wrapping up mid-day on Sunday in the U.S., we decided to take a closer look at how the team Senior Men’s and Women’s scoring played out. Okay, here we go!
Starting with the men’s race, it was essentially a battle between five teams: Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Eritrea, and USA.
The following chart outlines each 2K split within the 10K race, by team position:
Ethiopia did a wild job of hammering the last 4,000 meters, moving from 3rd place to 1st over the course of that distance. The US was in 3rd at 6K and spent the rest of the race battling with Uganda and Eritrea, ultimately finish 5th in a VERY tight 3rd, 4th, and 5th placing:
For the women’s race, it’s hard to understate how hard Kenya rolled. For instance, there was only one split in the entire race where they did now have the top four spots secured. That’s pretty good! The US also did a great job of cutting down the last 2K, picking up about 30 points over the distance. about Here are the women’s team scores by split for the women’s 10K:
To really drive it home, here are the team positions by split. It was a little more spread out, with a lot more of the jockeying action occurring in the middle of the pack. Fun fact – Uganda was in fifth place the whole race!
Some of our overall takeaways: the East African countries fared very well, which was likely helped by the race being held in hot and humid conditions. The Kenyan Women were dominant. The American teams beat who they should have, coming in at fifth place in both Senior races.
Lastly, for accountability, here are my predictions based on my Power Ranking model, compared against the final results (for the men’s race that had at least four racers finish):
With the 2017 World Cross Country Championships slated to pop off mid-day Sunday (East Africa Time Zone), the Citius Mag Stats Department scoured the internet for the finest publicly available XC figures, data and numbers, in order to prepare the following statistical dossier.
First off, we would like to thank the good folks at the IAAF for sending some excel files our way. The following charts could not have been made without them. Also, many thanks to Isaac Wood of BYU coaching fame for providing a lot of help with data collection. More on Isaac to come.
Let’s jump right in. The first chart we have showcases the average age of each team (with at least four racers) for the Senior Women’s 10,000m contest. There is a pretty wild range, from twenty-one years-old for the Japanese women’s team, all the way up to thirty-one years-old for the Spanish team.
For the Senior Men’s race, we a see a similar spread, although it is slightly more compressed. Burundi comes in as the youngest, with an average age of twenty-one years-old, and Kuwait rounding up the top-end of the range, with an average age of twenty-nine years-old.
Interestingly, both American teams are near the older end of the spectrum, with the Women’s team at an average age of twenty-seven, and the Men averaging twenty-eight.
Here is the same data, displayed geographically.
Senior women’s race, average age by country (mobile link):
Senior men’s race, average age by country (mobile link):
One interesting trend – it appears that the East Africa countries are younger than average, while the American and European teams appear slightly older.
Now to get into the meat of our analysis. The following two charts involve a lot of tables and aggregation in the background. Along with the help of Isaac and Justin Britton, we identified a 5,000m, 10,000m, half marathon and/or marathon time that they have run recently. From there, we indexed their time to the IAAF scoring tables, which approximate the strength of each performance, making it possible to draw comparisons across different events. Now, you may point out that this may not be the most precise way to calculate the final result. I would agree. But what this approach brings in is a objective approach that is applied evenly to the entire population. Which is better than blindly guessing.
Unsurprisingly, Kenya has the strongest team, based on past performances. They have multiple athletes who have run under 13:00 for 5,000m and under 27:00 for 10,000m. The following chart shows the rest of the field benchmarked against the Kenyan team. So, for example, Kenya’s top 5 athletes average 1,209 points on the IAAF tables. That is equivalent to 13:00 in the 5,000m, 27:11 in the 10,000m and 2:07:23 in the marathon. Pretty good! By comparison, the U.S. has an average score of 1,138, which is 94% of Kenya’s score. 1,138 points gets you 13:19 in the 5,000m, 27: 56 in the 10,000m and 2:11:21 in the marathon. Also pretty good!
For those asking what the heck is going on with Nigeria, they have several athletes with marathon PBs north of 2:40. It is possible that some of these athletes have run times slightly more commensurate with the rest of the field but I have yet to find anything on the world wide web that would indicate that. It could be a rough day for the Nigerian team.
Here are those same data points, displayed geographically:
It’s a little tough to discern the differences in Africa, so here is a zoomed view of the region:
As you can tell, it is going to be pretty tight up front, with 10 teams in the 90%-100% range. It’s sports. Anything could happen. That’s why we are racing.
For posterity, here are Isaac’s selections, based on a blended statistical/judgemental approach:
And here are mine, based on a pure Power Score approach:
We tend to take for granted the accuracy of our local tracks’ distance & that its lines are reliable. Meet the man who gives us that peace of mind.
Data, predictions and projections for the 2017 NCAA Division I Indoor Championships, which take place this weekend in College Station, Texas.