Thursday, November 8, 2018

North Dakota State Cross Country 2018- An Analysis of the Girls Race

This year the high school state cross country meet was held on October 27th in Jamestown, North Dakota. The race was at Parkhurst Recreation Area north of town, on a perfect weather day. The course is a mixture of prairie and woods, with little-to-no hills throughout the course. This combination led to many fast times in all of the races. Here's a quick recap of the races:

Class A Boys: Sean Korsmo (Bismarck High) pulled off what many believed to be an upset in this race, running 15:46 to defeat predicted winner Brody Yoder (Dickinson), who ran 15:49 for 2nd place. There were just under 30 runners under 17 minutes- a pretty good day!

The team race was not close, with a very young Williston squad running away with an almost 30-point victory over Bismarck Century (58-87).

Class B Boys: To no one's surprise, Isaac Huber (Edgeley/Kulm) won the Class B Boys race handily, running 15:49, 17 seconds ahead of 2nd place Robert White (New Town).

The team race was also anti-climatic, with New Town winning their 7th straight title. They scored 47 points to 2nd place Hillsboro/Central Valley's 103.

Class A Girls: In the Class A Girls' race, Meghan Ford (Jamestown) finished off an incredibly impressive season with a sub-18 5k time, winning the state meet by 30 seconds (17:57). 2nd place was Kayla Ogle of newly-Class A Watford City in a time of 18:27.

The team race was the Fargo Davies show. En route to winning their third straight title, they scored 66 points to the 118 points of Grand Forks Central.

Class B Girls: This race, more than any other, had the most questions going into it. There was no clear favorite in the individual, and it quickly turned into a two-person duel. In the end, Reagan Baesler (H/CV) won her third title in a row with a quick time of 18:41, with Lana Krack (Thompson) just behind in 18:45.

The team title going into the meet was also very much in doubt. In the end, Hillsboro/Central Valley pulled off the Class B Girls sweep of titles, winning their 8th consecutive team title with 102 points (the only race of the day with the winning team over 100 points), with Rugby close behind in second with 120 points.

Below is the analysis of the two Girls races. The Boys races analyses can be found here.
Last year's analysis can be found here.
Class B Girls:
This year there were 243 athletes representing 46 different teams. This means that over the past 4 years the number of teams and athletes has changed little, from the massive increase during 2010-2014. Has the Class B girls division reached carrying capacity? I should mention that Watford City was Class B last year and was Class A this year, but they only ran 7 runners at state this year, which would put this year's Class B total at 250, still 10 less than last year. Has the second North Dakota running boom tapered off? I'm not sure, but the last four years for this race shows really no significant increase in participation. Here are the numbers:

Year   Runners      Teams
2004 144 25
2005 146 27
2006 153 28
2007 150 29
2008 179 30
2009 177 35
2010 172 41
2011 198 38
2012 196 37
2013 209 37
2014 208 39
2015 234 45
2016 223 47
2017 260 46
   2018          243             46

Here we can see that the number of teams has stagnated over the past few years, while the number of athletes still seems to be on the increase. We got this zig-zag pattern thing going on here for athlete numbers, so the trend would suggest that next year would see another increase in participation. I don't know, after the weather this October, maybe some kids won't come back! (Seriously though, can somebody explain the zig-zag pattern for athlete numbers?)

Next let's at some more data:

Here is the breakdown by grade of the top 40 girls:
Seniors- 6... (last year 4)
Juniors- 8... (last year 9)
Sophomores- 4... (last year 9)
Freshman- 5... (last year 8)
8th Graders- 11... (last year 5)
7th Graders- 6...  (last year 5)

Looking at this chart, it's clear that middle schoolers this year far outnumbered last year, while underclassman did not. In fact, there were 4 seventh-graders in the top 20 alone! Here's a cool tidbit: Kindred had a seventh-grader place 11th, one place and two seconds ahead of her teammate, also a seventh-grader. Dang.

Last year I took the state meet results, took out all the seniors, and re-scored the meet. Here are the predicted results this year versus what actually happened:
Predicted 2018:                      Actual 2018:
1.) Watford 115                      1.) H/CV 102
2.) H/CV 135                         2.) Rugby 120
3.) Rugby 166                        3.) May-Port CG 197
4.) New Town 250                 4.) Bowman County 218
5.) H/N/T 253                        5.) New Town 231

Now, at first this looks messy. BUT keep in mind that Watford City went Class A (and looking at the results they would have won Class B, but not by much), and the H/N/T coop broke up. Thompson took 8th on their own, while Hatton and Northwood coop-ed with Lairmore and took 17th. Other than that, it looks like MPCG and Bowman County stepped up their game. Also, there does seem to be a pattern emerging here that if you want to win state B girls, score at or below 100 points. Top 3 required sub-200, and low 200s is top 5.

Next, we take all of the seniors out of this year's state meet and re-score it as is. I can't take into account co-ops that will spontaneously combust at school board meetings, so we just hope for the best.
Actual 2018:                       Predicted 2019:
1.) H/CV 102                      1.) H/CV 89
2.) Rugby 120                     2.) Rugby 105
3.) MPCG 197                    3.) MPCG 168
4.) Bow. Co. 218                 4.) New Town 193
5.) New Town 231              5.) Bowman County 198
                                          6.) Kindred 234

Here's a quick overview of what this shows (and doesn't show):
1.) Hillsboro/Central Valley will again be the team to beat next year, but Rugby winning might not necessarily be a big upset.
2.) The battle for the west region title will be interesting. New Town has quietly been developing a strong women's team over the past couple of years, in the shadows of the historically-good boys program. However, Bowman County is never a good idea to bet against. It will be close!
3.) Looking into the numbers for 2019, Rugby and MP-CG both have their fifth runners ahead of Hillsboro's fifth runner (35 and 50, respectively, compared to 52). Hillsboro gets away with having two low sticks in Reagan Baesler and Jensyn Zink. Having two girls in the top ten will make them tough to beat, but Rugby's depth- having 7 runners in before Hillsboro's fifth- will be tough to match.
H/CV 1, 3, 13, 20, 52, 82
Rugby 5, 18, 22, 25, 35, 40, 49, 60
MPCG 24, 30, 31, 33, 50, 54
4.) May-Port CG has a pretty tight top 4 next year, and if those girls can work together and pull themselves all into the top 30, or even 25, they might have a shot at top 2.
5.) Every team in this year's top five is predicted to score lower next year. This is more proof of the aforementioned relatively young group of girls at state this year. 

Next up is Class A Girls. Scroll down to the bottom to see the comparison of the two divisions.

Class A Girls:
 There were 182 girls representing 19 different schools in this race, but since most Class A schools bring their allotted 10 runners to the state meet, the numbers for the Class A Girls Race changes very little from year to year, at least not enough to be statistically significant. For example, last year there were 176 runners, and Watford City joined and brought 7 runners with them this year.

First point I want to make: Watford City joined Class A this year and put 3 girls in the top 12. Pretty impressive. More impressive? They were all sisters.
2 Kayla Ogle 12 18:27
3 Hayley Ogle 10 18:37
12 Jaelyn Ogle 8 19:10
 Even though their fifth runner placed 116th, they still managed 6th place due to three low sticks. I know some Class B coaches that breathed a sign of relief that they went Class A this year!

As for the race itself, Fargo Davies ran away with this one by having runners come in at 4, 10, 11, 18, and 23. Having 4 of your 5 scores be all-state and your fifth runner just off the mark is pretty dang good. However, Fargo Davies relied heavily on seniors to lead the squad this year. Who will emerge next year?

Here's a question: which team was the first to have their 7th runner finish?

3rd place Minot. And they had no seniors in their top 5 at state this year.

Here's the breakdown of the top 40 by grade:
Seniors- 6 (last year 5)
Juniors- 9 (last year 5)
Sophomores- 12 (last year 11)
Freshmen- 9 (last year 10)
8th Graders- 2 (last year 7)
7th Graders- 2 (last year 2)

Looking at this list, two things are immediately clear:
1.) Class A was much older than Class B this year.
2.) Class A was understandably deep this year as a result of all the older, experienced runners. In each of the three oldest grades, there were more girls this year than last.

Additionally, with many girls graduating this year or next year, this would suggest an advantage for strong, young teams in the next two years.

Here's how last year's predictions panned out this year:
Predicted 2018                                 Actual 2018 
1.) Fargo Davies 80                         1.) Fargo Davies 66
2.) Bismarck Century 82                 2.) Grand Forks Central 118
3.) Bismarck High 90                      3.) Minot 129
4.) Grand Forks Central 112           4.) Bismarck Century 181
5.) Minot 149                                  5.) Mandan 194

It seems that Fargo Davies, GFC, and Minot all did almost exactly as predicted. Bismarck Century under performed last year's predictions, while Bismarck High was off the map (they took 10th with 272 points). Just goes to show that anything can happen in the span of a year, but most patterns do follow pretty closely.

Now, we will remove all seniors from this year's state meet and re-score:
Actual 2018:                                Predicted 2019:
1.) Fargo Davies 66                     1.) Minot 106
2.) Grand Forks Central 118        2.) Fargo Davies 161
3.) Minot 129                               3.) Grand Forks Central 167
4.) Bismarck Century 181           4.) Bismarck Century 216
5.) Mandan 194                           5.) Fargo North 220
                                                    6.) West Fargo 225

Next year looks to be the return of the state champion Minot women's program. They have a lot of young girls running well this year, and if that continues, they should easily win next year. Here's an interesting tidbit: in the 2019 re-score, Minot's 8th runner comes in before any other team's number 5!

Also, it looks like Fargo Davies will be in a tough battle with Grand Forks Central over control of the EDC next year. Both teams have solid squads, but GFC will have more firepower up front, with the capabilities of 3 girls in the top 20 at state. We'll see what happens.

Last interesting note: taking out all of the seniors from last year's results would have girls from 12 different schools represented in the top 13 at the state meet. That's quite abnormal, and shows not only the depth across the state, but how widespread easily accessible modern training methods are now.

Last but not least, comparing Class A and Class B. The chart below averages the top 10 finishing times of the Class B and Class A races dating back to 2003. The percent next to each is the percent difference between the two divisions. We can assume all differences to be Class A > Class B, because no state meet dating back to 2003 has had a better average top ten time for Class B over Class A. There are many reasons for that: location, facilities, teammates to run with and push, coaching, financials, etc.
Year        Class A             Class B             % Difference
2018       18:44.2              19:34.9                 4.3%
2017       18:37.8              19:15.4                 3.4%
2016       18:14.8              19:10.4                 5.1%
2015       14:42.2              15:04.6                 2.5%
2014       14:37.7              15:26.8                 5.6%
2013       14:48.7              15:30.3                 4.7%
2012       15:11.7              15:54.9                 4.7%
2011       14:39.8              15:25.9                 5.2%
2010       15:12.6              15:50.7                 4.2%
2009       15:06.0              15:41.3                 3.9%
2008       15:16.1              16:06.3                 5.5%
2007       14:57.1              15:32.3                 3.9%
2006       14:59.4              15:42.8                 4.8%
2005       15:54.1              16:11.6                 1.8%
2004       15:27.4              15:34.5                 0.8%
2003       15:12.2              15:21.8                 1.1% (overall avg 3.8%)

This year was fairly close to the long-term average, and both of the average times were the slowest since the move to 5k in 2016. The closest years, 2003-2005, Class B had some incredible athletes at the top who brought everyone else up with them.
So there's some stats on the state meet this year! I REALLY wish that the NDHSAA would put in some timing mats at miles 1 and 2 on the course, because people like me would LOVE to analyze race data like that, but alas maybe we'll get there someday...

Thanks for reading!

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