Thank you for the answers. They were instructive.
Do you think ND teams ran too hard this week? So long as they qualify for the finals, might it have been better for them to pace themselves? This is the first time all year, I believe, that they are going to be in races on consecutive Fridays.
I follow cross country but don't know all that much about strategy, planning, etc., which is partly why I ask this question. I like the sport and wish that more people wrote about it on this discussion board.
Thanks for any response.
ND came into the regional fifth-ranked. Having beaten at least a dozen NCAA-bound teams in mid-October at Wisconsin’s Nuttycombe and several at the ACC meet two weeks ago, it would be difficult to see ND not advancing.
However, the Great Lakes region is loaded. One of nine regions, it claimed four of 13 at-large bids. In addition to the three B1G at-large qualifiers Dillon cites, Toledo also earned a bid. I do not believe ND could have sat two or three runners and been confident of qualifying automatically or necessarily even beating each of the at-large qualifiers. Emphasis on confident: possible but not confident. While ND won the region by an astounding 78 points, the next five teams — all of whom are now NCAA-bound — spanned a 21-point range.
While ND’s sixth runner (not part of the posted score) finished 18th, the seventh runner finished 55th. Only seven runners compete in the region, but resting three would have pulled in the eighth, ninth and tenth runners from the roster fairly quickly. How deep is the roster? I don’t know. The tail in scoring can be a very long tail, as you’re probably aware. What’s the impact if one runner sustains an injury during the race? I believe, but am not certain, that finishing lower than sixth could have jeopardized ND’s bid.
So then the question becomes could they have run a more tactical race. I attended the Midwest region that Mizzou hosted. Third-ranked Oklahoma State was the overwhelming favorite against several B1G schools, Iowa State and Bradley. I believe they rested Billah Jepkirui, arguably their best runner, but perhaps she had a niggle. Out on the course, it looked as if the OK State coaches were encouraging a tactical race and pacing, even restraining, their runners. At the 4 km mark, they were in sixth as a team and then finished strongly. They won the region by 30 points over Northwestern. It’s doubtful they burned the degree of energy that the ND runners did. Is that the right thing to do? Not really sure. Perhaps to some degree it comes down to the individual athletes and the wear-and-tear of the season.
For all the teams, there will be a big emphasis on recovery, as the eight-day turnaround is tight, and the championship course (incidentally OK State’s) is demanding.
As another data point, the Wake men came into the Southeast region with a similar national ranking as the ND women. They did rest some runners and finished third behind UNC and UVa, both of which they had walloped at the ACC. Advancement was the priority, they’re headed to Stillwater, and it will be interesting to see whether having better-rested top runners pays dividends on Saturday.
(edited to reflect that Wake is in the Southeast region, not the South Central, which might more accurately be called the Southwest. Mea culpa ….)
Like you say, what happens if a team has an injury or (very) off day?
If ND brings in another top runner (or two) next year, they'll add to their depth and could choose a path that Wake did this year. Plus, you had a first-year coach this year taking over for Carlson. Maybe he felt compelled to let it rip.
We'll see ...
- Yes, ND seemed to run the rest of their fall schedule with (at least) two weeks between meets, save for this one.
- However, this is the same for everyone. All the NCAA regionals are held on the same day. Hence, no one team has an advantage of not running and saving their stuff.
- Each region had two automatic qualifiers and ND & Ohio State ended up getting them in the women section. The selection show added Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin.
- The guys had Wisconsin and ND as the automatic qualifiers, while Michigan and Butler were added on.
- It's obvious that the ND women were going to win the Regional, come hell, high water or taking the pedal off the metal a bit. But some coaches might want to run their charges hard (quite candidly the distances aren't that tough and they're not running heats). And also, how do you modulate speed? I ran XC in HS and did a lot of road races as an adult. It's one thing to run a slower pace the whole time, but to adjust a pace -- at least for me -- it was hard.
- Plus, the coaching staff might want the kids to run hard to get some recognition. ND women had a few seniors and this might be their best year. Or you might want an underclassman to score well so she can let it rip at nationals.
- The guys were in tighter races so I wouldn't have even entertained slowing down. Wisconsin is a tough match and the Irish can gauge progress against them. And you certainly want to beat Michigan. Peroiod.
So, unless you're Molly Seidel, I can't see adjusting pace that easily (and still win).
Once again, I think the Irish have had a splendid season with both squads. I expect NC State to win the women's side -- let's see how some of our Irish do!