Benchmarking Runner Development (Boys)

       We saw last week that the most important metric to manage is the freshmen attraction rate.   Whereas it is the most important metric, there are some others.   The second most important metric appears to be the runner development rate.  I don’t see the difference between championship teams and the rest of the podium with respect to this metric, but I do see a drastic difference between the twenty podium teams and the rest of the state.

      Knowing that the one minute improvement from 16:30 to 15:30 is much more challenging than the one minute improvement from 19:30 to 18:30, I struggled to find the right metric.   I finally settled on the actual improvement divided by the potential improvement, defining potential improvement as the difference between the prior year’s PR and a “perfect” run of 14:30.    In this manner, a runner who improves from 18:30 to 17:30 improves by 25%.   Likewise, a runner who improves from 16:30 to 16:00 also improves 25%.   For the most part, this method allows the percent improvement to be independent of the prior year’s PR.

      While the rest of the state only averages 5% yr/yr improvement, the worst of the twenty 2010 podium teams achieved 8%, and the median podium team achieved 15%.   The typical 19:00 freshman runner will be running about 17:20 by his senior year on championship/podium teams but will probably not have progressed to 18:00 as a senior if he is on most other teams.   The benchmarks here are North Hall and West Hall, who might have that same 19:00 freshman runner at 16:30 by the time he is a senior.

       Note that freshmen with similar times can become widely separated by the time they are seniors.   The individual seniors who have been singled out are exceptional; however, note the divergence of the rose line (the strong podium teams at 20% yr/yr improvement as opposed to the weaker podium teams that only demonstrate 10% yr/yr improvement.  Whereas neither is close to the 45% improvement of Mr. Barger and Mr. Hoban, the extra minute that the strong podium teams shave off their times (vs. weaker podium teams) will save them a lot of points at the state meet.   

      The graph below combines the attraction rate data from last week with the development data from this week.     Whereas it is clearly best to be as far “northeast” as possible, the championship teams are generally east (but not north) of the rest of the podium.   That suggests that runner development may get you onto the podium, but it is not a substitute for getting enough boys on your team.    Of the five state champions in 2010, only one of those teams registered an improvement rate above 15%.  In contrast, ten of the fifteen teams placed 2nd-4th exceeded the 15% improvement rate threshold.   I only found non-podium team (5th place Mill Creek at 21%) that exceeded the 15% threshold.  

      Brookwood is an interesting case study.   Whereas I stated that runner development is less important than runner attraction, Brookwood was improving at about 10% yr/yr with the classes of ’07-’09 (per, winning zero state titles during that era.   They increased that to above 20% yr/yr with the classes of ’11-’13, and have already won two state titles with those classes.   They have had 25-30 new freshmen each year during that entire time period.   This case study indicates that whereas a high runner development rate probably cannot replace a high runner attraction rate, it can make a big difference if a school does both well.  It remains to be seen if this improvement is sustainable into the upcoming years.

      Now let’s look at the rising seniors who have shown the most improvement so far.  Like Mr. Hoban and Mr. Barger last year, their freshmen times were not extraordinary.   I don’t think we will be saying the same for their senior times.  I suspect most of these guys will be looking north to see the 16:00 mark next year.

      Data below from the classes of ’11 (Fr-So, So-Jr, and Jr-Sr) ’12 (Fr-So and So-Jr) and ’13 (Fr-So) [only counting runners who were once sub 20:00 freshman and have competed each year since]:

      Runner development rate (annual progress toward 14:30) [metric=(x-y)/(x-870) where x=PR in year n (in sec) in year n and y = PR in year n+1]
Championship and Podium Teams: 14%, Rest of State: 5%,  Benchmark: West Hall (26%), Private School Benchmark: Galloway (24%)