Here we go ...the big question ahead of Nike Cross Nationals:
Did a team or teams get snubbed for an at-large selection in 2019?
Based on our research, that answer is yes.
But before we go any further, let's just put a qualifier out there real quick: Selecting four deserving at-large programs for inclusion at nationals is no easy task! Every team which finished within the top four of their regional is worthy, in one way or another.
Nike defines its at-large selection process as such:
"Preliminary consideration by the (nine-person) committee will be given to third-place clubs from the championship race at each regional who defeated any eventual NXR Champion in prior weeks. In order for this preliminary consideration to be employed for the third-place clubs, the victory must have occurred when at least five club members from the eventual NXR championship club competed in the same race as the aforementioned loss."
So what were our findings?
We believe one boys team and one girls team were ultimately snubbed.
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Let's start with the girls first.
What muddies the water here is the fact that Cherry Creek finished fourth at NXR Southwest, behind Niwot, a team also vying for an at-large selection.
Taking two teams from a particular region isn't rarified air -- it's happened before -- but it's traditionally less common, largely because, as Nike's parameters lay out, preliminary consideration goes to third-place teams first.
But when looking at Niwot's performance and track record, the Cougars were an easy decision. The Colorado-based team was arguably the most consistent at-large program in consideration, with a seasonal speed rating average of 123.95 (below), tops among the five teams we looked at.
So that left one more at-large pick left on the table. Here were all the at-larges who were considered (the other two confirmed at-large picks are bolded):
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Third-Place Finishers: No. 24 Wayzata (MN), No. 25 Yorkville (IL), No. 8 Portland Jesuit (OR), No. 10 Niwot (CO), (NR) Flower Mound (TX), North Rockland (NY), (NR) Champlain Valley (VT), (NR) Chapel Hill (NC), Newbury Park (CA)
Fourth-Place Finishers: (NR) Sioux Falls Lincoln (SD), Hinsdale Central (IL), No. 12 Portland Lincoln, No. 17 Cherry Creek (CO), (HR) Kingwood (TX), (NR) Liverpool (NY), (NR) Middletown South (NJ), (NR) Dobyns-Bennett (TN), Sage Creek (CA)
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When you narrow down that final spot to programs with proven track records, you're left with four teams: Wayzata, Yorkville, Portland Lincoln and Cherry Creek.
Based on the numbers, there are a few things to keep in mind.
In the last four meets that were speed rated for Portland Lincoln, the program sports the highest team average among any of the considered squads: 125.15. But it did not race well to begin the season -- which pulled down its overall average.
Lincoln also has three speed rating team averages in the top 10 of our measurement (see below) and holds a win over NXR Northwest runner-up North Central--though NC was without Allie Janke.
So the Cardinals' value is mostly pressed up against the competition they faced in 2019: Summit and Jesuit. There's a problem in that.
Just because you faced good teams in 2019 doesn't mean you earned a spot at NXN -- see the conversation centered around Downers Grove South from 2018.
Meanwhile, based on a full season of speed rating averages, Cherry Creek actually owns the second best mark of the five teams measured. It also has the highest single-team speed rating among this group, posting a best of 128.8 at the Roy Griak Invitational.
It was at that meet, in fact, where Cherry Creek defeated NXR Heartland champion Edina and NXR Midwest winner Naperville North -- these are factors that should have been weighed heavily in the selection process.
Earlier in the season, Cherry Creek also defeated Niwot at Liberty Bell.
At the end of the day, this one was probably the hardest one to settle on.
Here's our two-cents worth: When you have comparable speed rating numbers, there's a natural inclination to give the nod to the team that holds the tiebreaker, especially if you're giving an at-large to a fourth-place team. The tiebreaker here is big wins.
This time, Cherry Creek didn't get that benefit of the doubt.
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Seasonal Speed Rating Average (Based On Every Available Report)
1. Niwot (CO), 123.95
2. Cherry Creek (CO), 122.35
3. Portland Lincoln (OR), 119.73
4. Wayzata (MN), 115.35
5. Yorkville (IL), 114.6
The Top 10 Speed Rating Team Performances As A Team In 2019
1. Cherry Creek (CO), 128.8 -- Roy Griak
2. Portland Lincoln (OR), 128.2 -- NXR Northwest
3(t). Niwot (CO), 127.6 -- Nike Desert Twilight
3(t). Portland Lincoln (OR), 127.6 -- OSAA State XC Championships
5. Niwot (CO), 127 -- NXR Southwest
6. Niwot (CO), 127 -- Colorado State XC Championships
7. Portland Lincoln (OR), 126 -- Nike Hole in the Wall
8. Cherry Creek (CO), 124.6 -- NXR Southwest
9. Wayzata (MN), 124 -- NXR Heartland
10. Yorkville (IL), 121 -- IHSA Class 3A State XC Championships
Last Two Teams In:
- NXR Southwest: 3rd, 130 points -- LP (1st), VC (2nd) -- 138-131-130-119-117: 127
- Colorado State XC: 1st, 37 points -- Battle Mountain (2nd) -- 139-128-124-123-121: 127
- Nike Desert Twilight: 1st, 80 points -- CTl (2nd), DGS (3rd) -- 140-129-128-124-117: 127.6
- St. Vrain: 1st, 34 points -- BM (2nd) -- 125-113-113-111-109: 114.2
Portland Lincoln (OR)
- NXR Northwest: 4th, 128 points -- Summit (1st), Jesuit (2nd) -- 154-129-126-117-115: 128.2
- OSAA State Championship: 3rd, 85 points -- Su. (1st), Jesuit (2nd) -- 149-130-126-121-112: 127.6
- Warner Pacific: 2nd, 90 points -- Summit (1st) -- 144-119-112-111-108: 118.8
- Nike Hole In The Wall: 2nd, 87 points -- J. (1st), 86 points; NC (3rd) -- 148-125-124-120-113: 126
- Bob Firman: 5th, 199 points -- Lone Peak (1st), Springv. (2nd) -- 136-113-110-102-97: 111.6
- Ash Creek: 2nd, 46 points -- Jesuit (1st) -- 130-114-108-93-86: 106.2
Last Three Out:
Cherry Creek (CO)
- NXR Southwest: 4th, 171 points -- LP (1st), VC ( 2nd), Niwot (3rd) -- 148-133-119-117-106: 124.6
- Colorado State XC: 2nd, 99 points -- Arapahoe (1st), CT (3rd) -- 127-125-113-112-111: 117.6
- Roy Griak: 1st, 75 points -- NN (2nd), Stillwater (3rd), Edina (4th) -- 152-131-127-121-113: 128.8
- Liberty Bell: 1st, 78 points -- CT (2nd), Arapahoe (3rd), Niwot (4th) -- 141-120-113-110-108: 118.4
- NXR Heartland: 3rd, 145 points -- Edina (1st), Muskego (2nd) -- 135-128-121-119-117: 124
- MSHSL State XC: 2nd, 109 points -- Edina (1st), STMA (3rd) -- 138-117-116-114-113: 119.6
- Roy Griak: 5th, 237 points -- Cherry Creek (1st), NN (2nd) -- 137-107-106-105-101: 111.2
- Milaca Mega Meet: 2nd, 75 points -- Stillwater (1st) -- 131-105-104-98-95: 106.6
- NXR Midwest: 3rd, 167 points -- NN (1st), Beavercreek (2nd) -- 130-119-117-112-110: 117.6
- IHSA State Championships: 2nd, 142 points -- NN (1st), HC (3rd) -- 131-120-120-117-117: 121
- Naperville Twilight: 4th, 135 points -- NN (1st), DGS (2nd), HC (3rd) -- 122-109-108-106-106: 110.2
- First to the Finish: 2nd, 95 points -- NN (1st), Barrington (3rd) -- 126-106-106-105-105: 109.6
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* Franklin's Aidan Palmer finished third overall at NXR Northwest
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Three deserving at-large teams earned tickets to NXN up front: St. Charles East (IL), Dakota Ridge (CO) and Dana Hills (CA). There's little arguing any of those teams. They had good seasons -- and the numbers back it up.
So in our eyes, it came down to the last at-large selection on the boys side.
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Third-Place Finishers: (NR) Eden Prairie (MN), No. 14 St. Charles East (IL), (HR) Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran (IN), No. 19 Portland Franklin (OR), (NR), No. 5 Dakota Ridge (CO), No. 17 El Paso Eastwood (TX), No. 25 Shenendehowa (NY), No. 21 Downingtown West (PA), No. 18 Severna Park (MD),
Fourth-Place Finishers: (NR) Middleton (WI), (HR) Fort Wayne Concordia (IN), (NR) Bozeman (MT), (NR) Timpanogos (UT), No. 23 Flower Mound (TX), (NR) Mount Academy (NY), (HR) Coe-Brown Academy (NH), (NR) West Springfield (VA)
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Despite strong seasons from Flower Mound, Coe-Brown Academy and Fort Wayne Concordia, we did not consider any of these fourth-place teams as potential at-large selections. It seemed only third-place performers were considered by the committee in 2019.
When you look at resumes of those in the third-place grouping, four teams came to mind: Severna Park (MD), Portland Franklin (OR), Downington West (PA) and El Paso Eastwood (TX).
And it's honestly kind of confounding why Portland Franklin wasn't picked.
Not only does Franklin have the second best single-team speed rating performance of those measured in this group (180), but it also owns a late season win over NXR Northwest runner-up Jesuit at the Oregon State Class 6A Championships (see below) and was handed a 1-point loss to Jesuit early in the season at Ash Creek.
In another result, Franklin defeated Camas at the Nike Portland Invitational -- Camas eventually had the fastest overall performance at the Washington Class 4A State Championships, ahead of NXR Northwest champion Kamiakin in a merge.
El Paso Eastwood finished its season well, winning its Class 5A Championship over Grapevine, though it did not face Southlake Carroll or The Woodlands head-to-head. Two weeks later, it was third to both teams at NXR South.
Severna Park holds a stronger season speed rating average than Franklin, though it was only rated three times over the season -- Franklin was measured five times, and it's top three performances were higher than all but one of Severna Park's efforts.
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Seasonal Speed Rating Average (Based On Every Available Report)
1. Dana Hills (CA), 176.26
2. Severna Park (MD), 174.93
3. Portland Franklin (OR), 174.64
4. Downingtown West (PA), 173.75
5. El Paso Eastwood (TX), 172.15
The Top 10 Speed Rating Performances As A Team In 2019
1. Dana Hills (CA), 182.2 -- CIF State XC Championships
2. Portland Franklin (OR), 180 -- OSAA State XC Championships
3. El Paso Eastwood (TX), 178 -- UIL State XC Championships
4. Severna Park (MD), 176.8 -- NXR Southeast
5. Dana Hills (CA), 176.2 -- CIF Southern Section Finals
6. Portland Franklin (OR), 176 -- NXR Northwest
7. El Paso Eastwood (TX), 175.8 -- NXR South
8. Portland Franklin (OR), 175.6 -- Warner Pacific XC Classic
9. Downingtown West (PA), 175.2 -- PIAA State XC Championships
10. Severna Park (MD), 174.8 -- Maryland State XC Championships
Last Two In:
Dana Hills (CA)
- California XC: 2nd, 88 points -- Newbury Park (1st), Claremont (3rd) -- 191-188-181-177-174: 182.2
- CIF SS Finals: 2nd, 132 points -- Newbury Park (1st) -- 185-183-176-174-163: 176.2
- Dana Hills Invitational: 1st, 55 points -- Great Oak 'B' (2nd) -- 179-171-169-167-166: 170.4
El Paso Eastwood (TX)
- NXR South: 3rd, 137 points -- SC (1st), The Woodlands (2nd) -- 185-184-175-169-166: 175.8
- UIL State Championships: 1st, 51 points -- Grapevine (2nd) -- 184-183-175-174-174: 178
- Nike Desert Tw.: 7th, 243 points -- The Woodlands (1st), Niwot (2nd) -- 179-176-160-159-149: 164.6
- Woodbridge: 6th, 302 points -- Newbury Park (1st), GO (2nd), SC (3rd) -- 181-173-173-163-161: 170.2
First Three Out:
Severna Park, Maryland (MD)
- NXR Southeast: 3rd, 146 points -- LV (1st), W. Albemarle (2nd) -- 181-180-178-176-169: 176.8
- Maryland State Championships: 1st, 43 points -- 183-177-175-170-169: 174.8
- Great American XC: 5th, 232 points -- Great Oak (1st), LV (2nd) -- 176-175-172-172-171: 173.2
Portland Franklin (OR)
- NXR Northwest: 3rd, 176 points -- Kamiakin (1st), Jesuit (2nd) -- 192-186-174-164-164: 176
- OSAA State Championships: 1st, 62 points -- Jesuit (2nd) -- 187-187-180-177-169: 180
- Warner Pacific XC Classic: 1st, 77 points -- 189-188-174-169-158: 175.6
- Nike Portland: 2nd, 126 points -- Tahoma (1st), Camas (3rd) -- 181-176-166-166-160: 169.8
- Ash Creek XC: 2nd, 58 points -- Jesuit (1st), 57 points -- 184-181-169-169-156: 171.8
Downingtown West (PA)
- NXR Northeast: 3rd, 124 points -- La Salle A. (1st), CBA (2nd) -- 179-176-174-171-169: 173.8
- PIAA State XC: 1st, 65 points -- La Salle C. (2nd), NA (3rd) -- 182-178-174-174-168: 175.2
- Manhattan: 4th, 158 points -- La Salle A. (1st), La Salle C. (2nd) -- 185-172-169-168-167: 172.2
- Carlisle Invite: 1st, 84 points -- 185-177-174-173-160: 173.8