by Rich Gonzalez
PORTLAND 8/13/04 -- As the inaugural Nike Team Nationals cross-country event is now less than 4 months away, the finalized rankings and selection process will utilize every bit of available information in order to identify the most successful cross-country squads throughout the fall campaign. The process will range from the systematic exchange of weekly information by nearly 20 internal sources to the careful analysis of year-end performances by teams across the national landscape.
National and regional rankings experts will work in concert with regional editors and the Nike Team Nationals management committee in combing through leading highlights and results from literally hundreds of meets during the season in order to track those previously projected outstanding teams, as well as those newly developing squads on the regional scenes.
"The lines of communication are being blown open, with the flow of information on a non-stop level once the season hits, affording much more analysis than has ever been achieved in our sport," said A.J. Holzherr of the National Scholastic Sports Foundation, which will manage the December 4 event at Portland Meadows. "With the cooperation of all resources involved, no team will escape the radar for even the shortest period of time."
The primary goal of the entire process will be to identify the two leading cross-country teams per gender that will be eligible for the Nike Team Nationals from each of the eight regions, while also determining any leading squads deserving of further consideration for each of the four at-large berths that are being awarded per gender.
Once the analysis has been completed, 20 boys teams and 20 girls teams from across the nation will be invited to participate in the year-end event, which will be contested in a club-team setting under the auspices of USA Track and Field.
The whole rankings process has already begun for the NTN rankings committee, as leading cross-country teams are being identified based on results from the 2003 cross-country campaign, as well as making close notation of any key roster additions or losses for the fast-approaching season. In addition, significant performance developments by runners and squads during the 2004 track and field season are being noted.
A preliminary list of the top squads in each region will be released internally by the NTN rankings committee by mid-August, with the NTN regionals editors and the NTN management committee then moving into the process by analyzing these initial rankings recommendations and their corresponding data. These groups will then offer additional input on the rankings, offering up their suggestions for possible order revision and the inclusion of other teams. The revised list of regional rankings will then be forwarded back to the NTN rankings committee for a final fine-tuning before its release.
The preseason set of the Nike Team Nationals Regionals Rankings will be released in late August, being disseminated through the soon-to-be-activated Nike Team Nationals website and through the DyeStat website. In addition, national expert Marc Bloom will continue to release his exclusive national rankings through The Harrier magazine, with the preseason poll being mailed to subscribers later this month.
Soon after the high-school season officially gets underway (some states officially kick off their competition calendar in the final weekend of August), a weekly process similar to that employed in the determination of the preseason rankings will be implemented:
Results will be collected from leading meets across the nation, with NTN regional editors spearheading the process.
A preliminary list of revised regional rankings will be formulated the Wednesday morning of each week, with this listing then disseminated to the regional editors and management committee for analysis and input.
Any suggested changes are then forwarded to the NTN rankings committee, which then works together to finalize the weekly NTN regional rankings by late Thursday afternoon.
The official weekly NTN regional rankings will then be released each Friday morning through an "e-mail blast" to all individuals on the NTN Newsletter list (details coming), as well as on the official Nike Team Nationals website. A list of the four highest-ranked teams (in position for automatic or at-large consideration to the NTN meet) in each region also will be posted on DyeStat that day, with the full list posted Monday.
The weekly rankings will be determined using several criteria, with strongest consideration being given to head-to-head competition between leading programs and to strong team showings on well-established courses. Local experts will determine the pecking order of teams within each state, with the NTN regional editors then lending their expertise in prioritizing a Top 10 list within their respective regions.
Teams can obviously help their own cause with notable statewide in-season performances, as well as strong showings at their state meet. Another excellent means of establishing oneself as a regional power is through inter-state competition at high-level meets where teams can demonstrate their comparative strength with those of other states in their region. Late-season performances will carry much greater significance than early- or mid-season showings, with greater emphasis placed on meets that host multiple squads on the NTN regional rankings listings. Leading meets are shown on the DyeStat regional news pages and on the DyeStat Calendar page.
While national and regional experts will be immersed in the weekly determination of rankings, the public will have a strong voice in the process as well. Public mailboxes have been established for each of the eight NTN regions (see the DyeStat regional news pages) whereby team members, media members, and additional local experts can email any additional results and information for consideration. These emails will be automatically distributed to the NTN rankings committee members and the regional news editors.
The actual invitation of teams to the Nike Team Nationals will be announced on an ongoing basis throughout November, coinciding with the conclusion of in-state competition within each of the eight regions. Of primary importance is making prompt determinations and notifications of the at-large berths so teams can be made aware as soon as possible as to their inclusion in the event.
Notifications will be made each Sunday in November as NTN regional captains (being appointed by Nike) will make phone contact with a representative from each club team to inform them of their selection. At this point, teams will need to register through the NTN website, as will be explained to these club teams by the regional captains. Additionally, the final NTN regional rankings will be posted on Sundays at 5 p.m. (EST), in according with the following schedule:
Sunday, November 7 -- Midwest Region; Heartland Region; Southwest Region
Sunday, November 14 -- Southeast Region; Northwest Region
Sunday, November 14 -- Two at-large berths per gender from the combined five regions above
Sunday, November 21 -- South Region; Northeast Region
Sunday, November 28 -- California Region
Sunday, November 28 -- Two at-large berths per gender from the combined scope of all eight regions above
A final list of registered teams will be posted at both the NTN and DyeStat websites in the days leading up to the competition, keeping the entire nation abreast of the latest tidbits of information on participating teams as well.
Then... get ready for a very enjoyable weekend!!!