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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Things I Think I Think About XC Nationals

I went to the NCAA D-III championships on Saturday, and the D-I championships on Monday. Random thoughts...

...D-III fans are nuts. In a good way. The kind of crazy getups NFL fans don aren't that unusual for this crowd. Plus, they get to run around like a bunch of crazy kids...which they are.

...The meet was in Highland Hills, and required some police presence for traffic control. I saw a white-haired cop working and thought "I know that guy...where do I know him from?"I chatted with him for a moment. Yep, Jerry Skeabeck, a former contestant on The Biggest Loser.

...On Sunday I met up with some friends and drove over to Indiana. We stayed at a hotel on the DePauw campus, about 45 minutes away from Terre Haute, as did a few teams.

...What's with college XC coaches? Most of them look like freaks. An unnamed team staying at our hotel has a coach who looks like an uglier, scruffier version of Billy Bob Thornton. Minnesota was there, too, and we figured they didn't have a chance because Steve Plasencia looks too normal. They were 24th.

...I thought one race would be close and the other would be an ass-whuppin' of epic proportions. Turns out I was right but on the wrong race. This is Chelanga's lead at about 5 miles:

McNeil ran the second half faster than Chelanga, though.

...Let's Run gave Oklahoma State the favorite status, noting they were significantly superior by any measure save current-season performance. By the same evaluation, Oregon was #2. And that's how they finished.

...Chelanga is a tiny man. At 5' 6 1/2", I rarely see over anyone's head, but when he ran a few inches in front of me he only came up to my nose.

...When I saw Jenny Barringer hit the ground, I presumed it was an injury. Turns out it was almost certainly a panic attack. Seems odd for that to happen to the most experience and battle-tested athlete in the whole race.

...Both Let's Run and Versus overlooked Angela Bizzari in pre-race analysis, instead focusing on Barringer and Susan Kuijken. Yet when it was all over, an NCAA title in a 6k race went to the reigning NCAA 5k champ. Why was this surprising to anyone? Maybe because she wasn't an XC title contender at any time in the past and hadn't made her breakthrough until track season. Or maybe because she didn't win the Big Ten championship. But any reasonable analysis should have put her as the only athlete with a chance at beating Barringer.

...Two of the guys I went with are a pair of grizzled old men who put on a decent-sized high school cross country meet (3000+ runners). They came away most impressed not by the athletes but by the facility.One of them grumbled about how Terre Haute's facility wouldn't be acceptable to the OHSAA for their state championships, what with all the people running around the course and having fun and loving cross country.

...Barringer is virtually the only Jennifer I've ever heard of not born between 1970 and 1972.

...For several years we've seen a resurgence of Americans in the men's race at the NCAA championships. Then this year a Kenyan dominated with a Brit second. Derrick and Fernandez are on the horizon but not yet in the foreground.

...Speaking of Fernandez, what's the deal? 97th? It sounds like he battled injury all season, trying to help the team, and ran out of gas here. Had an NCAA title not been in the works, he likely would have redshirted. I'm sure many observers think he should have, but raising a championship trophy over your head is something many great runners have never been able to do. Fernandez likely chose OSU in part because he wanted to do that.

...Fantasy leagues are the greatest thing that's happened to sports since TV. Three of us did one for the two races, each picking two individuals and two teams in both the men's and women's races and totalling our best five results. I got shelled. One of my friends is a stats teacher and (of course) had a random number generator on his iPod Touch, so we used it to decide our draft order. It picked a number between 1 and 100; I went first and got 98 and yelled "Beat that, bitches!" J.J. stepped up next and got 99.

...I just saw the TV coverage. There's significant bitching about it at the T&FN message board, and while I've seen better I've also seen worse. Plusses: live, in HD. Minuses: Hello? McFly? It's called a steady cam!

...The usual knuckleheads, Larry Rawson and Lewis Johnson, did their usual poor announcing job. It was amusing that you could clearly hear the PA announcer during the meet, and was outclassing the Versus crew by a mile. I say next time leave those two at home and plug in to the public address system!


Evan Roberts said...

Pretty sure McNeill is Australian.

The Track & Field Superfan said...

Thanks. My error.