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State of the Rate 2019

Well, it’s been a grind, but I’ve gotten through this year in one piece.  This couldn’t be done without support from others.  I have an undying desire to crunch numbers, analyze data, and perform comparisons.  That would likely wane without the response from others.  The tweets, likes, messages, and all-around curiosity keeps me motivated.

Background

Speed ratings became an idea way back in 2007 when I was helping my uncle coaching at Woodhaven.  At the time, I was an avid Dyestat poster and knew of a fellow forum member doing the same thing out in Washington.  For a season, I was spitting out ratings and rankings and posting on the chaotic MLive forums (RIP).  Although I’m in all accounts a nerd, at that time I had little computer knowledge, it became impossible to balance ratings/life/running/school.  

In 2017, I came into work one day at Hansons and found that the person closing the night before had left a list of times from other schools competing for that D1 state title.  Comparing times is no way to evaluate cross country.  School was out of the equation, I’m definitely not running as much, so why not?  This is something I’ve wanted to do, forgot that I wanted to, remembered about, then had the impetus to get it going again. 

The Site

Not a blog.  If it were a blog, you’d know my personal thoughts on “issues”.  Heck, if you follow my twitter, you’re unfortunately privy to my thoughts on issues.  I’m never wrong and have to get the last word in, oh well. 

Anyhow, the site was launched in August 2018.  Enough of the story, you’re getting stats:

Month/Year Views Visitors
August 2018 2,281 958
September 2018 4,657 1,607
October 2018 4,391 1,326
August 2019 15,091 3,835
September 2019 18,507 3,799
October 2019 32,493 5,870
Season Views Visitors
XC 2018 11,329 3,891
XC 2019 66,091 13,504

Visitors are likely the better metric in tracking growth (more content, more individual page views). 

2018 vs. 2019 = 3.47x visitors, 5.83x page views. 

I should also mention this site will NEVER partner with a RunnerSpace or a MileSplit.  Not that there were any offers.  I value my independence and that stubbornness would be an issue.

Accuracy

An area I struggle with is getting across is that the ratings and projections are not predictions.  They’re not the determining factor in one’s team.  They’re just another data point, one using past results, to hopefully compare one performance against another.  One performance then becomes many performances, those many performances turned into what I look to be an accurate depiction of how championship races will score. 

How accurate were the ratings in 2019?

Category 2018 Overall 2018 % 2019 Overall 2019 %
Team Qualifiers 188 of 216 87.0% 190 of 216* 88.0%
Individual Qualifiers 881 of 1080 81.6% 892 of 1080 82.6%
All-State 191 of 240 79.6% 187 of 240 78.3%
Proj. Place vs. Actual Place 2.35 place difference   2.27 place difference  

*(eliminated those additional qualifiers for comparison sake, but I did have 2 of the 3 finishing 4th)

Improving on three of four ain’t bad.  But you know me, I’m competitive, especially with myself.  I’ll keep plugging away in order to get those numbers higher.

What’s often is heard is that Americans love the story of the underdog.  Miracle on Ice, 1969 Michigan vs. OSU (can we get a repeat of that, please?), I might even throw MSU’s Big Ten winning girls XC team into that mix.  I love when the projections are wrong, it gives greater life to the stories of runners like Jason Millis and Anna Petr, coming through in the final stretch of their final races for their teams.  The projections can’t capture the heart and the tales of great performances.  That’s perfect. 

Stories

In all, there were 50+ races projected this season.  Initially, I believed I could review those immediately, very soon I learned that just wasn’t going to happen.  We have a long, arduous winter ahead of us, and what better to do but look back at those races, interspersed with the stories of those who competed. 

I’ve had many interactions with coaches, parents, supporters, and athletes over the season.  We often lament kids for what we perceive to be negative attributes, they’re the same as when we were kids.  They have more stimuli, more expectations, less time, more stress.  Yet they’re still out here training and hitting pain levels in races that we wouldn’t dare experience.  Their stories need to be told. 

MGoBlog, Spencer Hall, and The Athletic are some of my favorite online reads when it comes to sports.  I grew up listening to Keith Jackson call college football games.  Here you get Spencer Hall writing about Keith Jackson.  I can’t even read the entire article without getting emotional.  Can I write on that level?  Probably not.  Will I try?  Yes.

You ever listen to those old British announcers calling a track meet?  I can hear it now, “Baumann’s a whiiiirlwind on the last lap”, “Gammoudi is bankrupt, so too is Prefontaine”.  Numbers and facts are great, but we can do a better job of crafting a tale. 

Logo

The site desperately needs a unique logo.  With zero design experience, I’m opening this up to you.  I’d prefer it to be minimal, but announce that the site is covering XC in Michigan.  If there are enough submissions, I’ll make it a contest.  If you win said contest, you’ll get free t-shirts/hats/hoodies/other swag.  Yes, I want to make shirts. 

This leads me to…

Money

I will likely place ads on the site.  I really want to be careful with this, for two reasons.  One, they get in the way of everything and diminish the online experience.  Gaudy and cumbersome ain’t gonna happen, minimal will be the way to go. The other is when runners see ads on a site, they see ads for buying running shoes online.  You really need to go support your local running shop.  If the ads start to head into that realm, I’ll pull them.  But I’m an adult, there’s bills to pay, and operating this is a major opportunity cost when it comes to earning money. 

The hope is at some time get to a point where there’s a subscription, but the content isn’t there yet.  See kenpom (easiest $20 spent every year), UMHoops for examples. 

If you want, you can always donate.  I have a paypal link in the bottom right corner.  That money will go towards awards (more on that tomorrow).  Since I’ve been running for awhile and work at one of those local running shops, the awards will be various items that I find useful and humorous. 

Winter Projects

  • Figuring out how to code

If I can find a way to cut into the time needed to produce ratings, they’ll be done more accurately.  Manually pulling results, compiling them, then graphing takes a little time.  I’d like to find a method that does this all a bit quicker.  This would also help in the whole website building world.

  • Finding a suitable Monte Carlo simulator

Monte Carlo simulations take the speed ratings and then generate thousands of projected races given those ratings. It’s something that gives added value to a consistent runner and takes into account someone who alternates “good” and “bad” races. When you simulate thousands of examples, it helps to eliminate the sample size issue inherent with many of the projections.

  • Evaluating incoming freshmen, year to year improvements, track times

You won’t be seeing middle school ratings.  But they’ll secretly be done in order to fully get a grasp of what we can expect from newcomers.  My assumption is that there’s more variability in the length of middle school courses.  I did work on year to year improvement during last winter, but I think I have a better method for determining that this year.  Same with how to add track times into the preseason projections.  Why do all this?

  • Regional suggestions

There’s no way Pittsford girls or Pinckney boys should miss out on the state meet.  When you’re arguably a top-10 team in the state, you should be running in November.  I know there are other many other considerations.  We’ve improved from the days of Pioneer, Huron, Saline, Bedford, and Monroe being in the same region.  I know you can’t quantify summer training and coaching.  But maybe we can nail down who is expected to be good and have a good baseline to go from to ensure the best 27 teams are competing on the first Saturday in November.  I’d love to get in that site selection room at some point.  Maps and XC?  You’re really not gonna find a guy more interested in the two than I am. 

  • Sub 5/Sub 6 Challenge

Found this on ILXCTF and figured it would be a good idea for Michigan.  Will release details on that before indoor track starts up. 

Thanks for reading all of my rambling.  As I stated, this little project of mine wouldn’t be where it is without you.  And obviously, as I interact with so many, you get a voice.  Please e-mail or message me with suggestions, concerns, encouragement.  I listen even if it’s not immediately apparent. 

I will take a little, tiny break from content, but I’ll be back to evaluate the MITCA race, who to look for at MidEast MOC, and I’ll scout as much as I can so we can get as many FootLocker qualifiers as possible.    

Thank you,

Matt

3 thoughts on “State of the Rate 2019”

  1. Thanks again for your work! Now go have a life for a few days and then please return as XC 2020 is quickly approaching:)

    Like

  2. Thank you for all that you do! I did attempt to donate money to you… automatically said $5 but I would have given more… and like a month later I got notification the money had been returned. SO weird. I will try again!

    Like

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