Digits: Conference Impact

With the Husky and Iowa State Classics now behind us, we now have a very solid understanding of what the NCAA qualifying picture will look like. However, there are still plenty of opportunities for guys to get in a couple more marks before the season ends. Meets like Alex Wilson and BU Last Chance are known for producing plenty of NCAA qualifying performances before the National Championships. However, how much of an impact do Conference Championships have on the overall NCAA qualifying picture? We decided it was a question worth looking into...

We went back and evaluated the top 16 runners in each distance event (800 to 5000) from 2010 to 2017 (8 years in total). We are looking at just the top 16 because the top 16 runners in each event at the very end of the qualifying window will be guaranteed a spot to Nationals in that event (should they choose to pursue it). We then evaluated how often a time in the top 16 was run at a Conference Championship.

In total, from 2010 to 2017, indoor Conference Championships have produced 65 times within the top 16 of a distance event. That's an average of 8.125 NCAA distance qualifiers coming from Conference Championships every year.

As we analyze each conference, it is clear that the conference that produces the most top 16 times is the MPSF (PAC 12). Of the 65 times that have been produced in the past 8 years, 33 of them (50.7%) have taken place at the MPSF Championships. For perspective, the next conference championship that produces the most top 16 times is the BIG 10 with a total of 9 (13.8%).

Of course, certain meets produce faster times in certain events. Since 2010, the MPSF Championships has produced 19 NCAA qualifying times in the 3000 meters and 7 NCAA qualifying times in the 5000 meters.

The ACC has the next most qualifiers in a single event with a total 6 NCAA qualifiers in the 800. 4 of those 6 times came in 2017.

Here is how many qualifiers each conference has produced over the past 8 years (by event)...


ACC: 6

SEC: 5

BIG 10: 4

MPSF & BIG 12: 2


All others: 0

Annual Event Average: 2.5



Ivy: 2

All others: 0

Annual Event Average: .875


MPSF: 19

BIG 10: 4


All others: 0

Annual Event Average: 3.125



Mountain West: 3

SEC: 2

BIG 10: 1

All others: 0

Annual Event Average: 1.625

So what does this information show us? Essentially, the 3000 meters produces the most top 16 times each year with an average of 3.125 individuals. However, we can't ignore the fact that most of those times come from the MPSF.

The 800 meters produces the 2nd most NCAA qualifiers each year with an average of 2.5 individuals. A heavy portion of those qualifiers come from the ACC, SEC, and BIG 10.

The 5000 meters is usually guaranteed to produce at least one NCAA qualifier at a Conference Championship every year with annual average of 1.625 individuals.

The Mile is the event that produces the fewest NCAA qualifiers at the Conference Championships each year with an 8-year total of 7 individuals. That is an annual average of .875 individuals.

Basically, if you're in the Mile, don't fret too much about the results that could come out of the Conference Championships. However, if you're in the 3000, be prepared to run another quick time some time soon because you may not be safe if you're on the tail-end of the qualifying spectrum.

As we progress through some of these statistics, there is another fun fact that stands out: The number of NCAA qualifiers from Conference Championships has nearly doubled in the last four years compared to the first first four years of our analysis. The number of NCAA qualifiers produced by Conference Championships from 2010 to 2013 was 23 qualifiers. From 2014 to 2017, that number has risen approximately 83% to a total of 42 qualifiers.

In layman's terms, if you're among the top 16 in a distance event this year, you have a higher probability of being kicked out of an NCAA qualifying spot than you did four to five years ago.

So what did we take away from this article? Here is the TL;DR portion of it...

- The MPSF Championships produce A LOT of NCAA qualifiers compared to other Conference Championships (mainly in the 3000 meters).

-If you're in the last few qualifying spots for the 3000 meters or 800 meters, the Conference Championships have a good shot at pushing you out of qualifying based on annual averages.

- If you're in the last few qualifying spots for the Mile or 5000 meters, the Conference Championships probably won't bump you out of qualifying based on annual averages (unless you're the last man in).

-More and more top 16 times are coming out of Conference Championships than they have in the past. In fact, they have almost doubled over the last four years.