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Digits: Prediction Insights

Written by Garrett Zatlin

Research by Ben Weisel and Sean Collins

After three days of wild performances, unique storylines, and shocking qualifiers, we have finally wrapped up the regional championships. The pair of meets gave us everything we were looking for and had a relatively decent balance between the amount of predictability and the amount of surprises (when it comes to qualifiers).

Last week at TSR, seven members of the crew got together to give their full predictions for who they think would qualify for the national meet. Let's tally up the scores and review some of the more interesting trends that we saw in our predictions...


Most Accurately Predicted Event by Region and Gender: West Women's Steeple

The women's west region steeplechase was incredibly predictable as the elites truly showed off their fitness. In fact, that race produced a handful of the NCAA's fastest times in the country this season. With so many fast races, this forced most of the field to run to their fullest potential and fitness. As a result, tactical racing had a lesser role which allowed the top seeds to truly shine through and avoid upsets. In the end, 10 of the top 12 seeds (nine of the top 10) qualified for Nationals. The two national qualifiers who weren't seeded in the top 12 were Wichita State's Rebecca Topham (#17) and Texas' Anna McDonald (#21).

For perspective, there were a total of 18 instances where one of our writers correctly predicted 10 of the possible 12 qualifiers. Of those 18 instances, five of them came in the west women's steeplechase. Only myself and Ben didn't score a 10 out of 12 in that event (we scored 9's).

Least Accurately Predicted Event by Region and Gender: East Men's 1500

A lot of us were expecting the men's east region 800 to be the worst event from a predictions standpoint. Part of that can be attributed to the fact that heavy hitters like Daniel Kuhn, Joe White, and Marco Arop fell out of qualifying.

Although our predictions for the men's east region 800 weren't great, the men's east region 1500 was worse. As I theorized in an article from last week, the men's races always seem to be more tactical than the women's races and that was certainly the case this past weekend (well, at least in the 1500).

The preliminary rounds were super tactical as nearly everyone relied on their kick to ensure that they would advance. Notre Dame's Yared Nuguse was the only one who opted to assert some honest pacing into his two races this past weekend which resulted in a comfortable national qualifier for him and a handful of others.

As a result, top men like Spencer Brown (who ran 3:39 at Bryan Clay) was unable to make it out of the finals. Even Ole Miss sophomore Cade Bethmann struggled in a slower race during the prelims. Others like Ben Young (Kentucky), Nate Sloan (Pittsburgh), Colin Abert (Penn State), and Sam Ritz (Columbia) were popular picks to make it to the national meet given their recent consistency and success. Unfortunately, none of them will be racing in Austin.

For perspective, five of the top 12 seeds failed to qualify for NCAA's. If you go further down the list, 11 of the top 20 seeds still did not make Nationals. Villanova's Logan Wetzel (#21), William & Mary's Ryan McGorty (#24), and Furman's Ryan Adams (#31) were the three seeds outside of the top 20 who made it to the national meet.

Worst Single Prediction: Ben Weisel (East Men's 1500)

Yep, we're staying on this topic.

Ben was the only one of our writer's to have a prediction under 50% (he went 5/12) which was likely the difference maker in his overall finish. The favorites like Yared Nuguse, Waleed Suliman, and Justine Kiprotich gave Ben some help. Even Chris Torpy and Teddy Browning were solid picks as well.

Unfortunately, Ben got caught with some bad luck as none of the sleeper picks he chose worked out for him. Outside of guys like Brown and Bethmann, he also had Young, Sloan, Abert, Ritchie, and Leverenz. He was smart to pick a handful of sleeper picks, he just happened to choose the wrong ones.

Correctly Picked "First Runners Out": Michael Weidenbruch, Sean Collins, & John Cusick (x2)

Within each race, there is a 1/48 (roughly 2%) chance that you correctly pick the "First Runner Out". This is the athlete who will not be moving on to Nationals because they finished 13th in their respective race (one spot out of qualifying).

In other words, it's very hard to do.

Between men and women, east and west regions, five distance races, and seven writers making predictions, there were a total of 280 races where someone could have properly predicted a First Runner Out.

In total, we had four correct predictions which equates to roughly 1.5% accuracy. In comparison to the overall odds of 2%, we were sub-par.

Still, it's an impressive accomplishment to predict such a specific spot in a field that is filled with top talents who are often changing their racing tactics. Here were the correct picks...

John Cusick: Paul Hogan, UMass Lowell (Men's East 5k)

Michael Weidenbruch: Amanda Gehrich, Oregon (Women's West Steeplechase)

Sean Collins: Julia Paternain, Penn State (Women's East 10k)

John Cusick: Julia Paternain, Penn State (Women's East 10k)

Did We Beat the "Market"?

In the stock market, investors try to implement a variety of investment plans and financial analysis so that they could get the biggest return on their money. Often times, the S&P 500 Index is used as a benchmark for how someone's portfolio is performing. Sure, there are some stocks that will perform better than the S&P 500, but for the most part, the index is a good baseline to look at when you're investing (generally speaking, I'm not certified to give you investment advice, don't sue me).

The same idea can be applied to the regional championships. Is it likely that the top 12 seeds are all going to qualify for Nationals? No, probably not. However, they are good indicators for how you should make your picks.

Here is how the prediction results would look if you had simply selected the top 12 seeds in each event region for each event...

West Men

800: 10/12

1500: 10/12

5k: 9/12

10k: 7/12

3k Steeple: 9/12 

TOTAL (45/60 = 75%)

West Women

800: 8/12

1500: 10/12

5k: 7/12

10k: 8/12

3k Steeple: 10/12

TOTAL (43/60 = 71.6%)

Total West: 88/120 = 73.3%


East Men

800: 8/12

1500: 7/12

5k: 5/12

10k: 6/12

3k Steeple: 8/12

TOTAL (34/60 = 56.6%)

East Women

800: 11/12

1500: 6/12

5k: 8/12

10k: 7/12

3k Steeple: 9/12

TOTAL (41/60 = 68.3%)

Total East: 75/120 = 62.5%


OVERALL TOTAL: 163/240 = 67.91%

And our final scores? They were...

Overall Writer Average: 161.4 (67.25%)

In other words, we failed to beat the "market"


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