Ranking Rubric

Updated: Dec 4, 2019

The cross country season is now complete which means that it is time to redirect our focus to something entirely different.

Yep, I'm talking about indoor track.

Just like cross country, we'll be posting our rankings for the top distance runners in the country this winter (which is for anyone who runs the 800, mile, 3000, or 5000). The rankings will not be separate event-by-event rankings, but instead a collective evaluation of all runners who compete in the middle and long distance events.

In other words, it's the same thing that we did last year.

However, before we get those rankings posted, I thought now would be a good time to take a look at the criteria involved with our rankings and shed some light as to how we gauge the accomplishments of certain athletes (relative to one another) over the course of the season.

So with that, let's get started.

Running Fast Times

How fast does someone need to run in order to get a spot in TSR's indoor rankings?

When it comes to making our rankings, you need to run fast (shocker). An athlete can check off all of the sections in our ranking criteria, but if they can't post nationally competitive times, then what's the point? There isn't necessarily a set time per event or a certain place in the TFRRS descending order list that an athlete needs to have in order to earn a spot in our rankings. They just need to be...well, fast.

Does TSR view altitude adjusted times or flat-track conversions any differently than times that were run on a regular banked track or an over-sized track?

When it comes to conversions, we generally view those marks equally in comparison to times that were run on your standard 200 meter banked track or an over-sized 300 meter track.

However, there is something to be said about athletes who actually run a certain time and don't just get it through a conversion (to the fault of no one). If we are in a dead tie between ranking two individuals, then we may end up giving the edge to whoever ran a non-converted time (but again, we generally look at these very equally).

Does TSR take DMR performances into account when constructing rankings?

Yes. If we are able to verify splits on a DMR, then we will take those times into account (albeit, maybe with a somewhat lesser weight than an open event).

Does the recency of an athlete's personal best have an impact on their preseason ranking?

Here is an example for anyone who is having trouble understanding what this question is asking. Think about Athlete X who ran 7:50 for the 3000 meters back in 2018. However, in 2019, they only ran 7:57 for 3000 meters. How much weight will TSR put into that personal best of 7:50 compared to their seasonal best of 7:57 from 2019?

Truthfully, it depends on how much of a difference we see.

7:57 is still a very good time, and running a time of 7:50 typically shows that you can be super competitive in the NCAA (top-tier talents rarely fade into oblivion). We'll certainly take into consideration that Athlete X never really got close to that mark of 7:50 in 2019, but we won't completely dismiss Athlete X since their 7:57 wasn't substantially slower.

Of course, if their time was significantly slower in 2019 (say 8:05), then that would be a cause for concern and would have a slightly larger impact on where we place the individual in our preseason rankings.

Consistent Performances

What does consistency look like to TSR?

Sure, you ran fast once, but can you do it again? How often are you earning a top finish in competitive races? Are you progressing/improving in your times? If not, how about your race execution? How often do you have a bad performance, if at all?

Consistency is a very underrated aspect when evaluating today's top distance running talents. At TSR, we put a (relatively) heavy emphasis on athletes who consistently perform at a high level and keep underwhelming performances at a minimum.

Athletes can have a poor performance every now and then (everyone is human), but the best runners are those who succeed despite running poorly (to their standards).

Displaying Range

How does TSR value range?

The best athletes typically have great range. Top runners from last year such as Oliver Hoare, Kyle Mau, Jessica Hull, and Millie Paladino were not ranked just because they ran fast. They were ranked because they were incredibly competitive regardless of the distance they toed the line for. The more events you can contend in, the more valuable you are to your team...and the more valuable you are in our rankings.

Will an athlete be penalized if they lack range?

No, not necessarily. Range is less of a factor for athletes who specialize in events like the 800 meters. Some of those runners typically drop down in distance to the 400 meters, so it would be unfair to hold them to the same standard as someone who specializes in both the 800 and miles distances. Showing range can only help your case, but a lack of range wont hurt you.

Postseason Success

How will TSR compare performances in the postseason to those during the regular season?

You can be fast and have great range, but if you can't put together a strong performance when it matters the most, then that should count against you, at least a little bit (and vice versa).

Of course, certain conference meets (read: basically all conference meets) don't have the same level of competition or hold the same level of importance as certain regular season meets (like the Millrose Games, Iowa State Cyclone Classic, or University of Washington Husky Classic).

Athlete X beat Athlete Y at *insert specific meet here*. Why is Athlete X still ranked ahead of Athlete Y despite finishing behind them?

This is a question that we get A LOT. To some extent, I can understand the confusion (and in many cases, frustration). However, it would be unfair to say that someone who ran top-tier times, who dominated strong competition on a consistent basis, and who displayed great range should fall behind someone who had good, but comparatively moderate success just because Athlete Y was half a stride ahead of Athlete X in one meet.

Remember, our rankings are a gauge of an athlete's success throughout the entirety of the season as a whole. Naturally, meets like the National Championships will hold more weight than any other singular track meet during the indoor track season. However, a handful of performances from the regular season can add up to outweigh one result from NCAA's.

Durability / Ability to Double

What kind of emphasis does TSR place on athletes who can double (or triple) on the same day (or the same weekend)?

It's not often that we see collegiate athletes run prelims and then finals in the middle or long distance events prior to championship season. However, athletes who can double on the same day (or weekend) present great value, and show me that they'll be able to manage the rounds of a conference meet (and more importantly the National Championships) better than other runners.

This is less important for athletes in the 3000 meters and 5000 meters since they don't have any prelims to worry about in those events.

However, in the grand scheme of things, being able to double (or triple) is not a super important characteristic to have compared to other criteria in our rankings (such as range and consistency).

Experience / History of Success

Does being older or having experience in large championship settings benefit athletes when TSR is constructing their rankings?

Experience doesn't have the same weight as a few other pieces of ranking criteria, but we would be lying if we said that experience doesn't play a role. Simply put, those who are older have been racing for longer and know how to handle competitive races in the NCAA better than younger athletes do.

This isn't to say that freshmen or sophomores can't make it into our rankings (because they most certainly can), but we'll sometimes favor one athlete over another (ever so slightly) if they have experience on their side.

Does an athlete with a history of notable success get the benefit of the doubt more often than a less established athlete?

It may not seem entirely fair, but yes, they do. Accomplished runners have a larger margin of error because their years of success tells us that they will simply be better the next time around. However, no one is safe from falling out of our rankings and no one is safe from being penalized for poor performances.

Outdoor Track / XC Success

How much of an impact will an athlete's success from outdoor track and cross country have on TSR's preseason indoor track rankings?

Results from other seasons will be taken into consideration in our preseason rankings and can only help an athlete in our rankings (not hurt them). However, indoor track performances will hold significantly more weight than any other season.

Tactical Racing

So...what does tactical racing even mean? And why is this important?

I'm glad you asked, hypothetical reader.

Someone may not be the fastest runner ever and they may not have exceptional range. However, a combination of consistency and top finishes usually means that you're a great tactical runner.

Need an example? Look at Justine Kiprotich. The now-graduated Michigan State ace was probably one of the most dangerous 1500 meter runners in the NCAA over the past few years. He didn't always run a blazing fast time, but he navigated the 1500 distance better than almost anyone else that he faced, despite being a significant underdog on paper. Kiprotich often pulled off major upsets and almost always peaked perfectly in the postseason (specifically during outdoor track).

There's something to be said for those who can run smart and execute their race plan. Of course, if you're in our rankings, there is a good chance that you were already doing that.

This is a very minor aspect of our ranking rubric, but it can certainly help someone's case to earn a spot in our rankings.

Injury History / Recent Absence from Racing

How does TSR rank athletes who are injured?

If we 100% know that an athlete is injured (and are therefore not racing), then we will not put that runner into our rankings.

How does TSR rank athletes who haven't competed in a while?

If an athlete didn't race during cross country and we don't have any indication of injury, then we can only assume that they were redshirted (unless that redshirt was already used in a prior year). As a result, that athlete gets a "clean slate" entering the indoor track season where we assume that they are healthy and where we expect them to race.

There may also be instances where a certain runner doesn't make their season debut until late in the season or takes a significant amount of time off from racing in the middle of the season. If a runner does not compete for an extended period of time, we will ultimately have to drop that individual from our rankings until he or she makes their season debut (or has a performance which warrants a ranking).