TSR Postseason Mailbag: Part 2


How would the (Kolas) projections change if you used the USTFCCCA regional rankings as the regional results? - Ivy


Men

There aren't too many changes when you switch our Kolas projections with regional rankings. Instead of Army taking an automatic qualifying spot in the Northeast region, Harvard is projected to take the #2 spot (Iona is ranked #3, Army is ranked #4).


Instead of Virginia placing in the top two of the Southeast region, the Furman men are projected to take an automatic qualifying spot. NC State is ranked #3 while Virginia is ranked #4.


The only other changes are in the Mountain region. Colorado State is ranked #5 and Air Force is ranked #4 (those two teams are switched in our Kolas projections). We also see Southern Utah ranked #8 and Weber State ranked #7 (we also have those two teams switched in our Kolas projections).


If that happens, then we only see one major change. The Mountain region would produce eight (!!!) national qualifiers with Southern Utah pushing Weber State in to Nationals for the final two qualifying spots. Michigan would be the First Team Out.


Women

Much like the men, there aren't too many drastic changes on the women's side. The USTFCCCA rankings move Notre Dame down to the #5 spot in the Great Lakes and push Wisconsin and Indiana up to #3 and #4, respectively.


The only other major change is Florida State at the #3 spot in the South region while Ole Miss earns the second automatic qualifier. Georgia and Georgia Tech are projected to take spots #4 and #5, respectively.


Although there may not be many changes in the ordering, those changes do have a notable impact on the women's qualifying picture. Right now, our projections have five teams making it out of the South region. However, if these were based off of the regional rankings, only the top two teams (Florida and Ole Miss in this case) would qualify out of the South region.


Instead, you would get an extremely intricate four-way tie for the 12th qualifying spot between Florida State, Georgia, Dartmouth, and UCLA. At this point, Oregon State actually has the most Kolas points (three), but they are stuck behind UCLA and the West region would have already used a "push" scenario (Portland pushing in Washington).


That means Oregon State has to hope that UCLA wins the tie-breaker between these teams in order to qualify. If Georgia wins, they can push Florida State in to Nationals and end the selection process. If Dartmouth wins, then Princeton earns a points and wins yet another complex tie-breaker with UCLA.


However, in the end, UCLA does win the tie-breaker, meaning that Oregon State earns the final qualifying spot. So instead of Florida State and Georgia qualifying, you have Air Force and Oregon State qualifying.


What are your thoughts on Missouri Southern's team (men) heading into championships season? - Anonymous

*Our Division 2 specialist, John Cusick, wrote this portion of the article*


Missouri Southern is an interesting team as we head into championship season. Gidieon Kimutai has clearly been the lead man for them throughout the year. He showed his true strength this past weekend, winning the MIAA individual title while helping the Lions to a dominant team performance.


The Lions are relatively experienced with four juniors acting as their other scorers in Cody Berry, Nickson Kiptoo, Josh Webb, and Mike Shanahan. Webb has really come into his own this year, running two personal bests. He has given the Lions some depth moving forward.


Berry, Kiptoo, and Shanahan are looking to regain their form from a few years ago and if they can find that, they should be set for the Central Regional meet in a few weeks.


Missouri Southern is ranked #3 in that region, and when they faced off against Minnesota State at Fort Hays, we saw them handily take the victory over them by more than 100 points. We also saw them claim a victory over Sioux Falls earlier in the year at the Southern Stampede. The Lions are very talented and have a legitimate shot at winning the Central Region if they turn in the same performance that they put together then.


As for the national meet, I think we could see them finish inside the top 10. Kimutai should finish inside the top 20 and give them a legitimate low-stick which pays huge dividends in terms of team scoring. Add in another year of experience for Kiptoo, Shanahan, and Berry and they’ll see success.


How do I earn an athletic scholarship? - B.

*TSR contributor Zach Kughn wrote this portion of the article. He is the head cross country / assistant track coach at Winona State*


Earning an athletic scholarship in track / cross country is more complex than you originally may think. Unlike many of the team sports, scholarships are not all-or-nothing. It is extremely rare for a track / cross country athlete to be on a full ride scholarship.


How much an athlete can be offered depends on many factors. First of all, the division the school is in must be taken into consideration. D3 schools do not offer athletic scholarship. D1 and D2, as well as NAIA schools do offer athletic scholarship. Beyond that, the conference can place even stricter rules on what an institution may offer, and so can the school itself.


Another factor that needs to be understood is Title IX, a rule which mandates that schools must offer an equal number of opportunities and scholarships for athletics to each gender. Most importantly, this means that women’s scholarships must balance out the men’s scholarships, including football. At the Division 1(FBS) level, schools can offer 85 full ride scholarships to football. This means that through all of the women’s sports, they must provide 85 more scholarships compared to the equivalent men’s sports.


In many cases, this results in schools only sponsoring a women’s team in a given sport. In other cases, they may sponsor a men’s and women’s team, but the scholarship offered to each gender is different. The NCAA scholarship limit for track / cross-country is 18 scholarships for women, and 12.6 for men. This must cover all event groups for all three sports; cross country, indoor track & field, and outdoor track & field.


It is important to note that those scholarships are simply the limit, it does not mean that every school even has that to offer. Having the NCAA limit for scholarships is what’s referred to as being “fully funded.” Considering an average track team probably has at least 40 athletes on the roster, this means that even fully funded programs give athletes an average scholarship of less than 40%. Many programs, especially at smaller schools, are not fully funded. This makes earning an athletic scholarship even more difficult. For perspective, many schools may be offering $500 or $1,000 scholarships per year, and many athletes are entering the team for free. 


Now that the limitations are understood, how do you actually go about earning a scholarship? The best (and most obvious) way is to run fast. The first thing that’s going to get your foot in the door with a college coach is your times. Quite simply, the faster you run, or the higher you place at big meets, the more likely you are to receive an athletic scholarship offer. That being said, there is much more than just times / finishes that is taken into consideration. Every coach and program has their own way of doing things, as well as things that they specifically look for, but there are certainly some commonalities. Here are a few tips to follow to help your chances of getting a scholarship.


1. Do well in school and on the ACT / SAT

This is going to be one of the first things noticed at almost any school. Not only can they help you get academic scholarships, but they are also appealing to coaches. Typically, good students make good athletes, and vise versa. 


2. Communicate with college coaches.

You have to sell yourself. If you are interested in a school, reach out to the coach. Either fill out the recruiting questionnaire on the team’s website, or email the coach directly. What can help separate you from other athletes with similar stats? Knowing who you are is one such thing. 


3. Be polite, respectful, and well rounded

Even if you are communicating, make sure your emails, texts, and calls are professional. Typos and grammatical errors are certainly not a good way to introduce yourself to someone who is ultimately going to help you get a college education. Also, asking what a school/team can do for you is not the way to go about things. Again, you are selling yourself, not the other way around. 


How does blocking work (in reference to Kolas calculations)? - Anonymous

"Blocking" is a broad, vague term that we use when talking about the Kolas qualifying system. The concept may seem easy at first, but there multiple facets that could make this tricky to understand.


When we say that a team is "blocked" or is "blocking" another team, we mean that a certain team is not eligible to qualify for Nationals. When the selection committee is making their at-large selections, they look at the first two teams in each region that aren't already qualified. These are considered "eligible" teams. If you are not among the eligible teams, then you are blocked from qualifying (at that point in time) until enough teams ahead of you are chosen to go to the national meet.


For instance, suppose we are in the South Region. Team X finished 3rd, Team Y finished 4th, and Team Z finished 5th. Only Team X and Team Y are eligible to qualify for Nationals at the moment, even if Team Z has more points than both of them. Once Team X qualifies, Team Z can now be selected (since Team X was "blocking" them).


Now let's suppose Team Y and Team Z are the next two eligible teams in the South region, but there is only one at-large bid left. Team Z cannot qualify since they would have to push Team Y into the national meet. In this case, Team Y is blocking Team Z.


Let's take this one step further. Suppose we're in the South Region. Team W places 3rd, Team X places 4th, Team Y places 5th, and Team Z places 6th. Let's assume that Team X pushes Team W into Nationals at some point in the selection process. Fast forward to the 11th at-large bid and Team Z is the next team that would be selected. Theoretically, this is perfect. Team Z could push Team Y into Nationals and both teams could take home the final two qualifying spots. However, since there was already a push scenario in that region, Team Z can not push in Team Y.


There could be a situation where Team Y qualifies on their own and Team Z follows in the final qualifying spot. However, in most situations, Team Y has 0 points, can not be selected, and permanently "blocks" Team Z from qualifying.


If that sounds confusing, it's because it is.


Given the Alabama and MTSU redshirts, who are the individual qualifiers in the South Region (men)? - Jackson

We have to preface this answer by saying that it completely depends on which team earns the second automatic qualifying spot to Nationals. Let's stick with our current projections and assume it's Tennessee. Ole Miss is the heavy favorite to win the regional title.


If that's the case, then I think Alabama's Alfred Chelanga is a no-brainer. In fact, he'll probably win the race this weekend. I also really like Florida State's Caleb Pottorff. He's a young talent who is developing into a key scorer for the Seminoles. I think he'll mix it up with the top group and earn a top 10 finish.


The McLeod brothers out of Belmont are two excellent candidates as well. True freshman Jacob McLeod just finished runner-up at the OVC Championships, losing only to TSR#5 James Sugira. As if that wasn't enough he was 28th at Pre-Nats. I do worry that someone as young as McLeod could struggle at the 10k distance, but he has shown us that he is talented enough to earn a top spot.


Older brother Kaleb McLeod was 5th at the OVC Championships and was the next best South region performer in that race. He was also 12th at the Commodore Classic and 11th at the Louisville Classic, but struggled at Pre-Nats. He does well in smaller fields, so it's very possible that the South regional meet will benefit him.


One name that is very under the radar is David Too of Florida A&M. The junior had three wins in a row this year (at smaller meets) and none of them were close. He was 16th in the South region last year and should be ready for an improved performance in 2018.


Between those five names, I strongly believe that four of them will be the individual qualifiers. If I had to choose, it would be Chelanga, Too, Pottorff, and Jacob McLeod (in that order).


How well do the Dartmouth men and women need perform at regionals (Northeast) to qualify?* - Maria

*Other than finishing in the top two of their region*


Men

The outlook for the men is...bleak. Dartmouth is projected to finish 5th in the Northeast region (according to our projections) and they would need at least a 3rd place finish to even be considered for a national qualifying spot.


If Dartmouth finishes 3rd and Syracuse somehow finishes 4th (they won't), then Dartmouth will be pushed into the national meet (again, this won't happen, I'll put money on it).


Even in our current Kolas projections, the Dartmouth men have 0 points. They would need to finish 3rd and have Iona finish 4th in order to be pushed in to the national meet.


Assuming Dartmouth and Iona finish 3rd and 4th (respectively), then Big Green would need a miracle scenario where Tennessee finishes in the top two of their region, both Georgetown and Villanova finish in the top two of their region, and Michigan State earns a very early bid to Nationals. With Texas also projected to make it, that should be enough for Iona to qualify and push Dartmouth into the national meet. This hasn't been officially calculated (due to the massive changes we would need to make and the time it would take), but it would be the best and most ideal scenario.


Women

The Dartmouth women have the luxury of being competitive in a year where it will likely not take a ton of Kolas points to qualify for Nationals (unlike the men where it could take up to five points to get the last qualifying spot).


Finishing 3rd is pretty much a requirement if the women want to qualify. If they don't, I'm not sure there is any scenario where they get in. Additionally, let's assume that Syracuse and Columbia will finish in the top two barring any dramatic events.


Despite not needing a ton of Kolas points, the Dartmouth women are still in a very difficult spot. In fact, they might be in a more difficult situation than their male teammates because they will likely not have a team who can push them in.


In our current projections, the women only have one point during the selection process. If we were to replace our projections with the regional rankings, then Dartmouth enters into a tie-breaker between Florida State, Georgia, and UCLA for the 12th spot. Dartmouth beats Florida State and Georgia, but loses to UCLA which means Oregon State gets the 13th and final qualifying spot.


If Oregon State were to finish ahead of UCLA in this scenario and UCLA finishes 8th or worse, then Dartmouth is the Last Team In to NCAA's. If UCLA finishes 7th, then Dartmouth is the First Team Out.


Basically, the Dartmouth women need to hope that UCLA crashes and burns this weekend (if the regional projections hold).