The Best High School Cross Country Runners Of All Time
With all do respect Mr. Meylan and/or Mr. Kellogg; there are a few things that make no sense to me:
- Ranking Lukas Verzbicas as low as 7th
- Not ranking Reuben Reina at all
- Ranking Jorge Torres as high as 10th
- Barely mentioning Abdirizak Mohamud
- Ranking Eric Hulst over Lindgren, Virgin and Pre
Iíve taken half dozen stats courses and I spent a portion of my career working in marketing research; this certainly does not qualify me to match wits with a PhD scientist, but I do know my way around the numbers a little bit. My background also qualifies me to appreciate the running analyses that you do, but I think you are all wrong on this one. I donít have the time right now to type out a full account of why I think you are wrong other than to say you are not consistent in how add points and take away points.
For example Jorge Torres made the FL finals 4 years in a row and won it once. This is a great accomplishment; however, most of your top athletes didnít even attempt to qualify for FL until their junior year. Relatively speaking, FLNC, 95, 96, 97, 98 were weak years if you primarily go by what these athletes did later in their careers. Some of them had and are still having very good careers; however, there were very few that won USATF sr national championships, no World or Olympic medalists or anyone who made the podium in a world marathon major. From 95-98, there were no athletes in the FLNC like Goucher, Meb, Hall, Webb, Teg, Solinski, Ritz, Rupp and Fernandez, etc. This is not to pick on Jorge, because he has had a very good career and is still going strong, but I am using him a representative example of how some of your reasoning does not stand up.
I do agree that you have to include what H.S. athletes did in every aspect of their career to make certain assumptions and to fill in the gaps where you are missing comparative data, but you need to be consistent with it and give credence to how things change over time. For example, the top African athletes Fernandez ran against in World Jr XC were on the European track circuit competing as professionals that same year. In the last couple of years, World Jr XC has become the single most competitive race on the planet. As of right now, World Jr XC for African athletes is their audition out of poverty; this was not as much the case many years ago.
In my mind itís a toss-up between Ritz and Lindgren, but if by chance Lukas decides to do Jr XC and wins the national meet and places top-10 in the world meet and makes the top 3 list in any track event, he is number one. He is in the top 4-5 right now even if he never runs another step.
|Long Beach Distance Carnival|
How about the great Jeff Nelson? 8:34 two mile, 14:32 at Mt. Sac, 4th at world junior cross country championships back in his day. That has to be worth a top ten all-time ranking.
I would stack up Hulst to anyone on this list. Name another athlete who
1) won World Juniors
2) was 7th in the US senior mens race
That is a pretty high peak.
Now a guy like Lindgren could have done it but if you haven't done it, we are talking theory not reality.
If someone like Kimball, Hulst, Reyonlds or Nelson had made an olympic team or two, you would probably rate them higher.
The reality is there is no way to tell most of these guys apart. Are 2 CA state titles better than 3 IL? Depends on the year. Is winning footlocker by 20s more impressive than winning by 2s. Sort of depends on who is in 2nd. Besides wining by 20s instead of 2 might just mean the winner had no faith in his kick.
1. This is XC not track ranking
2. having no faith in his kick? So what,what does that have to do with anything. Maybe it means the "kicker" didn't have it in them to go with the fast pace. see what i did just now?...
In defense of Mr. Meylan, the Speed Ratings he posted for footlocker were not meant to be used as face-value rankings, which that article stupidly did. Their real value only appears in comparing average speed ratings over the course of many races.
They were used slightly out of context. The list should have been top performances at Footlocker Nationals.
|past his prime|
Any list of the best American high school cross country runners of all time that doesn't include Adam Goucher is incomplete. Not the best, but on the list.
Lindgren and Pre did relatively little in HS cross country...the author was obviously heavily influenced by factors other than their HS cross country careers.
Hulst also won the trials for the world cross country which was probably more competitive than any Kinney/Footlocker race.
In 1972, as a high school senior, Virgin finished ~10th in the AAU cross country meet, won by Frank Shorter.
Going strictly by cross country races while still in high school, Hulst is my selection for number one.
Where would you move Verzbicas?
I have a tough time moving him ahead of anyone on Kellogg's list.
Also (in response to other posters), Kellogg's list is not a cross-country only list and is not based on speed ratings.
Verzbicas is ranked too high.
He isn't even the fastest high school 2 miler from either of his high schools and Dave Merrick's indoor 3 mile of 13;37 is far superior to Verzbicas's 14;18 5000.
Merrick ran 8;51 on a 12 lap to the mile flat track and 4;05 and 8;43 on a 263y tight turned flat oval.
And your opinion of how good of HS runner they were is colored by their later success. If the guy is a 2x olympian with 2 WC XC gold medals that is going to bias your opinion of their HS results.
2) I have no clue what think you just did. Heres a hint. Championship races are not time trials, they are races. You run to win the race not to try and get the largest possible margin of victory.
Mr Kellogg states that regarding runners in the Pre Kinney and Foot Locker era such as Pre and Lindgren " we did take their track times into account to figure out how good they were in terms that can be compared with different eras". With that being said, I have to say that another runner he briefly mentions deserves some additional consideration. Rudy Chapa ran 28:32 on the track in 1976, qualifying him for the Olympic Trials. Note that 34 years later this is still the national HIGH SCHOOL record ( Rupp broke his JUNIOR 19 AND UNDER record as a freshman st Oregon). Other than Lindgren making the Olympic team, no one else on the list qualified for the Olympic Trials while in high school.
In the state track series that year his coach raced him in the mile in an effort to break 4 minutes. (At that time Indiana rules did not allow distance doubles, a rule that was changed the following year. Some stated that the rule change was delayed a year or two as the powers that be who were rivals feared Chapa and his two teammates from the prior year who all broke 9 minutes for 2 miles- Chapa 851, Tim Keough 852, Carey Pinkowski 857 could have combined for possible 1-2-3's in the mile and 2 mile.
Its a shame his coach didnt have him compete in the 2 mile as the 2832 translates to an 827 2 mile( as well as a 1344 5000). I realize this post is rather lengthy, but as Mr Kellogg states above about the pre national championship runners track times, you have to agree its hard to argue with including Chapa high on the list.
|Questionable Screen Name|
Their list is based on accomplishments and honors, not on who would beat whom if they all ran in the same age. If they all raced and had their best day, I think Eric Hulst might only be in the top 10 barely, if that, but I can see how Hulst is ranked at #2. While you can't penalize Lindgren for not having a national or world meet, you damn well shouldn't penalize Hulst for running in a world championship and winning it. While Virgin and Pre didn't face the best hs runners in the country or the world all in one race, Hulst did. And he won, both in the trials race and at worlds. That honor is greater than anything his predecessors did in hs cross country. Do I think Lindgren, Virgin and Pre would have beaten Hulst head to head? Yes, I do. Were Hulst's honors greater? Yes, they were.
If the best hs stars got together for one all time championship race - okay, maybe a 5k race and a few weeks later an 8k race like you'd get at world jrs - and they all had their best days at the same time, this would be my order of picks:
Lukas Verzbicas (8k distance a question mark for this guy)
And see how I'm the guy who's now leaving off guys that "can't possibly be left off, no way"? There are only 10 spots and 20-25 deserving runners here. Somebody's got to lose out. Withrow and Fout won against some of those guys, but I still think if they all ran their best race on the same day, Fernandez, Rupp and Derrick would beat Withrow and Fout. They just didn't do it in the real championship and if you go by honors, you can't put Fernandez, Rupp and Derrick ahead of Withrow and Fout, whom I believe you can't put ahead of Eric Hulst or any of those other top 70s guys. But I still think the best version of Fernandez would mop up with the best of Hulst in a real race.
Then there are a bunch of other guys that absolutely just have to be in the top 10 in some people's books. Reina still has the record at Balboa. Why wouldn't he beat Fernandez, who couldn't even do better than 3rd? Where do you put Kennedy, Goucher and Solinsky? Rich Kimball, Dave Merrick, Thom Hunt, Tom Graves, Eric Reynolds? All those guys have to be ranked, right? Torres isn't to be seen either. Why? Because I think his competition was weaker and he couldn't have made the last fl 4 finals like he did in the 90s. I don't think he could have done it in the 70s if they had the meet then, either. Now, Torres might have won one of those suckers in the Ken Cormier or Chad Hall years, but I don't consider those guys all time superstars and I'm pretty sure few people do.
Now that was the fantasy head to head race. If I was going to change the letsrun list using their own criteria of honors won being most important, depth of competition being pretty important and taking into account where these guys would probably place relative to each other, but not being as important as honors won, I'd go with this:
No Reina, no Reynolds, no Kennedy, no Davis, etc. High school in the 80s wasn't as tough as it was in the 70s. Even though he won twice, Mohamud doesn't even make the top 20. The 90s sucked. Torres would probably be close using the honors won yardstick. 4 time hs all american is a lot of honors won. But, again, it was the 90s. He doesn't make the top 10 in my book. Goucher does make it out of the 90s because of the "how good were they in absolute terms?" criteria - he beat 8:51 (in the spring) 3,200 runner Keflezighi by 12 seconds with a 14:41+ at Balboa. That's better by itself than anything Torres or anybody else in the 90s did, plus I believe Goucher was undefeated that year.
See how it's all subjective when you throw in those early guys that didn't face the whole country in one championship? Again, I think Lindgren would have smashed Hulst, but Hulst faced everybody and beat everybody, so I'll agree Hulst did more as a hs cross runner. Some of those guys didn't do anything close to that in hs but only because they didn't have the opportunities. So rankings have to be a little bit based on accomplishments and a little bit based on guessing what they might have done, then balancing out the importance of those criteria.
All in all, the letsrun list isn't bad by their own criteria. I'd have left Reynolds and Solinksy off completely. Withrow's season - and who he beat in the final - was more impressive to me than Solinsky's big winning margin over a less touted field. I'd put Verzbicas just lower than 7th pending spring track results to see how he and his competition stack up against the true legends on the stopwatch. And I'd definitely put Jeff Nelson way up there. He was 4th at world jrs and some of his course records were ones Reynolds couldn't get.
But that's just me. So what have the rest of you got for top 10?
Once again how many of these guys ran 28:32 on the track in high school and qualified for the Olympic trials (Rudy Chapa). Its a travesty you dont mention his name....fyi hulst was over 20 seconds behind him that year for 10k.
|nova cats baby|
Because running to win means running slow? Are you really as dumb in person as you are on here? Running to win means running fast sometimes, if you run fast you have a good shot of winning. Guess what, it often works. In the case of high school XC, see Ritz in 2000 FL in orlando. in the case of the pros, see Bekele 5k final in Beijing. Who the f*** said you must run slow to win a race, god you're stupid.
|Questionable Screen Name|
As good as Chapa was in track, and probably just as good in cross country, his state wins came on a 2.5 mile course, so, unlike Virgin, there's no basis for comparison with today's guys at cross. Also, he was a senior the same year as Hulst and Hunt, whose cross country accomplishments that year are even greater. All of us can only speculate about all time rankings, but I think it just involves too much guessing to put Chapa ahead of Hunt, who was 2nd in the world jrs and who definitely has to be ranked behind Hulst in cross. Hulst, Hunt, Don Moses, Salazar and the rest all raced each other for cross country supremacy and Chapa wasn't in the mix.
As an all time middle to long distance superstar in track, no doubt Chapa is way up the list. He and Hulst ran their sub 29s in different races in 1976, but as hs juniors in 1975, Chapa did beat Hulst by a nose (same hand time - 29:11) in the AAU junior 10,000 and again by a 3.7 second margin against the Russian juniors in around 100 degree heat. Chapa also ran 29:09 prior to his 28:32.7 record at Drake Relays the following year, with Hulst running 28:55 to get the national record in a different race on the same weekend as Chapa's 29:09. I believe Hulst had a third best time of 29:30 somewhere during high school. High school guys raced the really long distances and raced a lot back then. Hour runs on the track, cross country against the top adults, marathons, you name it - if there was a distance race billed as some sort of championship event, a top high school guy or two, like Hulst, Hunt, Chapa or Ralph Serna, would be in it.
And what about Bill McChesney? A great cross country champion in his own right and a 29:06 10k runner on the track in 1976. That was the national record until Hulst ran his 28:55 a week later and Chapa ran the 28:32 later that year. McChesney was a junior that year, by the way.
Yeah, if you're going to use track times to compare different eras - and you kind of have to - I suppose you have to consider Chapa and McChesney. They and Hulst were the best long distance track guys around, but Lindgren was right there with them in the 10k and was significantly better at the 2 mile and far and away better at the 5k. The fact that Pre, Virgin and Kimball didn't run the 10k leaves us only the 2 mile and/or 5k for comparison with Chapa and McChesney. And since we're resorting to track times for comparison, Pre and Virgin were quite a bit better than Chapa and McChesney at the distances they did run - 2 mile and especially 5k. Kimball was slightly better at the 2 mile, but that world jr championship in cross seals his accomplishments as being superior to those of Chapa and McChesney in that discipline, at least in my view.
This brings us back to the point of how tough it is to rank only 10 guys. There are a ton of really, really great runners to choose from. Even if we ranked 25, there would be a few guys left off that 25 deep list who would be deserving of top 15 in somebody's book.