I don't disagree with any of that. I also think there is some truth to the statement that the coaching staff could have done more to put themselves in a position to have a better argument.
I 100% agree that kids should learn to race, they should learn the process of setting goals, either failing or succeeding in hitting those goals, resetting goals, how to go about that... and I think the Rocky Mountain coaches are doing a good job of that. I also think that a coach's job is to put your team in the best position possible to achieve those goals. They were very aware of the fact that their schedule from last year held them back. They repeated that series of actions this year.
Big races are also totally different than races with 100 guys, but only 30 of them will run sub 17:30. It's not that different for Landon Heemeyer or Cody Lucas, who will run up near the front and not have to work through traffic. But for guys like Sam Jensen and Pierce Richardson, it's critical to get the feeling of going out faster than you want to in order to get into an okay position, and then have to work through traffic still. Instead of being 8th at Gary Ward with a 165.61, Sam Jensen would be in 40th at Nike Portland with that same speed rating, in a field of 250 guys where 184 broke 17:30. With the same speed ratings at Gary Ward, they would have had a 28 point win at Nike Portland once you adjust for placement.
Once again, the Rocky coaches seem to do a great job of the soft skills side of coaching, and are clearly deft at the hard skills. I understand their reasoning for not traveling, but I also feel like there are legitimate arguments to be made that they are overstating how difficult it is to travel an hour more to a meet than what they already are. The goals of the team should be discussed prior to the season starting, and the staff should do everything they can to put them in a position to succeed. I was on a high school team that traveled 90+ kids to an out of state meet 7 hours away. We went on three charter busses, with a coach, a parent chaperone, and a school staff member on each bus (our AD, two VP's traveled with us). It appeared to me at NXR that Rocky had 5 staff members. It's well within their capabilities to do a trip like Nike Portland if the chose to do it, and travel the entire team.
With the state meet being at Eagle Island next year, they have a hole in their schedule where they have typically traveled to race the preview meet. They should be pretty good again next year. I hope that they take advantage of that once every 3 year situation and fill it with a quality meet instead of some local meet where they beat up on the 16th best team in the state.