from flotrack, makes the case well...
Why is the 10k Run at Regionals, Hasay and Others Succumb to the Heat
Mitch Kastoff on May 24, 2013, 4:48pm | More Posts
Welcome to Austin, TX. It’s the home of the NCAA DI West Regional, but it’s more commonly known for other quirks that keep the city weird. It’s impossible not to find somewhere with live music, people stand in line for three hours just to get barbecue, and if you brought any clothing with you that isn’t a t-shirt or shorts, you overpacked.
Even as the sun went down last night’s for the men’s and women’s 10,000m, there was a false sense that the last two races of the night would be unbearable. But the heat down here is unrelenting and unforgiving; just ask everyone who tried to run twenty-five laps.
To start things off, the women’s race was delayed twenty minutes because it was decided that in addition to chips, everyone was going to wear hip numbers just in case things got congested.
I sat with one unnamed coach while we watched forty-eight girls take countless nervous strides as they, and us, waited for them to just end the anticipation.
We weren’t prepared for the night, either. Both the coach and I had worn jeans and a t-shirt. I should have know better considering that the Flotrack polo shirts are jet black and that there are only two seasons down here - summer and Texas summer.
So as we watched Oregon’s Jordan Hasay go from smiling during the opening laps to the worst we’ve ever seen her on the track, one has to wonder of why this race was even being run.
A shot of better times for Hasay.
It wasn’t always this way. Three years ago, the NCAA changed the qualifying system for the outdoor championships and like all changes, there have been outspoken critics.
The qualifying system used to be a combination of the regional meet and at-large bids. Rather than two, regionals was divided into four meets (east, mideast, midwest, and west).
The top five finishers in each region would advance to nationals. The next spots were given to the at-large bids, which was based on a national descending order list. The next seven finishers in each region were grouped together and from there, the next fastest got a trip to the big dance.
The number of at-large bids were determined by the minimum number of student-athletes per event and the maximum amount of student-athletes permitted at the meet. For example, the 2008 NCAA Nationals Championships required twenty men in the 100m and 544 male student-athletes for the whole meet.
Except in the 10k. The 10k was selected via a combination of an automatic time (that year, it was 28:45) and the descending order list. This old system had some pros and cons.
Note: The system is more complex than this, so if you have any other information, shoot me an email.
Pro: Running Multiple 10,000m Races Sucks
Imagine you’re an elite collegiate distance runner. You have to race the 10k at some fast meet to run a good qualifier, then run at conferences to score points, then regionals, NCAA Nationals, and maybe the U.S. Championships. That’s a lot of laps.
This system circumvented the need for that extra 10k at regionals. If you had run fast, then you were guaranteed a spot and could rest up for the race that actually mattered.
Con: Those That Didn’t Get Into a Fast Race, Lost Out
In the laissez-faire world of track and field, not everyone has the same opportunities or resources. If you couldn’t get into a fast race, then your only hope is that you pop a big one at regionals and make it to the next round.
That opportunity favors athletes like Iowa State’s Dani Stack, who entered the meet seeded 35th and grabbed the twelfth and final 10k spot last night. She’s been hurt for quite some time and her only mark was from a tactical 10k at the Big 12 Championship.
Shouldn’t she be given a fair shot?
Last Night Wasn’t a Race or a War of Attrition, but a Pyrrhic Victory
There’s a common, nerve-wracking theme for the twenty-five lap race. At some point, everyone but one runner breaks. It’s only a matter of time (and pace).
Last night was tough to watch. Though the opening laps were pedestrian, no one was excited for what was to come over the last two miles.
There were guys falling off the bandwagon left and right. Some dropped out, some just sat on the outside lanes, and some, like Iowa State’s Mohamed Hrezi, tried to finish despite looking like all he wanted to do was veer off the track and jump into the steeple pit.
The worst was Portland’s David Perry. The sophomore had run 3:45.74 and 29:20.34 this year, so when the pace started to slow, the Pilots thought that it was playing right into the speedy 10k’er’s hands. Instead, Perry came down with what looked like heat exhaustion and while he was in ninth with 150m to go, he wobbled into lane three, and staggered to line to finish 14th.
Then there’s the biggest surprise of night, Hasay. The second best NCAA 10,000m runner won’t run the event in front of her home crowd in Eugene. The second half of her race in Austin was the exact opposite of what we saw at Payton Jordan, where she started to pick up the pace in an effort to hit the IAAF “A” standard.
Yesterday, we just wanted it to end. Lap by lap, Hasay was passed by another competitor and eventually finished in 35:51.20, which was good for 18th.
While everyone is stunned at the result, the implications go a bit deeper. She still has a shot to run the 5K at nationals, but what about Oregon’s attempt to win another NCAA team title? Those valuable projected points in the 10k have been wiped off the board.
Why is the 10k run at NCAA regionals? The national field for the decathlon is determined by a descending list of twenty-four athletes. Why not do the same for the 10k? It’s not just about running on tired legs, but the drain the weather puts on the athletes’ bodies doesn’t help anyone from the west region. Or, as the Greeks called it, a Pyrrhic Victory.
Of course, this story isn’t without a bit of irony. Between praying to the Track God(s) for a cool front to miraculously blow in last night and looking at the rainy pictures from the men’s 10k at the East Regional, Austin finally got some cool weather.
It just so happened to be in the form of a torrential downpour that was eighteen hours too late.
Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?
Edit: The two occasions in recent memory that it's ever rained really hard down here was the Texas State Meet and last night. Thanks a lot, weather.