Rankings are hard
Contributor: The Nerd
When my sons and I were brainstorming on the new Nerd website this summer, they kept telling me that individual rankings were crucial. I acquiesced, but in the back of my mind I was thinking that putting out weekly rankings can't be as easy as it sounds. It took me most of Labor Day to figure out why.
First, I'll admit that pushing out the first two rounds of rankings was pretty easy. For the pre-season polls, Nerd the Third compiled a list of the fastest returners and then we made a few changes based on schools that shifted classifications. For Week 1 when relatively few teams raced, we'll admit that we basically copied the Class C and D preseason results and left it at that. However, I endeavored to be better this week, and now I realize how hard that is. Here's how we make the rankings sausage:
Class A rankings are pretty easy. The majority of Class A teams were at four major meets this week - Charlie Thorell, Burke, Augustana and the Titan Classic - and one of us was at the first three. Nerd Junior and Nerd the Third are able to craft most of Class A based on head-to-head results and a pretty strong knowledge of course difficulty and weather conditions.
Class B is a bit harder although it helped that Junior was at Thorell and we had good results from Plattsmouth, DC West and Schuyler. However, it was complicated by a meet cancellation that left title-contender Lexington still waiting to run its first meet. In addition, a few of the leading runners were in smaller meets that didn't give us much of a chance to compare head-to-head results. Finally, we don't know any of the Class B courses, so we're having to judge results based solely on time. Nerd Junior and The Nerd are collaborating on Class B.
Class C and D are where rankings get into high-level calculus and The Nerd is solely responsible for these. First, these Classes are the race results that are more likely to ne missing from athletic.net, so it takes a little hustling to track those down (thanks to the coaches who responded to our DMs). We ended up finding 15 races from last week to post on our Results page, but I'm guessing there are a dozen more that don't know about. Second, there were meet cancellations at Niobrara-Verdigre, Wisner-Pilger, Superior and Lexington, among others, so there a number of kids in the pre-season poll who have yet to race. Third, a surprising number of kids haven't raced even if their team has. This could be due to injury, college visits, transfers, dropping out of the sport, etc., but we don't know this information unless we're told. Finally, freshmen. Freshmen - particularly freshmen girls - are coming out of nowhere, like Story Rasby from Sutherland. We're doing our best to identify these top performers, but we'd like a shout out from fans and coaches about high performers like Story.
After five hours of work on just Class C and D (see my chicken scratch notes above), the end result is still just our best guess of who is running well and who isn't. By no means are we trying to diminish any runners, but rankings are a great way to generate interest in this awesome sport, and this is simply our effort to do so.
If you enjoy the rankings, here's what you can do to help:
If you're a coach and receive race results by e-mail, please forward them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I know I can always find Black Squirrel race results, but all the others can be dicey. I don't care about duplicate results: I'd rather have five copies of the same race result in Western Nebraska than none.
If you find an error on our rankings - a misspelling, a school or athlete listed in wrong class, etc - shoot us a DM on Twitter or Facebook, or send us an e-mail.
If you're aware of an injury, transfer, drop-out, etc that would impact the ratings, let us know.
If you know of an outstanding performance, particularly from someone who isn't on the ranking, tell us about it so we can evaluate whether the athlete should be included.
Finally, please understand that Nebraska cross country is a huge sport with hundreds of schools, and the Nerd family is doing most of the work from desks in Omaha and Lincoln. The sport is too awesome and too big to know well, so we need your help to share reliable information.
Go be awesome!