Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Percent Back

A statistic I like to use when comparing cross country runners and skiers is called "percent back". Percent back measures how far off the podium you were in any given race. It also tells you how much you would have to improve to be with the leaders.

The calculation is simple. Take the top three finishers in any given race, and average their times. Then divide the average time by the racers time. Subtract that number from 1, and there you go.

For example, in the latest CHS XC race, the top three boys ran an average time of 945 seconds (15:45). Keagan ran a time of 956 seconds (15:56).

Dividing 945 by 956 gives you 0.9884 and subtracting that number from 1 equals 0.0116. That is a percentage of 1.16% back.

So, if Keagan runs 1.16% faster, which is 11 seconds quicker, he comes in the top three. He would have run a 15:44, which would have gotten him second place.

I like this formula, because it neutralizes the weather, the hills, the footing, the course, every variable on a XC course. You can look at this from race to race to race, and see how well you are doing in comparison to your competitors. You see how close you are to actually winning the race, which is the goal. Times are important, but if you run a "slower" time on a harder course, and get a lower percent back to the leaders, that is a better accomplishment that running a "faster" time on an easy course, and getting blown away by the competition.

Below are the percent backs for the CHS varsity racers this weekend. Traditionally, anything under 5% is an excellent percent back.

Vargo - 1.16%
Purdue - 5.50%
Kadolph -9.40%
Ingram - 10.0%
Bills - 10.3%
Ferguson - 12.1%
Rich - 12.2%

Foster - 7.2%
Heard - 8.2%
Ferguson - 12.4%
Mansfield - 12.5%
Nyiro - 14.0%
Barringer - 16.3%

Again, great job everyone!


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