Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

WOC qualifying and my spreadsheet model


NOTE: the source I used to WOC results (the Worldofo.com WOC history) has some errors. The good news is that the US history from the last 6 WOCs is better than the Worldofo.com history. Boris caught the error and left a comment.

I used the same spreadsheet model that I put together yesterday to look at the US chances of qualifying for WOC finals. I ran 10,000 WOCs using the US "batting average" and counted how many US runners qualified for finals.

In 10,000 WOCs, the US had no qualifiers 4,858 times. The US had 1 qualifier 3,635 times. The best result was 5 qualifiers.

The point of this little exercise is to help me think about the US Team's WOC goals. Recall that those goals include qualifying for finals and beating Canada in the relays.

As I think about those goals, I wonder if qualifying for finals is (currently) too high a goal. In the near term, the US performance is probably going to leave us missing that goal almost half of the time (in the last 6 WOCs, we've had no qualifiers 3 times). Is that too ambitious? I'm not sure. Obviously a goal shouldn't be too easy to achieve. But, if it is too hard to achieve, I'm not sure it is a good goal either. Where is that line between too ambitious and not ambitious enough?

It seems to me that a goal should both inspire the runners and communicate to those of us who sit at home and cheer the teams on. A goal should also help figure out what to do next time - point us towards improvement.

On the other hand, it could very well be that the US could perform more like Canada (only 1,245 of the 10,000 spreadsheet WOCs resulted in no Canadian WOC finalists). In that case, having qualifiers for the final is much more achievable (and in the last 6 WOCs, Canada has always had at least one runner qualify for a final).

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:42 PM


You say that in the last 6 WOC's we've had no qualifiers 3 times.
2003 - Brian May, middle
2004 - Brian May, sprint
2005 - Erin Olafsen, middle
2006 - Hillary Saeger, Samantha Saeger, sprint
2007 - Sandra Zurcher, sprint
2008 - no one
Doesn't look like 3/6 to me.

At the same time, you have a point about qualifying for WOC finals being a very tough goal for the US currently, especially on the men's side. I think people back home, including runners with WOC aspirations but without WOC experience, have no idea how high the level of competition is and how many countries have very strong runners. So maybe it is time to rethink some of these goals. Do you have any suggestions ahead of the US Team meeting in Laramie? We are all ears.
Boris, I'm using the Worldofo.com history, which turns out to be wrong. E.g. doesn't list Erin as a qualifier in 2005 or Brian in 2004. I'll have to post a "correction" later today.

I really have enjoyed this WOC analysis and want to make it clear that this comment is not a criticism of the US team but rather hopeful useful direction. Like any goal setting a person does these should have major and minor goals and goals 1, 3, 5 and 10 years into the future.

Major goals could be to:
- one top 15 qual finish
- two top 20 qual finishes
- five top 25
- top 20 women's relay
-top 25 men's relay

Minor goals
-improve relative to our peer nations

Future goals 3 years
-two top 15 quali results

5 years
-three top 15 quali results
-top 30 'A' final
-top 15/20 in W/M relays

10 years
-three top 30 results and one top 15 result
-top 10 relay

..for example

then once those long term goals are set you determine the resources and plan (and recruiting) necessary to make it happen.

beating Canada is a lame goal as it can be done (possibly) at races in NA anytime.

Think BIG like the US normally does, develop the plan, utilize the resources and the results will be there.


I like your goal suggestions. Would you mind if I brought those up at the next US Team meeting when we talk about future team goals?

By the way, while I agree that beating Canada is a lame goal, we still think about it at WOC, even if we didn't have it as a stated goal. And I know you guys think about beating the US the same way.
Is the US team run as a sort of co-op, or are there non-athletes in leadership roles?
The US Team is run by an Executive Steering Committee, which consists of both team members and non-team members, usually 3 of the former and 4 of the latter.
Who is asking?
Yes feel free to bring them up Boris. As you know the reason I hosted those two winter camps as joint US-CAN camps is that we need to bring the best out of each other - and beat each other at WOC. :)

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