Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Starting to think about Boris' question


Boris posed a question:

The Texas orienteering program with its junior camps has been thriving for a number of years now. It looks like one of the best things to have happened to US junior development in ages. Why, then, have no US Team-caliber seniors have come out of it?

I spent a little time this morning sipping a cup of coffee and thinking about Boris' question. For starters, I decided to try to get a handle on the results of the efforts to improve orienteering in Texas. I looked at U.S. JWOC teams beginning in 1999. I wanted to see who had made US JWOC teams and how many of them came from the Texas Junior O' Camp. (2001 was the first year I went to a TJOC and it was probably another year or so before the camp really hit its stride).

I started with two questions: How many different men/women have made US JWOC teams? How many different men/women from Texas have made US JWOC teams?

It turns out that 3 of the 18 JWOC men and 2 of the 16 JWOC women came from the Texas programs (covering 9 JWOCs over the period of 1999-2007). That seems like a pretty good record.

Ashley was the first Texan on a JWOC team. She made the team in 2002. Robbie was the first man from Texas on a JWOC team. Robbie made the team in 2003.

The other Texans on JWOC teams have been Francesca Worsham, Frank Worsham, and Michael Norris. (And if Dylan were a bit less lazy, he'd have been on the teams in 2006 and 2007 rather than an alternate).

But Boris' question is really about having impact at the senior team level. So far, none of the Texas juniors have made the move to the senior WOC teams. That needs to be put in context. So, I looked at how many people have moved from JWOC teams to WOC teams.

Only one man - John Fredrickson - has both made a JWOC team in 1999-2007 and a WOC team (that is out of 18 different individuals on US JWOC men's teams). On the women's side, things are a bit different. Six (of 16) women have made both JWOC teams and WOC teams. Those six are: Erin Olafsen, Samantha Saeger, Hillary Saeger, Sandra Zurcher, Suzanne Armstrong, and Viktoria Brautigam.

So, no Texans have made the move from a JWOC team to a senior WOC team. But, keep in mind that most JWOC team members don't make the move either.

In part, that's because the moving from junior to senior is a pretty big leap. While Sandra Zurcher ran a WOC as a junior, she's an exception (and she ran her first WOC race in 1999 and didn't run another until 2003). Here is how many years between a first JWOC team and a first WOC team:

Erin 4 years
Samantha 6 years
Sandra ran a WOC as a junior
Suzanne 6 years
Hillary 4 years
Viktoria 4 years
John 5 years

I think this gap between a first JWOC and a first WOC reflects both the big jump from junior to senior, and that the juniors who are most likely to make an impact at the senior WOC level run their first JWOC when they are relatively young and have a chance to run several JWOCs (John, as an example, ran his first JWOC in 2003 when he was 17).

My main conclusions after looking at some of the info:

1. If you measure success by getting runners on the JWOC team, Texas has done pretty well, with 5 different runners (and if Dylan were a bit less lazy, they'd have had 6).

2. If you measure success by getting runners on to the WOC team...you've set a high bar and the odds are against you. So far, the Texas program hasn't put anyone on a WOC team.

Ashley probably has the capacity to make a WOC team, but I'm not sure she has the drive or is in the right orienteering environment to give herself a good shot at the team (last I heard she was studying at Rice).

And thinking about the "orienteering environment" is something that might explain some of the reason that juniors (both throughout the US and in Texas) have (or haven't had) impact at the senior team level. That is a topic for another day.

An aside...as I was looking at the JWOC teams, I was struck by how much two families (the Saegers and the Walkers) have made an impact on the JWOC teams. Out of the 34 different people who made JWOC teams, those two families have 4 of the individuals (nearly as many as the entire state of Texas) and they have a bunch of teams among them (Samantha 4, Hillary 3, Greg 2, Dan 4).

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 10:47 AM


In 1999, I made the WOC team because several people declined to go, including both Erin O. and Samantha S. That means my jump from JWOC to WOC is more realistically seen as 4 years, from 1999 (first JWOC) to 2003 (WOC in Switzerland).
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