Chanman's Blog


The 6th Runner

Posted in Coaching,Pamakid Runners by Andy Chan on September 4, 2013
Tags: , , , ,

In cross country, a team’s score is based on the finishing places of its first five runners. Runners number six and seven are called displacers – they have the opportunity to displace other teams’ runners by placing ahead of other teams’ scorers (i.e. their top five runners). The sixth runner also has important value in the event of a tie between teams, as in most competitions, the tie is broken by which team has the higher placing sixth runner.

If all of this seems pretty hypothetical and “not likely” to happen, guess again. More times than you might imagine, the sixth runner can make a big difference in the final results.

Last year at the Pacific Association Cross Country Race at the Presidio, the Pamakids and West Valley Joggers and Striders (WVJ&S) were in a tight battle in the masters race.

The results went like this:

 

Denis was the hero at the 2012 Presidio Challenge.

Denis was the hero at the 2012 Presidio Challenge.

1. Jose Pina, WVJ&S

2. Anthony McGrath, Pamakids

3. Jorn Jensen, WVJ&S

4. Other team

5. Andrew Chan, Pamakids

6. Adam Lucas, Pamakids

7. Adam Prince, WVJ&S

8. Robert Palos, WVJ&S

9 & 10. Other team

11. Jerry Flanagan, Pamakids

12. Other team

13. Richard Martinez, Pamakids

14. Other team

15. Denis Glenn, Pamakids

16-17. Other team

18. Andy Williams, WVJ&S

19-21. Other team

22. Tomas Palermo, Pamakids

23. Other team

24. Tom Fahey, WVJ&S

25. Jimmy Forbis, WVJ&S

Pamakids    2  5  6  11  13  (15)  (22)  = 37

WVJ&S        1  3  7   8   18  (24)  (25) = 37

The Pamakids took 1st place in this race because Denis, as the Pamakid sixth runner, displaced the WVJ&S fifth runner, Williams, a crucial one point. Without Denis, Williams places one spot higher (17th) and WVJ&S would beat Pamakids 36-37. Instead, Denis displaces Williams one place, thus creating a 37-37 tie that is broken by the higher placing sixth runner. Denis won the tie-breaker placing 15th as compared to the WVJ&S sixth runner, who placed 24th.

If you think that was an isolated incident, you would be mistaken. The sixth runner was the hero again for the Pamakids last weekend at the Empire Open race in Santa Rosa. This time it was a tight battle for third place (and third place in the Open Men’s division does get prize money) between Pamakids and the Wolfpack.

The results went like this:

Merick, seen here at the 2013 Couples Relay, was the hero at the 2013 Empire Open.

Merick, seen here at the 2013 Couples Relay, was the hero at the 2013 Empire Open.

1-10. Other team

11. Simon Novich, Pamakids

12. Alex Esparza, Wolfpack

13-14. Other team

15. Casey Strange, Wolfpack

16. Other team

17. Joe Tomkins, Wolfpack

18. Matt Herzog, Pamakids

19-21. Other team

22. Zachary Hedling, Pamakids

23. Ryan Pletzke, Pamakids

24. Other team

25. Benjamin Willis, Pamakids

26. Eric Huynh, Wolfpack

27. Other team

28. Merick Dang, Pamakids

29. Bjorn Samson, Wolfpack

Pamakids    11  18  22  23  25  (28) = 99

Wolfpack    12  15  17  26  29          = 99

Merick, like Denis the year before, really was the hero for the Pamakids. By placing 28th, he displaced Samson to 29th place. Without Merick, Samson is 28th and the Wolfpack beat the Pamakids, 98-99. But thanks to Merick beating Samson, the Wolfpack score was pushed up to 99, creating a tie, and Merick broke the tie and gave Pamakids third place by being the faster sixth runner (Wolfpack didn’t have a sixth runner).

I don’t have the exact statistics, but I am quite certain I have been on the winning side of more sixth runner tie breaker situations than the losing side. At one memorable Sacred Heart Cathedral league finals meet in 2005, both our JV Girls and Sophomore Boys beat Mitty on the sixth runner tie-breaker (and the Freshmen Boys beat Mitty by one point).

I like to think that one reason the teams that I am associated with come out ahead in these close scenarios, is that I preach the importance of always running like every place will matter, whether you are in the front, the middle, or the back of the pack. Racing with that mentality is often worth one or two points for the team and more often than you might think, those points make a difference in the final team standings.

Keep these stories in mind when you need motivation to keep pushing in the last half mile of a race. You never know when you might score a valuable point or two for your team and be the hero!

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