Wednesday, December 10, 2008

USATF-Minn's Whethem Talks Team Circuit

USA Track and Field - Minnesota recently announced its 2009 Team Circuit schedule. The nine-event road racing series kicks off on March 22 with the Human Race 8K in St. Paul and culminates with the City of Lakes 25K in Minneapolis on September 13. Our news story on the 2009 circuit is HERE.

Recently, we talked to USATF-Minnesota Long Distance Running Competition Chairman Ed Whetham about his take on the 2009 Circuit, including some tweaks made to the scoring system.

DtB: How do you feel about the make-up of the 2009 Team Circuit?

Whetham: I have mixed feelings about the Team Circuit for 2009. I like the races that were chosen for the team circuit this year, and I like that we had great participation at the selection meeting. In my opinion a good Team Circuit is comprised of races that you can see yourself competing, and I can see myself running all of these races. My thoughts of the circuit are mixed because I had a mental plan of how a meeting would unfold and what races would get selected, and none of the meetings I have conducted have turned out the way they did in my preparation. I was surprised by some of the points brought up, but that is what is great about having everyone in the same room to decide the circuit, feedback.

DtB: I see a marathon is back in the mix but the 5000 meter track event is out. What kinds of discussions took place around which races to include or not for 2009?

Whetham: There was little discussion about the track 5k. I enjoyed the event last year, but it was voted down by a significant majority. The only discussion that occurred with the marathon was in regards to the half-marathon. If Grandma’s was selected as the marathon, then we could not have Garry Bjorklund as the half-marathon. When Grandma’s Marathon applied to be the marathon championship, there was little to discuss, and the marathon was approved easily.

DtB: It seems like there are a lot of USATF-Minnesota Championship races this year. What do the races get from USATF-Minnesota for being a championship? And, what does USATF-Minnesota get from the races?

Whetham: We decided to offer eight USATF-MN Championship distances this year, with distances ranging from 1 mile to the marathon. When your raced is named a USATF-MN Championship race, the race is automatically placed on the Team Circuit. Based on past numbers, a race that is a championship race or on the team circuit, will experience an increase in participant numbers. USATF-MN receives a dollar amount from each championship race, which is matched by USATF-MN, and then awarded to the racing teams based on their performance at that race.

DtB: Is the number of events bidding for championships growing? What are the basics of the bid process?

Whetham: The number of races or events bidding this year as compared to last year was relatively the same. We are fortunate that we have a race or event bidding at each distance. There were only three distances that had competition for the bid.

The bidding process includes USATF-MN sending out a bid application to race directors in early November, and having interested race directors complete the bid and return it to USATF-MN before the team circuit selection meeting. Each bid application has to submit a dollar amount, and registration information, along with other information important to becoming a championship event. The application process is pretty simple, receive the application, complete the application and send it back to USATF-MN. We then include your race in voting for a USATF-MN Championship at the team circuit selection meeting.

DtB: We see that some of the scoring rules got tweaked for 2009. What were the issues there?

Whetham: I am actually curious to see how the new scoring system unfolds. A majority of the complaints that I received last year, were based on how difficult it was to gain ground on teams in front of your team if you were off to a slow start, or had a poor showing at a race. The concept of the new scoring system is to create opportunity for teams that got off to slow starts, or teams that had a poor showing at one race to gain ground on the teams in front of them. The “throwing” a race out concept should allow for this to happen. It will also benefit teams that have strong showings at all races. It is similar to some college courses, in that you can be a C+ student and get to throw out one test to become a B- student, and at the same time you can be an A- student, and throw out one test to become an A student. Scoring double points at the final race seemed to create some excitement for the final race during the cross-country circuit, so I figured why not apply it to the road racing circuit. I am quite happy with the new scoring system. I hope it creates some exciting team races towards the end of the season.

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