Which region is stronger? - USA Athletics Scholarships

Which region is stronger?

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Unlike track and field fixture lists around the world, the NCAA schedule has clearly defined end points. Athletes compete until the point of elimination, and that can occur at three different times in May or June.

  • Conference
  • Regional / Preliminary
  • NCAA Championships

The vast majority of collegiate track and field athletes will have ended their seasons after the recent conference meets and most likely be taking a few weeks of well earned rest.

Those who survived the first cut of being ranked in the top 48 in their respective event will now battle it out this weekend at one of the two NCAA preliminary meets, being held in Austin (West) and Greensboro (East) respectively. The second cut sees the numbers slashed by a further 75%, leaving just 24 qualifiers in each event. This consists of 12 from each region per event who will contest the NCAA Championships, being held next month in Eugene, Oregon.

Over the years there has been much discussion centered around the procedure used to determine the NCAA Championship qualifiers. Descending order lists, four regions, preliminary meets; all of these have been used in recent years and all have pros and cons. Whilst other governing bodies around the world often face criticism when it comes to team selections or qualifying procedures, it is certainly hard to fault the NCAA for at least attempting to come up with a fair system.

With the current system of two preliminary meets entering its fourth year of existence, we did a comparison of what it took to qualify in each region for each of the men’s and women’s events. Note that the performances listed are of the 48th qualifier per event in each region, and not the 48th ranked. Taking into account scratches, these figures will differ. Multi events are not included as they still operate a descending order qualifying procedure.

The stronger region in each gender and event is in red

Men West Men East Women West Women East
100m 10.56 10.47 11.68 11.65
200m 21.34 21.07 23.95 23.91
400m 47.17 47.40 54.39 54.49
800m 1:50.38 1:50.26 2:09.28 2:08.29
1500m 3:46.67 3:47.35 4:26.80 4:25.10
3000m s/c 9:00.93 9:02.84 10:36.49 10:34.87
5000m 14:12.89 14:14.55 16:32.13 16:34.94
10,000m 29:51.16 29:49.56 35:29.72 35:00.02
110 /100h 14.40 14.15 13:80 13.78
400h 52.76 52.65 1:00.13 59.84
HJ 2.10 2.08 1.73 1.75
PV 5.10 4.95 3.91 3.90
LJ 7.36 7.35 5.96 6.05
TJ 14.97 15.12 12.31 12.50
SP 17.01 16.95 15.27 14.70
DT 52.31 51.58 49.92 48.97
HT 58.67 57.26 56.50 54.57
JT 62.48 62.79 44.43 43.85
Head to head 11 7 7 11

As you can see, there is very little to separate the two regions. The West is slightly stronger on the men’s side, as is the East on the women’s  side (both 11-7 head to head). If we combine the total head to head of which region is stronger per event in both men’s and women’s events, it is completely even at 18-18. That leads us to the conclusion that there is no clear general answer to the question ‘which region is stronger’?

The differences between the regions is also very small in most cases, with only a few centimeters separating most of the jumps and throws, and a few tenths or hundredths between the sprints. The only major differences spotted are the men’s pole vault (West 15cm higher), and women’s 10,000m (East 29 seconds faster). The West is stronger in all eight throws, but the rest of the events are distributed relatively evenly between the two regions.

We look forward to seeing how the weekend pans out and will of course be providing full results of all 48 British and Irish qualifiers.

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