With back-to-back weekends featuring major distance-only meets in California, not to mention another big one in the Texas Distance Festival last weekend, the question arises: which meet has the greatest accumulation of distance-running talent on display? This article aims to answer that question (for 2018, at least) with incontrovertible data.
But before we dig into the numbers to see which meet produced the best performances, we should acknowledge that times by themselves are NOT the only measure of a meet. As hard as meet directors may work to recruit top talent, they can't really control the entries - or the weather, for that matter. So let's take a moment to recognize a few other features that could make a distance carnival "the best" in the eyes of the athletes or coaches that attend:
It's hard to argue against the sombrero! The Dublin Distance Fiesta is a day-long party, from the enthusiastic announcers to the DJ spinning tunes to the iconic and unique awards for the top races. Both Azusa and TDF have great atmosphere, with all three meets having featured races after dark, but Dublin stands out from even this elite group.
A huge, distance-only meet can be a double-edged sword: it allows ALL your team's distance runners to compete against comparable athletes and race for PR's, but it can also take a LONG TIME. Both Dublin and Azusa test the mental endurance of both runners and coaches with their 13-14 hour schedule, but the Texas Distance Festival is more compact. Starting at 3:30 means athletes don't have to sit around all day waiting to race, and also feeds into the "under the lights" atmosphere of the elite races.
All three meets are run on nice tracks with ample space for teams and warm-ups. Azusa adds one feature that very few meets can match: the campus is nestled into the foothills of the Angeles National Forest, with towering Southern California mountains easily visible from the stadium. The majestic scenery seems to inspire better performances (or maybe it's just the loaded fields).
Extra credit goes to both Dublin and TDF for adding one additional race to the standard 800-1600-3200 lineup. Dublin concludes with a DMR, which brings an extra level of team competition to the festivities, while the Texas Distance Festival has become nationally known for its elite 5K race, a rare treat for top-flight high school distance runners that might be making the longer distances their primary events in college. In both cases, the additional event definitely amps up the excitement and elevates the meet as a whole.
Now, on to a thorough statistical comparison of all three meets using 2018 times!
Side-by-Side Event Comparisons: