Why I as a coach would always choose NXR/NXN for my after season meet.
The question for many is what after season meet should I take my team too???? Should we go to Footlocker Nationals? Should we go to NXR/NXN? Should we go to Running Lane nationals? In my opinion if I am wanting to push my team to be the best team that they can be it is Nike Cross Regionals. In full disclosure I have coached multiple teams that have been successful in the Northeast Region and qualified three teams and three individuals for Nike Cross Nationals but that is not why I feel that it is the best option for developing your team. My teams went to NXR even when we knew that we had no real chance of qualifying. We were going so that we hopefully would be a better team from the experience in the future.
The question from some may be why I feel very strongly about this and the answer to me is very simple. No other after season meet is really a true team championship meet. We always strived for developing the best team we could and that meant competing at the highest level even when we knew we most likely had no chance to qualify. Why then? We felt that experiencing that higher level of competition and being able to watch the NY NXR race allowed our athletes to see what the best of the best look like. It allowed us to see what other teams were doing to be successful and to learn from them. It allowed us to see where we really needed to improve and then to try to make those improvements. The years we didn’t finish in the top 3 we finished 9th, 15th, 18th, 13th and 7th. In none of those years did we have an actual chance of qualifying but it gave us one more trip, one more race and one more weekend to see what the best competition looked like. Each of those years I believe helped our program get better so that we could improve as a team.
We also had the heartbreak of finishing 3rd in 2016 by 4 points and knowing that we really had no chance of getting an at-large bid. We still had to go up to the cabin and fill out the paperwork. We had to see Souhegan(NH) celebrating after they had qualified and knowing we had beaten them during the regular season but our girls were gracious in defeat and congratulated them and wished them luck at NXN. We then finished 3rd again in 2019 by only 6 points. Again filling out the paperwork in the cabin and knowing the odds of an at-large bid out of the Northeast region was unlikely. Those experiences are tough but they teach your athletes perseverance and how close the margins are in qualifying or not. Those are life lessons and they can take them with them as they go forward in their adult lives.
I also believe that my teams enjoyed having one more trip with each other. One more time in a hotel hanging out. One more time going to dinner together the night before the race. One more time walking the course as a team. One more time putting everything on the course for their teammates. And finally, one more time taking the risk of toeing the starting line knowing that it doesn’t always work out the way they would like it but they had the courage to go to the starting line in the first place. All of those things help strengthen a team and build a program. At least in my opinion!
I firmly believe that any post season race is better for your runners and program than not going to one but if I had to choose I would always choose Nike. And for me it is a no brainer. I wanted to develop the best teams that I could and Nike helped that process. It also doesn’t hurt to watch some of the best runners and teams in the country compete on the same course as you and try to take in whatever you could from them to help you going forward. To be the best you need to compete with the best and if you can’t hang with them you need to figure out what you need to do to try to get to that level. To be the best team you can be you need to compete as a team and Nike allows you to do that at the highest level.