US NATIONAL SERIES POINTS SERIES
Spartan just announced the 2020 US National Series (USNS) locations, so it’s only a matter of time before additional series details are announced. Honestly, it felt like we were watching an NFL game every time race footage from a 2019 USNS race aired. Fans and athletes spent just as much time arguing about penalties and other rules infractions as they did discussing the actual action on the field. All OCR fans really want is a controversy-free season next year.
MY IMPROVED SCORING SYSTEM
It’s pretty tough to create a simple scoring system for the Spartan Race US National Series that balances rewarding loyal racers (good for business) while also rewarding the true top performers who couldn’t travel to all races (good for the sport). However, I have a simple formula that Spartan could use in 2020.
1. Calculate % of winner
2. Determine factor
3. Multiply those two values
Calculate % of Winner for Each Race
Divide the winner’s time by your time and that’s your % of winner
• Multiply your average % of winner (step 1) by the factor (step 2)
• Maximum possible score would be 1,000 pts (only if you win all 5 USNS races)
Let’s use Ryan Woods’ USNS season as an example:
1. Ryan Woods’ average % of winner was 93.9%
2. Ryan Woods finished 4/5 USNS races, so he would have a 98% factor
3. Final score = 920.6 pts (93.9 x 98)
Look at the average place and % of winner for the guys on this improved top-15 list. Deservedly so, Veejay, Killian, and Woods would have moved up several places vs. their actual USNS ranking. Just outside the top-10, Brakken Kraker, Brian Gowiski, and Cody Moat moved up quite a bit, as their key stats suggest they had great seasons despite only showing up to a couple USNS races.
The same holds true for women. There were only 56 Elite women/race in the USNS this year, yet several women who averaged 40th+ place were ranked 10+ spaces above Rebecca Hammond (33rd), Amanda Nadeau (35th), and several other top women. In fact, if you add up every finishing place in Rebecca Hammond’s 17 career elite Spartan finishes, it only equals 36! How could anyone think that a system that shows her ranked 33rd is accurate? Clearly, ranking well in the USNS is a participation game.
It’s obviously in Spartan’s best interest (as a business) for the best athletes to show up at all races. The last thing they’d want is for an athlete to show up to only one USNS race, win it, then disappear the rest of the year. My formula already accounts for this possibility.
Let’s pretend that someone had an amazing start to the year by winning the first three USNS races this year before skipping the final two series races. They’d only have earned 960 points (100% x 96%), which would have placed 4th in the men’s standings and 3rd for women.
What if a new female athlete bursts onto the scene next year and somehow beats Nicole and Lindsay in 4 straight USNS races before deciding to skip the final race. She would have barely edged Lindsay and Nicole for the overall series title (earning 980 pts), something which wouldn’t have happened if she only ran 3/5 races in the existing scoring system (only 900 pts). Let’s be honest, if someone could beat Lindsay and Nicole 4 times, then she was absolutely the best racer in the US National Series that year, even if she missed a race.
If the same thing happened on the men’s side, Ryan Atkins would still have won the points series by 7 points (987 vs. 980). Problem solved. It’s almost impossible for someone to win the entire USNS points series unless they finish all 5 races because the talent is so deep these days. No need for Spartan to worry about a nightmare scenario (from a marketing perspective) of their series champion not showing up to the final race.
ISSUES WITH EXISTING POINTS SERIES SCORING
One aspect about last year’s season that created some controversy was the new points series scoring. Placing in the top-4 was the only thing that mattered. The points difference (24 points) between 4th vs. 5th was the same as 5th vs. 29th, but actual athlete performance for 5th vs. 29th varied significantly. There’s barely any difference in athlete caliber between the 4th- and 5th-place finisher at a USNS race, but the talent gap between 5th and 29th is huge. This is why % of winner is a better metric to use than simply place. It’s pretty flawed that they’re rewarded identically in the points series:
Additionally, athletes were no longer allowed to drop their worst performance or skip a race in the USNS, which was an option every year prior to 2019. It didn’t matter if you had to attend a wedding or funeral, got injured, canceled a flight, etc., there was no way to avoid earning zero points from that missed race. In fact, Spartan scheduled the first Stadium Series race (Citi Field) on the same exact day as the third USNS race (Seattle). That meant two of the best Stadium racers, Robert Killian and Ryan Kent, had to bail on any realistic chance of winning the Stadium Series since they were forced to race in Seattle instead.
2019 USNS Standings
Let’s take a look at how the 300-264-240-216-192-191… scoring system worked this year for the top-20 men. I think every OCR fan would agree that Woods, Killian, Veejay, and several other top athletes were ranked way too low in the standings. What did they all have in common? None of them finished all 5 USNS races.
Proof That I’m Unbiased
I’m about to finish 4th in the Stadium Series, which uses the same scoring system as the USNS. I’m fully aware that I’ll benefit from the flawed scoring system. I haven’t had the 4th-best season of athletes who took part in at least one Stadium Series race this year. I’d be 6th if Brakken Kraker (currently 3rd) and Matt Kempson (currently 4th) decided not to skip the final race of the Stadium Series. As a result, I’ll make a few hundred bucks extra and they’ll both drop out of the top-10 without receiving a series leader payout. It’s not fair that I’ll finish ahead of both of them despite not beating them at any of the first 4 Stadium Series this year.
• True top racers are penalized just enough for missing a USNS race, but it doesn’t eliminate their chance of still finishing where they deserve (based on performance, not # of races)
• Rewards great performances by people who can’t be at every race
• Almost guarantees that the overall series winner must attend all 5 races (good for business)
• All names pass the “eye test”
• Can be used for both Elite and Age Group
• Easy to use for National Series, Stadium, and Mountain Series
• Gives top athletes some flexibility in the event of a family emergency, wedding, injury, canceled flight, unexpected work commitment, etc.
The 2019 Spartan points series scoring system was 100% based on participation, not analyzing results. This article isn’t about adjusting the standings so a few athletes can earn an extra $100 (which would easily be offset by travel costs to attend the required 5/5 races). It’s about recognizing the best athletes in the sport, not the ones with the biggest wallets. Athletes deserve to look back a decade from now and know where they really stacked up against the best in their sport, not against the biggest spenders in the sport.
The formula is simple, ensures the top names still have to attend most (if not all) of the USNS races, and ranks the true best racers a lot more accurately than the existing 300-264-240-216-192 scoring system. With over 3 months until the first USNS race of the 2020 season, Spartan can easily make a switch like this. Your move, Spartan. There’s still plenty of time to avoid making 2020 a repeat of a controversy-filled 2019 season.