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Grand Prix 2014 conclusion

Earlier this month, at the Anthem Manchester City Marathon, a USATF-New England Championship, the top two runners apparently missed a turn late in the race and did not finish. Likely because of weather, the sign that had been placed at the turn before the race was not visible at the time the lead runners passed. We applaud the strong performances of the two runners affected–Jason Ayr, from Western Mass Distance Project, and Birhanu Mekonnen, a runner from outside of our Association–as well as that of eventual winner, Dan Vassallo of Central Mass. Striders. Manchester City Marathon has awarded Ayer and Mekonnen each $1,250, an even split of the first and second place prize money. This is in addition to the prize money already awarded to those who finished the race in prize money positions.

A complete list of series standings for teams and individuals is available on the Grand Prix section of our website. In addition, USATF-NE Long Distance Chair persons are looking into establishing additional guidelines for championship races to try to prevent any future mishaps at Championship events. We want to recognize and commend USATF members Jason and Dan for their outstanding sportsmanship throughout Manchester City Marathon’s deliberations.

With the conclusion of the 2014 Grand Prix series, a total of $8,000 in prize money will be distributed soon to teams accruing the highest point totals in their age categories for men and women. Voting will be available soon for the 2015 USATFNE Grand Prix Road Race series and we encourage all members to participate in selecting a great line up of races.

Chairs, Lisa Doucett, John Barbour and Jan Holmquist

2014 Grand Prix Road Race Voting Details

Who, what, when, where:

While the USATF NE bylaws do not require the LDR Committee to involve the membership in decision making in regard to any event or activity it oversees, the Committee has chosen to invite input and voting from the LDR community in regard to the Road Race Grand Prix. The slate selection meeting for the 2014 USATF NE Grand Prix Road Race series date and time was announced at the bid presentation meeting on November 13, 2013 where over 60 people were in attendance. In addition, an ongoing LDR Committee of about 12 people meets sporadically through the year and had been meeting/emailing during the preceding months in regard to the bid solicitation process. At the presentation meeting, names were collected of those interested in attending the slate meeting. Those names combined with available LDR Committee members met on November 23rd in Waltham to review the bids and put together the slates for voting. A total of 11 people were present at the meeting. Clubs represented were: the BAA, CSU, GBTC, NSS, SISU Project, SRR, WRT, and WMDP. Transparency of the process includes: all meetings are open to all USATF members; voting privileges are extended to all club representatives (one vote per club); committee decisions are by consensus; bid and voting process guidelines are posted on the USATFNE website; and contact information including email addresses for the LDR Chairs is posted on the website. The road race Grand Prix is the only series that involves member input at USATF NE, all others such as Mountain, Track, and Cross Country are decided by Committees only.

High Street Mile:

After reviewing the bids and the Grand Prix survey results that had been collected after the bid presentation meeting and before the slate selections, the first topic was the High Street Mile. Ranked high in the survey and of interest to Committee members, we discussed our concerns about the High Street Mile event: 1) the USATF rule of scoring by gun time only and High Street’s use of chip timing to determine winners; 2) road-width start area and its effect on gun time; and 3) multiple heats/races at High Street and how we could score teams. We decided to offer a Showcase status to High Street in 2014 where we would promote the race, offer some incentive to USATF members to participate other than with points and see how an increased field in size and in top competitors would affect the race before making a decision for inclusion as a Grand Prix event if they bid in future years.

The Slates:

Putting together the slates, we listed the most popular races as determined by the survey results. Our immediate goals were to give the runners what they told us they wanted, avoid conflicts with religious holidays and local major races/nearby USATF national championships that would detract runners from Grand Prix races and make the schedule doable in regard to the typical training regimes of participants. There were several races that polled so strongly (or had a competing bid of the same distance which had time conflicts) it was clear they could be a core group and appear on all slates. We first organized a slate where races grouped themselves with a few early in the year, had a couple month gap and then resumed later in the year. We were able to get geographic diversity with the slate (another goal) and also switch out a couple of the distances/races and keep the format. We gave them a working title of 1a and b. We could also put in more bidding races that were popular and have them fall on an almost monthly basis. This format’s working title was 2 a and b. Representatives liked 1 a and b as the gap time off could support a spring marathon or rest time and liked 2 a and b as it spread out the races (and paying entry fees) over the year more consistently. The LDR Committee always wants every slate to be an effective Grand Prix so it does not ultimately matter to the Committee which one is elected, they are equally good.

At the slate selection meeting, we discussed offering just two slates: 1 a and 2 a with the b options as pull down menus within the slate. This presentation of the information would highlight the format as the primary element to vote on and the dominate slate in the pair would determine the final line up. We wanted to avoid a situation which came up a couple of years ago when a slate that had garnered 26% of votes was declared the winner. The Committee received criticism of that decision as over 70% of the respondents made it clear they had voted against the line-up. After the meeting, putting the slates in Survey Monkey (cheap version) proved a challenge as mixing question types (pull down within multiple choice) could not be managed and in the case of 1 a and b, if one did a pull down of the 5 mi for a choice between Carver and Ribfest and chose Ribfest, then An Ras Mor would be the only 5km choice because the Hollis 5km is three days before Ribfest. The Committee member putting the slates into Survey Monkey decided to list the slates in their entirety and informed the Committee. Since using numbers and “a” and “b” can imply value, the slates were named in honor of LDR pioneers: 1a became DeMar; 1b, Kelly; 2a, Kuscsik; and 2b, Gibb. We hoped that one slate/format would resonate with voters and a clear preference would emerge.

Voting cycle 1:

While the listing of the four slates appeared equally online, many representatives who attended the meeting urged their club mates to consider DeMar and Kelly (or Kuscsik and Gibb) a pair and vote for one or the other indiscriminately as discussed at the meeting prior to implementation. They championed the idea of format 1 or 2, and the dominate slate within the pair format becoming the Grand Prix lineup. Voting was nearly a week long to accommodate the Thanksgiving holiday break and a blast email went out to USATF members noting LDR on their membership forms to open voting on Nov 26. Many participants commented on the formats and hundreds of votes were logged in just a few days.

At the conclusion of the first election cycle on December 9, a record 487 legitimate votes were cast. Names and USATF numbers were checked against the national database names of current members to determine legitimacy. Results: 2a: Kuscsik: 181 votes (37%); 1a: DeMar: 160 votes (32%), 1b: Kelly: 96 votes (20%); 2b: Gibb: 50 votes (11%). While Kuscsik (37%) had the most votes by 5% as an individual slate, going by format, slates 1a and 1b had 52% and slates 2 a and b 48%. The Committee split on whether to go with the format winner, DeMar or the popular vote winner, Kuscsik. Going with Kuscsik still meant that 63% of the respondents voted against it (and 68% against DeMar). The two dominate slates were close in percentage of the votes and declaring Kuscsik the individual winner was not fair to the groups who had been advised to vote for the 1 a or b or 2 a or b indiscriminately. Since the format vote was nearly same difference apart as the popular vote, essentially a tie between the two ways to view results, the Committee felt the best way to proceed was to put the dominate slate from both formats online for a run-off election based on the popular vote with a planned tiebreaker action if necessary. The slate selection process posted on the website stated “..Results will be announced at the conclusion of voting…” so no established rules were violated by the decision. Our political democratic process includes elections after a primary with two candidates emerging for final voting and the Committee thought the membership would understand this similarity and the close nature of the first vote.

The political analogy went way deeper than imagined. Inviting the membership to vote in the run-off was read by some people that there was something suspicious with the first vote and it spawned unfounded allegations of conspiracies, favoritism, and kickbacks to committee members as well as personal attacks on social media. Regardless, another voting participation record was set, nearly 500 people responded to the run-off vote invitation.

Run Off Vote:

The blast email to the membership went out December 12th and was voting was open for three days. The second round of voting had a definitive selection of the DeMar slate with 278 votes (57%) and Kuscsik received 213 votes (43%) for a total of 491 legitimate votes cast. It was easy to declare DeMar the winner and gratifying that it had a large margin of support.

The 2014 Grand Prix races:
D. H. Jones 10 miler, Amherst, MA, Feb. 23, 11 a.m.
New Bedford Half Marathon, New Bedford, MA Mar. 16, 11 a.m.
An Ras Mor 5 km, Cambridge, MA, Mar. 30, 10 a.m.
Ribfest 5 Miler, Merrimack, NH, Jun 15, 9:15 a.m.
GMAA Labor Day 15 km, South Burlington, VT, Aug. 31, 9 a.m.
Lone Gull 10 km, Gloucester, MA, Sept. 14, 9 a.m.
Manchester City Marathon, Manchester, NH, Nov 2, 8:50 a.m.

Join the LDR Committee:

While the membership is free to second guess the Committee, the meetings are open and those who attend try to make decisions that are fair to potential participants and the bidding races. We know we cannot please all members and the race directors that bid but we ask for respect for the volunteers who put in the time and energy to bring bids to the Grand Prix, make hard decisions and shepherd the process of voting to bring the best line up of races possible to those who want to compete. If you want your voice truly heard, join the LDR Committee.

Thank you to all who participated in the bid process and for attending meetings, voting and for putting these great races and the High Street Mile on your calendars to run them in 2014.

Second Round of Voting Needed for 2014 USATFNE Grand Prix series

The LDR Committee recently set up a second round of voting as the first voting on four slates yielded results too close to declare a winner.

When the Committee met to form slates, we wanted to include the races that: 1) the runners had indicated as their favorites in the survey; 2) did not conflict with religious holidays; 3) did not conflict with major races that would detract numbers from Grand Prix races; and 4) would accommodate the average Grand Prix runner’s training plan.

In regard to slates, we have had voting in the past where multiple slates garnered almost equal amounts of votes. While this may be a tribute to the equality of the races on the slates, it resulted in a Grand Prix preferred by 26% of the runners voting. The Committee received criticism for declaring a winner with a 26% majority since it meant 74% of the runners were against the line-up but had spread their votes over three other choices. In an effort to have a more decisive slate, we discussed posting two slates with a core of races and variation within each grouping with races and distances the runners indicated they preferred. At first, we thought of a pull down menu within two separate slates so votes could be tallied for essentially two slates with the voters selecting the variable race(s). The two slate formats offered are popular races where one set of races group mostly into spring and fall dates, the other has races in almost every month beginning in March. We could not set up the survey site with pull down menus within the slates so listed all four slates thinking the runners would indicate through their voting the desired race groupings and a slate would emerge as the most preferred. A record 487 votes did not produce a favored slate or format: each format combination and dominate slate polled nearly the same as its competitor.

As indicated in our email asking for participation in the second round, the two formats represented were nearly equal in votes and the dominate slates were also nearly equal, though both had barely a third of the total amount of votes cast. While there is no written rule in our process as to how much of a percentage of a vote is necessary to indicate support, the Committee wants to ensure the races are chosen by the greatest number of responders. The best way to address the closeness of the first vote fairly and have a majority of respondents choosing the Grand Prix was to put the two dominate slates back before the runners for a more decisive vote and have a plan for a tie, which had not been discussed previously. We would rather break a 50%-50% tie from a second round of voting than a tie between slates in the first round which would have produced a winner that about 70% of the voters did not choose.

The record number of voters is a tribute to the quality of the races and either Grand Prix line up of races should be very well attended and contested by serious competitors.

2014 Grand Prix survey results and slate voting info

The 2014 Grand Prix survey results and the formation of slates:

The 2014 USATF NE Grand Prix survey conducted prior to the formulation of the slates was intended to guide the LDR Committee by providing information about the preferences of the membership. There were 301 responses and nearly every respondent had participated in some way in one or more Grand Prix races or series. To see the survey results, please click this link: Survey results for posting Nov 30 2013. The columns have been condensed to show the number of first choices in the ranking slates and the average numeric ranking (the lower the number, the more preferred the choice). The comments are being grouped for easier reading and will be available soon (Sorry, we went with the cheapest Survey Monkey package and the comment field data report is 17 pages long.)

First, the Committee drafted one slate of all the races which had garnered the most amount of first choices in the survey together, but quickly saw that the Hollis 5k and the Ribfest 5 miler are just days apart. The Committee then compiled two slates to accommodate the most first choices with our required distances but workable considering the dates. We also wanted to include some new races and new locations. In regard to distances, survey takers wanted the half marathon by a wide margin, followed by 12-15 km, 10 mile and mile races.

Next, we put together a slate for sustained racing over the year and what would work best without conflicts with National USATF events that are drivable for New England competitors and arrived at two slates to best accomplish this schedule. Throughout the process we considered the High Street Mile which was ranked high in the survey. The idea of a mile event appealed to many Committee members and survey takers, but there were also concerns expressed by members and in the survey comment section about timing and the USATF scoring requirements. We thought of a “Showcase” status where we would encourage USATF NE members to participate in the High Street Mile in 2014 and give Committee members, and runners new to the event, an opportunity to learn more about how the various categories of competitors could receive a gun finish time and how we could anticipate combining points for team scoring.

We understood that one reason some of the races were not ranked highly by runners was because of unfamiliarity. When contacting the races about our decision, the Committee offered to promote the nominated races for the slates during the year so they can convert more USATF members into fans of their event. Race Directors responding to this offer have been enthusiastic about its potential. Also, at the suggestion of one Race Director whose race was not chosen, we will be sending out online surveys after each Grand Prix race as well as the nominated races so there can be immediate feedback to both the LDR Committee and the Race Director.

The LDR Committee strives to put together slates that are equally strong. We know we cannot please everyone. The amount of people who would complain about not enough new races being added is the same as those who would complain about a favorite race with known amenities not being included and a new race taking its place. Races near and dear to some people are avoided by others.

The process of Grand Prix series selection, past and present:

The past method of Grand Prix series selection was an in-person voting system. Until a few years ago, the only voters were the people who could attend a weeknight meeting generally held a few miles outside of Boston. Over many years of attending this meeting in the past, I would say the Grand Prix could be decided by as few as 25 people to a high of about 75. The online voting in place for the past three years for the Grand Prix has experienced over 400 voters who have represented a greater geographic area within the Association. In the past, bidding races were randomly chosen by distance category to present their event to the assembled group. The Race Director would present their race and then there was an immediate vote on each distance or race category. That meant the selection of the first race could immediately nullify any other race that shared close proximity to its date and before ensuing Race Directors had a chance to present the details of their events. Some races failing to win a place in the Grand Prix in their distance group could get moved to another category and lose again. This process was extremely unfair to Race Directors as well as attendees who were not able to hear about event details of races that were not presented. We have tried to improve this system with a dedicated presentation meeting and a comparison spreadsheet posted to the USATF NE website. This way whether or not a race is chosen to be on the slate, the Race Director has had a chance to present their event and the membership is informed of the details. It allows for additional exposure of the event regardless of being included in the series or not.

The desire for straight up voting for the most popular races to be the Grand Prix also has its difficulties, as evidenced by the 2014 example of two of the most popular bidding races scheduled just days apart. Over the years, bidding races have had shared or close race dates happen fairly often. Most popular voting could also have a Grand Prix with six races before the end of May and then a gap until a fall marathon. If intervention is needed to sort this out, then we may as well do it with some deliberation and intention and that is how the idea of slates and voting online came about: to give choice to members but also try to fashion the most reasonable schedule of the best races for competitors and teams from across our region.

If you want to know more about the Grand Prix process feel free to contact any USATF NE Officer, LDR Committee person or Athlete’s Representative. All contact info is at www.usatfne.org under Administration. Each year, we have invited clubs who have had scoring teams to send a representative to LDR meetings and be involved with the slate selection process. Please let us know if you want to join the LDR Committee in 2014.

On behalf of the LDR Committee,
Lisa Doucett
USATF NE Master’s LDR Chair

Grand Prix Slates online for voting

Please remember to vote for your preferred slate of races for the 2014 USATF NE Grand Prix Road Race Series. An email blast went out and voting is open until December 9 at 8:00 p.m. Please view the slate comparison sheet at http://usatfne.org/road/gp.html before voting to see road race details such as prize money structure and runner amenities.

Not appearing on the slates is the High Street Mile. We plan to promote this race as a Showcase Event for 2014. We want USATF members to participate in this event to see how it could unfold as a championship considering it is run in heats and we have the requirements of gun timing and the challenge of awarding team points.

Do not try to vote for slates via this blog, please go to: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/usatfnegpslatevoting

Slate – DeMar:

D. H. Jones 10 miler, Amherst, MA, Feb. 23, 11 a.m.
New Bedford Half Marathon, New Bedford, MA Mar. 16, 11 a.m.
An Ras Mor 5 km, Cambridge, MA, Mar. 30, 10 a.m.
Ribfest 5 Miler, Merrimack, NH, Jun 15, 9:15 a.m.
GMAA Labor Day 15 km, South Burlington, VT, Aug. 31, 9 a.m.
Lone Gull 10 km, Gloucester, MA, Sept. 14, 9 a.m.
Manchester City Marathon, Manchester, NH, Nov 2, 8:50 a.m.

Slate – Gibb:

D. H. Jones 10 miler, Amherst, MA, Feb. 23, 11 a.m.
New Bedford Half Marathon, New Bedford, MA, Mar. 16, 11 a.m.
Bedford Rotary 12 km, Bedford, NH, Saturday, May 17, 9 a.m.
Hollis Fast 5 km, Hollis, NH, Thursday, Jun 12, 6:30 p.m.
Carver Cranberry 5 miler, Carver, MA, Jul 26, Sat, 9 a.m.
Lone Gull 10 km, Gloucester, MA, Sept. 14, 9 a.m.
Manchester City Marathon, Manchester, NH, Nov 2, 8:50 a.m.

Slate – Kelly:

D. H. Jones 10 miler, Amherst, MA, Feb. 23, 11 a.m.
New Bedford Half Marathon, New Bedford, MA, Mar. 16, 11 a.m.
Hollis Fast 5 km, Hollis, NH, Thursday, Jun 12, 6:30 p.m.
Carver Cranberry 5 miler, Carver, MA, Jul 26, Sat., 9 a.m.
GMAA Labor Day 15 km, South Burlington, VT Aug. 31, 9 a.m.
Lone Gull 10 km, Gloucester, MA, Sept. 14, 9 a.m.
Manchester City Marathon, Manchester, NH, Nov 2, 8:50 a.m.

Slate – Kuscsik:

New Bedford Half Marathon, New Bedford, MA, Mar. 16, 11 a.m.
Bedford Rotary 12 km, Bedford, NH, Saturday, May 17, 9 a.m.
Hollis Fast 5 km, Hollis, NH, Thursday, Jun 12, 6:30 p.m.
Carver Cranberry 5 miler, Carver, MA, Jul 26, Sat’, 9 a.m.
New Hampshire 10 miler, Auburn, NH, Saturday, Aug 23, 9 a.m.
Lone Gull 10 km, Gloucester, MA, Sept. 14, 9 a.m.
Manchester City Marathon, Manchester, NH, Nov 2, 8:50 a.m.

Thanks for your interest and participation.

Lisa Doucett, Master’s Chair on behalf of the LDR Committee

Runner Survey Responses Requested

Runners interested in offering their feedback for the 2014 USATFNE Grand Prix Road Race Series should take a brief survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/YJFCWBC to assist the Long Distance Running Committee in selections for the upcoming slate voting scheduled to begin next week. Please take the survey now, the opportunity will close Saturday, November 23 at 10:00 a.m. Slates will be comprised of a variety of races and distances featured on the bid comparison sheet found at Grand Prix 2014 bid comparison for posting and will be posted next week for voting by the membership. Thank you for your participation.

From the USATFNE LDR Committee

Comparison form will soon be found at: http://usatfne.org/road/gp.html

Should the USATF NE have two races of the same distance?

Should the USATF NE Grand Prix offer two races of the same distance?  Often, we have great bids from races of the same distance.  Since the inception of our Grand Prix, the races have been considered championships of that distance, so we have never moved other races of the same distance into the Wild Card category for voting.  Should this be changed?  If we have a 10km championship, and offer another 10km as part of the Grand Prix, what should we call this event?  Following this example, if there is one 10km the next year, which race winners are considered the returning 10km champions (for complementary entries, etc.)?

Please let me know your thoughts via posting to our facebook account or to ldoucett@usatfne.org.

Should a spring or summer marathon be part of a future Grand Prix?

While the USATF NE Grand Prix is on people’s minds, I would like to solicit input on a few topics as we plan for 2013 and beyond. I will post a question each week (in no particular order of importance) for the next few weeks to allow time for people to respond. All participants of road races are welcome to respond, not just Grand Prix athletes.

Question 1: Should a spring or summer marathon be part of a USATF NE Grand Prix?

We have traditionally ended every Grand Prix in the fall with the marathon distance. If we were to receive bids and schedule a marathon in the spring or summer, how much time would you suggest between that event and the next Grand Prix race? What distance(s) should immediately follow? What distances should precede? The inclusion of a spring marathon could seriously affect the Grand Prix layout of races, but could also allow inclusion of shorter races in November and December, which does not happen now. Please also remember our Ironrunners, the people who complete all seven races of the series. Typically, the marathon is the single event that determines who remains a Grand Prix Ironrunner. Many runners build confidence as they progress through the year and then commit to the marathon to achieve Ironrunner status. Do you think a mid-Grand Prix series marathon would lower the amount of Ironrunners for a given year?

Please respond either through this posting on facebook, or email me at ldoucett@usatfne.org.


Lisa Doucett,

Chair, Women’s LDR

USATF NE 2013 Grand Prix voting results information

By the close of voting, 441 USATF members had logged on and made their selections.  The winning slate jumped out to an early lead and never looked back.   Voting was strong through November 28, then slowed over the last few days, ending December 2, 2012 at 11:59 p.m.

Slate voting results:

  • 44.2% voted for the winning slate, and Lone Gull garnered 74% of the vote for the 10k. Slate 2 came in 2nd (about 35%) with the Yankee Homecoming 10 miler getting more than 70% of the vote. Slate 3 was third (about 20%) with the Carver 5 miler getting 60% of the vote.
  • The Manchester Marathon won decisively by a margin of 62.5% of the votes cast.

The results of the other questions are:
1. Should there be a Relay included? 49.9% voted “Yes;” 23.4% voted “No;” 26.75% had no opinion;
2. Did you participate in any or all of the Grand Prix Races in 2012? 77.8% said Yes.
What about the 22.2% of voters who did not participate in the Grand Prix but voted?  Maybe there are 97.9 additional runners who plan to be in the Grand Prix next year and wanted to influence the selection.  Or maybe non-participating club runners responded to emails from GP running teammates to go to the site and vote.  Either way, we thank everyone who voted and we hope to see both new and returning runners to the 2013 USATF NE Grand Prix Road Race Series.

Lisa Doucett, Chair, Women’s LDR

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