Monday 22 December 2014

Team Scoring for the US Skyrunner Series - Worked Example Using Western States

Recently I posted an outline of team scoring for the 2015 US Skyrunner Series here, allowing runners to identify with both the elite and mass participation teams through geography (US States or foreign countries). The main aim is to add an extra dimension to ultras and make it more interesting to follow a given race. We'll soon have some very exciting news about live tracking of every runner at every 2015 event, which should include real-time team scoring...not just from aid stations but at any point in the race. That should be much more exciting to follow, plus it gives added depth and detail to following individual runners.

After discussions with a lot of interested parties I decided to create a worked example to show how the team scoring looks in practice. Given I don't have enough data from the 2014 US Skyrunner Series races to hand, I opted for an international race with all the information required already in the public domain - Western States 2014.

In looking through the numbers I made one change to my original proposed structure for scoring - to make the penalty for not having enough runners be 50 points per runners, not 25 points. So this is how the scoring works:

Elite team scoring:

Every runner counts for the State or Country they enter under originally for their residence, even if they move before race day. Otherwise the manual changes take forever when compiling results.

Cross-country scoring with the top two men and one woman from a team counting by adding their gender positions. For example, a team with men in 2nd and 3rd plus the 1st woman would score 6 points (2+3+1). If there are not enough finishers of the correct sexes for a team to complete their three finishers then each missing runner scores 50 points, so the previously mentioned team score without a female finisher would score 55 points (2+3+50). The most an elite team can score is 150 and if a team's runner is lower than 50th place for their gender then they still score 50 points at worst. This is important for scoring throughout a season in a league, otherwise one bad result can add so much to a competitive team that they lose any chance of doing well over the entire Series.

Full team scoring:

Every runner counts for the State or Country they enter under originally  for their residence even if they move before race day, including elites. Otherwise the manual changes take forever when compiling results, especially with hundreds or thousands of entrants.

The average position of the runners in their gender is the number that counts for scoring, with a bonus for the more runners they have. A minimum of 3 finishers is required to score, otherwise a team scores 1 point below the lowest team with 3 finishers.

The State or country with the most runners in a race gets a 5 point deduction from their score, second largest gets 4 points off, third largest gets 3 points off, fourth largest gets 2 points off and the 5th largest gets a single point off their score.

For example, if Colorado has the most runners in a race and the average finisher's position in their gender is 42.567 then we round to one decimal place then deduct the 5 point bonus to give a score of 37.6.

Single race v entire Series:

I aim to include scoring for every distance at every event to give a result for the individual race plus a league table over the season. I guess I'll get comments about how all the scoring favors the States that hold more races since it's easier to get locals to turn up, but the bonus points' system only gives a slight advantage to big numbers. Regarding the elite races, 2015 should see some high-level competition across the entire Series, meaning that the States with the best mountain runners should do better in the elite rankings and they aren't punished too much if they can't get a full scoring team out given it only requires two men and one woman and there's only so many points that can be added as a penalty.

Worked example - WS100 2014

Linked to this article is the full set of results here. But below I also include the top 10 for the elite and mass participation races. California has by far the most entrants (it's almost certainly always the case that the home State or country will have the most runners), but it doesn't win the mass participation team competition. Australia benefits from a perfect storm for the mass participation race in this case since it has exactly 3 finishers, all relatively near the front of the race.

Elite team scoring:

Elite Team PlaceState/CountryAbbreviationFinishersElite score
9New HampshireNH1102

Full elite scores here. It reflects what we would expect at WS, in that the top teams are generally from the States with the biggest populations of elite 100-milers. Note that the competitiveness doesn't go very deeply and that only 29 of 64 States or countries managed to get under the lowest possible score of 150.

Mass participation team scoring:

Mass Team PlaceState/CountryAbbreviationFinishersTotal ScoreAverage ScoreAdj Score for <3 finishers="" td="">Point deduction for high finisher numbersFinal score
2New JerseyNJ39832.732.7032.7
6New YorkNY53507070070

For the mass participation team scoring the top 10 is dramatically different. California is down in 14th after winning the elite race, despite getting the 5 point deduction for having the most finishers. 

Call for comment

Ultimately, this is only worthwhile if it creates more excitement around the US Skyrunner Series races, both for fans and for following friends and relatives. I know that as I worked out the tables above I was rooting for the places I personally have an affiliation to, so I hope others get that same buzz.

Whatever form of team scoring is ultimately decided on is likely to apply to all Skyrunning events globally, not just the US Series, so it will have slight differences from country to country in terms of how magnetism there are (e.g. UK races could be split into England, Wales, Scotland, North Ireland and all other countries...or broken down into smaller areas).

Does this form of point scoring make sense and is there a better way to score? For example, is the 50-point penalty for not having a scoring elite runner fair? I think it's about right so that an elite team can't do really well without 3 scorers but isn't penalized too heavily. Note that Montana fell into this gap since they had the 2nd man and 5th woman, then had no other finishers so had 50 points added for that and still finished 4th in the elite table.


  1. Any more news out about the new live tracking for Skyrunner Series?

  2. Still 2 months til the first race but info will be out in advance of the Georgia Death Race.