How To Succeed As A 7th Grade Standout?

Summing It All Up

After running with the numbers, what can we say about a 7th grader's dreams of glory on the T&F playing fields?

First the cautionary note. Success as a 13-year-old in track does not necessarily equate to big achievements as a senior, even forgetting about the all the injuries and bad luck that can occur in between. Being the most physically developed  kid among your peers at 13 may just mean that you had an early growth development, and those classmates that you tower over now may soon be leaving you running in their wake or quickly leap-frogged when they start spurting up in a year or two. That doesn't mean that being an early bloomer is bad or that you won't go on to win some state championships, but fame for the early fleet of feet can indeed be quite fleeting if you check back through the histories of past years' 7th grade leaders.

Second, it seems clear that the best chances for early success lie most heavily in the long distance events where the advantage of pure power and strength that older athletes have is mitigated a bit by a younger kid's lighter frame as it circles the track eight times. 7th graders don't have the lungs yet to compete at the very top of the distance events, but when moved up to the varsity squad, a runner like Patrick Ford can finish 2nd among 35 older runners in the Tusker Twilight Frosh-Soph mile, while there were no 8th graders let alone 7th graders in the Frosh-Soph shot put. The field events involve a long-term bonding and sharing experience among the practitioners of a complex art like say the triple jump, where athletes compete together in indoor arenas and outdoor pits for years and bestow the ultimate clap-clap-clap tribute on those who get set to go the furthest.

It's easy to spot the two 7th graders McKinley and Sheridan Wheeler on either side of soon-to-be Junior World champ Kelsey Chmiel in the Saratoga team huddle here at NXN Nationals. Not a bad way to spend your rookie season.

Third, as to what type of school a 7th-grade T&F fame seeker should go to for their epic quest, the best answer is likely one that does allow qualifying 7th graders to compete and also one with very good coaches. Would moving upstate to a small Section 7 school allow you a greater chance of earning a spot at States? Maybe, but you also need strong competition to develop as an athlete, and that is why some of those S7 schools take long bus rides to elite meets. Will seeking out a larger school that has won many local championships be the way to go? That could work, but 7th graders can also be faced with too much competition at a large school and not even make the varsity even though they might be the top guy or girl at a small school. Elite 7th graders come from all sorts of schools, and the only common denominator seems to be a lot of hard work and a lot of good coaching.

And now we get to the most controversial subject, that one about whether there is a sport in which the top females can outdo their male counterparts. Women athletes generally perform at a rate that is 88-90% of male athletes of a similar age and competition level in speed and endurance sports. There are certainly specialized sports activities such as the gymnastics balance beam that women would dominate in a gender battle since it one of the events included for women's competitions and not for men's, and women might also win a fast-pitch softball hitting contest and can do very well in 3-point shooting in basketball. Some female ultramarathon runners such as Ann Trason have dominated extreme endurance races against all competition in the past, but even there the top ranks have still mainly included men, and whatever advantages women may have at longer distances are still not proven.

However, from the tables in this article, we can slice the data for athletes at a particular age (7th grade) to find somewhat clear evidence that T&F is the sport where men (boys) have met their match versus women (girls). The evidence includes these stats for 7th grade athletes:

  • The averaged-together times for the top girl in the 100 during the last two years is 12.50, while for the boys it is 12.56.
  • The averaged-together times for the top girl in the 200 during the last two years is 25.93, while for the boys it is 26.07.
  • The averaged-together times for the top girl in the 400 during the last three years is 59.98, while for the boys it is 1:00.28.
  • The averaged-together distances for the top girl in the triple jump is 34-2.37 during the last two years, while for the boys it is 29-3.87.

Is this proof that we have found the chimera of the sports world, the small sliver of place and time when the ladies really do go before the gentlemen? I could add in that in a number of years the 3200m time of the top boy converted to 3000m would be slower than Katelyn Tuohy's mark in 2015, though the guy's 2015 champ Bekele-Arcuri was 39 seconds better. Most T&F events don't lend themselves to direct comparison because of differing distances or different hurdle heights or weight of the equipment in throwing events.

I would not call this proof that we have indeed spotted a fire-breathing creature with a lion's head, goat's body, and serpent's tail, but remember that the legendary chimera was female. There is indeed a time though when the T&F girls have a huge advantage over the guys in fame and opportunity, and also in some performance lists.

Sure, almost all 7th grade guys are off competing on modified or development teams and don't get even the chance to post the big results that a small group of super-talented girls do. But it is also true that some girls have gotten that development spurt going and are simply doing better than the best guys their age, at least by the rankings lists. However, if you're a boy, take heart in the fact that the world is not frozen in time, and some day you will be stretching for the finish line with a big smile on your face. And for the girls who make it to the top so early, don't forget who you are, you're a 7th grade star.

Katelyn Tuohy of North Rockland and Mary Hennelly of Suffern both ran the third legs of their
high-placing 4x800 squads in 2015 as 7th graders, with the Mounties winning the D1 crown

anchored by C'2012 7th grade club alumnus Kamryn McIntosh.