Bowdoin Park is one of the marquee race venues in the Northeast. Not only does it serve as the Federation Championship venue for New York, it also hosts the surrounding states for the NXN Regional the weekend after. In the past three years, we've seen both genders' Course Records go down, despite both being lofty marks to topple. But what about everyone else? Is the pack slowing down? Is the 17:30 run in 2009 likely to place you as high as it would in 2019?
We went to the database to see how this plays out.
We pulled the Top 500 Runners who competed at Bowdoin Park for each year, 2006 and forward. It didn't matter which State they came from. Next, we removed the Top Runner in each year, to eliminate any outside variances, otherwise known as "statistic-skewers" or "once in a generation" runners. So both Aisling Cuffe and Katelyn Tuohy's course records were removed from their respective years, as well as Nick Ryan and DJ Principe's. And so on for the top runner for each of the years.
Finally, we then averaged the times for those 499 remaining runners, and graphed them to their corresponding year. Below is what we found.
Note: There have been minor variances in the course layout over the years, but none so severe to have statistically changed the data for comparative needs. One such change was the location of the turn to go around the playground, which was further down the hill at one point.
For a steady stream of consecutive years, Bowdoin was getting faster, with the culmination of speed happening in 2015. That year, in beautiful weather, Mikey Brannigan ran away with the Fed title, and the Regional kept the calm temps to produce a battle between Ben Petrella and Aidan Tooker for the lead at Regionals. Ever since then, the course has been slowing down, year over year, be it by slowing talent in the mid-pack, or unlucky weather on the dates of major invitationals.
Notes: In 2012, Nick Ryan set the course record at 15:27.0, garnering at 202.00 Speed Rating. Four years later, DJ Principe broke that Course Record by running 15:18.0, and earned the same exact Speed Rating. What gives? If anything, the data shows the course was running faster in 2016 than it was in 2012, for the average runner. That adjustment is the simple way to describe the discrepancy.
It would seem, even moreso than the boys, the depth of the front pack has only gotten deeper in recent years. Athletes like Kelsey Chmiel, Claire Walters, and Brooke Rauber are setting best-ever marks for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place. However, that is not translating to the pack behind them. In fact, the pack may be even slower behind them, offset by their outlying times. Since 2015, times have only gotten slower, per average, for those next 499 runners.
Fun Fact: Katelyn Tuohy, with her Course Record of 16:45.2, can claim that in any given year, she is nearly 30-seconds faster than the average male running Bowdoin Park. The previous Course Record Holder, Aisling Cuffe at 17:16.9, could hold that distinction for over 70% of the years in our study.
The two charts are remarkably similar, demonstrating that there is direct correlation between the two data sets. In both instances, marks kept steadily getting faster until their peak in 2015, but in recent years, the course has begun to run slower and slower. It would be hard to pinpoint the reason behind this trend, but there are both internal (the course itself) and external (the athletes on the course) reasons for this trend.
Internally, it would make sense for 2018 to be as slow as it is, because with Feds cancelled, athletes had only one real chance to run fast on the course when they were at their peak. A counterargument to that might be that most times averaged would come from Regionals, as that is where athletes are running their fastest.
Externally, we could say that despite the top end athletes getting faster, the mid-tier and middle pack runners are getting slower. We can also see this in the dropping team depth (via Speed Ratings) that has been documented over the past few years. In contrast to that, NFHS Sport Enrollment Numbers have been increasing YOY for the past decade, so in theory, those Mid-Pack runners should be getting better, because there is more potential per team.
No matter how you look at it, for whatever reason, Bowdoin Park has been getting slower. If the trend continues, Boys will average 17:35 through 499 runners this year, while girls will be looking at 21mins even. So don't despair if you don't beat your time from last year. It might place you higher than the year before!