A Better Way to Visualize XC Team Results

I’ve always thought that we could do a lot better displaying XC race team results.  The cold, dry text format that we’re all used to is nice for a quick score, but pretty bad for most anything else.  Just how did our fifth runner stack up against everyone else’s?  Sure, you can scan the column and compare a couple teams at a time, but there should be a better way.

Another thing that should be easily visualized is the differences in the scores.  Let’s say we were behind a team by 10 points.  Is that a lot?  In a dual meet it’s not really that close but in the state meet or a big invitational that’s a razor thin margin!

Here’s my attempt at making cross country team results way more fun to look at.  These are the results from the North Carolina XC State meets from November 3rd, 2018.  Each column represents a team.  Each colored section in the column represents the points for one of the five scoring runners.  The total column height is the team score for the team.  Hover your mouse over the columns to see a popup that shows the runner’s name, place, and time.

Take a look and let me know what you think.  How would you improve it?  Any reason Milesplit shouldn’t do this? If you like this, follow me on Twitter.

  1. Dave,

    First congrats to you, Joan and both the boys and girls teams on another great season.

    I have tried to do something similar, but on an individual basis to see how my son was tracking against his peers from other schools. The picture is worth a thousand words, and clearly tells a story when someone is within reach and when it is time to move the target.

    What you have is great from a coach’s perspective. I would think you may want to track how ‘your’ #5 is comparing with #5 from CR. This is still difficult to compare with the stacked bars. Maybe you could put all the 5’s from all schools on one bar graph.

    Question: Wouldn’t a coach also want to know what % of the teams points is attributed to each position, and how that position (‘5’)% compares with ‘low 5’ of the meet or ‘average 5’ for the meet. Would a line graph for each position on a single graph work?

    BTW I have nothing against #5…

    1. Thanks, Philip!

      Yes, ideally you could have buttons for each runner that hides the other runners and moves, say, every fifth runner to the x-axis and then another button to restore the default. And you’re right there’s all sorts of stats you could show including the ones you mentioned.

      You might also be interested in this article that Joan sent me recently. It does a statistical analysis of 100 state meets to determine which runner (1 through 5) is typically the most decisive for a team’s victory. They conclude that it is the fourth runner but I don’t quite agree with that.


  2. Dave,

    I really like this. I agree it is a great format for the visual world we live in. I assume it would be easy to add a 6th & 7th runner to the graph? Our 6th and 7th displaced TCR and was the reason we were 3rd vs 4th in team scores. My only gripe would be is that is hard to see the #1 runner for those 1st few athletes. I know he won the race but could not pull up the winner from ECH in the boys 3A race. It is cool to see visually that MT and CH boys were essentially tied through 3 runners. The 5th runners were less than a sec apart. Our 4th man is where we really lost to CH. Is it possible to have “spread” pop up as well when you pull up your 5th? Thank you for trying to make our sport better and congrats to the Tigers on a great meet.


    1. Thanks, Patrick.

      6th and 7th: I thought about adding semi-transparent blocks for the 6th and 7th runners. When you do that, though, the max value on the y-axis would be even larger which would make the most import (winning teams) even smaller. I tried making the chart have a logarithmic scale and that might work but it’s a little confusing to people and takes away the raw scale. I might give it a shot though as it does help the winning runner become more visible.

      As for your spread question, anything is possible with enough effort. 🙂 It might be nice to have some more info in the popup – maybe a continuum representing all, say, 5th runners and where this particular 5th runner falls on the continuum. Or a direct comparison to the two adjacent teams 5th runner. Good suggestions.

      Congrats to you guys on a great meet – the state meet is always exciting!

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