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Discussion: NorAm Urban Series and/or Champs Idea

in: Orienteering; General

Aug 10, 2016 2:33 PM # 
With WOC splitting into urban/sprint and forest in a few years and with the US hosting the 2021 World Games that has a sprint focus it seems like a good time to raise the profile of North American urban/sprint orienteering with the aim of developing specialists, growing the sport and recruitment.

One way to do this is to develop a series of urban race weekends that would be attractive to sprint orienteering specialists but also to younger runners that would be attracted to the opportunity to race in the World Games and WOC.

The series would ideally consist of 5 or 6 weekends of races and training each year. With sprint weekends already established in Vancouver, Seattle, and Boston that would ideally provide the backbone of a series.

Another idea (and this would be a bold move) would be for Orienteering Canada and OUSA to strip the sprint off their S, M, L national and NAOC champs weekends and instead agree on having an annual sprint NorAm Champs weekend (that could be the final weekend of the series) and includes a sprint qual, sprint finals, mixed relay and maybe another race like a team street scramble. I'd love to see this develop into a club-company partnership. i.e., if somebody out there sees the potential of making money off urban orienteering.

The timing of that finals/champs would need to be such that it does not conflict with university/college track and XC championships (which might not be possible).

To keep the format very simple the individual day could have these categories: M/W Open, M/W Masters (45+), M/W University, M/W High School. Kick off with a sprint qual and then have A, B, and C finals. Masters, Uni and HS runners also eligible to win open category since all run same course. On Day#2 (team day) there would also be a team mixed sprint race and if time/interest permits a longer street scramble or adventure run.

Thoughts? Too bold? Too late?
Aug 10, 2016 3:10 PM # 
I like this idea.
Aug 10, 2016 3:42 PM # 
Bolder. Park World Tour was heavy on pizzazz...photogenic locales, something dramatic like running through a shallow park lake...done in part to make orienteering interesting for sponsors and media. Maybe include at least one pizazz event a year...Quebec City, Central Park, maybe Alcatraz. Get TV, or Live Stream.
Aug 10, 2016 4:14 PM # 
I like the idea of stripping the sprints out of the existing SML champs, so they can go back to being 2-day weekends.

For the categories I'd suggest replacing the school designations with age categories, e.g. -18 and -22 or whatever. No need to tie one's athletic life to one's current scholastic enrollment or non-enrollment, especially if the schools aren't providing any support. You'll probably also need to add a few more vet categories in the upper age range if you want to attract folks who no longer have the running speed to keep up with the 45+ crowd.
Aug 10, 2016 5:37 PM # 
I really like the idea of a series of urban race weekends, especially if each has two or more National Meet/Canada Cup races as part of their program. The two I have attended in Vancouver and Boston have been great fun, accessible, and inclusive for newcomers to the orienteering scene.

I don't like the idea of explicitly removing sprint from SML weekends. In the US, over the past ten years, we have largely consolidated our National Meet championship events from 87 different competitions to 2 - SML and Classic champs. With NAOC on top of that, we're already looking at a lot of weekends. One advantage of the SML format is that it can be a vessel for cross-pollination. Even with the split WOC, we should avoid making the sprint discipline and forest disciplines two separate sports. Adding more sprint events (possibly including a big annual sprint tournament, as you state) is excellent, but maintaining SML will encourage sprint folks to try running in the woods and vice versa.

So perhaps for now, a calendar could consist of:
- Annual US and Canadian champs, SML (possibly with bonus relay or sprint relay event)
- Biannual NAOC, SML + Relay
- Annual Sprint tournament, 5-6 sprinty events, alternating country locations
- 5-6 sprint weekends

I especially like the idea of Canada and the US coordinating the sprint competitions into a unified calendar. Each country could put on 2-4 of the camps and could alternate the sprint tournament location.
Aug 10, 2016 6:00 PM # 
As far as some of us are concerned, SML events are two-race weekends anyway. Especially when the sprint is conveniently on Friday evening.
Aug 10, 2016 6:38 PM # 
Except look at the SML coming up next month, with the middle inconveniently on Friday. It's not so bad the way Canada usually does it with their SML during the summer. But the US seems to keep doing SML during the school year, requiring a choice be made between skipping a race or skipping a day or more of school. Some schools don't challenge kids enough for that to make a lot of difference. Some do. Before sprint came into the picture it was pretty rare to have 3-day race weekends.
Aug 10, 2016 8:00 PM # 
I don't know that we're ready to split the SML championship weekend into two different champs weekends (not that I'm necessarily opposed to the idea).

As for the concept of a Urban race series.... perhaps we should just talk about a race series of any kind?

Regardless of whether it's forest, urban, or mixed, it would be fantastic for our domestic competition if we could figure out how to develop a strong race series that a significant portion of HPP and national team athletes actually attend. I'm not sure what's it like in the US right now but the level of competition by our own athletes at Canada Cup events and Canadian Championships are laughably low.

We need to do a better of job of creating something that is worth attending for our athletes. Perhaps this would be easier with urban orienteering. Perhaps not. Either way, how do we do that? Prize money? WRE status? Promise of good maps? Promise of good competition? Free entries, accommodation, airfare for those we want to attend?
Aug 10, 2016 8:24 PM # 
WRE status is laughable irrelevant given the new scoring system. I can't speak for everyone, but I don't respect the scoring method enough to care about whether a race is WRE or not.

The US team executive committee has made a concerted effort to prioritize NAOC; we treat it as the biggest competition of the year for us and one which everyone should attend. We allocate some funds to help team members with travel expenses. By far, the biggest draw for me to attend an event is the knowledge that it will have a deep competitive field. Perhaps between the HPP and the US team, we can create that by jointly prioritizing a few events each year (e.g. COCs, NAOC, US SML) as the premier races for that year.
Aug 10, 2016 8:56 PM # 
JeffT: Very good points. Was the collapse of the Canadian domestic scene discussed at the Orienteering Canada AGM in Canmore?
Aug 10, 2016 9:05 PM # 
Nev, no it wasn't.

It's an interesting issue because I don't think we should be discouraging athletes from moving to or training in Europe in any way. At the same time it's super important that we have competition here in Canada or we'll never be able to develop with any kind of consistency.

I'm not sure what the answer is but I'm hoping Orienteering Canada's new Major Events Committee* can work together with the HPC (High Performance Committee) to look at solutions.

Ian, yes, we definitely need to be working together on this to both coordinate and promote joint schedules and participation.

*Which I am a member of.
Aug 10, 2016 9:16 PM # 
Who else is on the Major Events Committee?
Aug 10, 2016 10:19 PM # 
another good starting discussion by Hammer. +1... and hope something might come out of this..we'll watch it closely how story develops.. we have lots of maps or areas that are suitable for this format. and no bears !
Aug 11, 2016 7:28 PM # 
Pink Socks:
I like running sprints, organizing sprints, and making sprint maps, so I like this thread.

The Seattle tournament (the finals are one month from today, btw!) promises great maps and very photogenic locales (and last year, a lot of really really fast runners, including a WOC medalist). And I'd be all for it being a part of whatever.

That said, I think sprints are a tough sell to a lot of existing orienteers, so we'd want to think about outreach to make this a success.


I don't like the idea of explicitly removing sprint from SML weekends... One advantage of the SML format is that it can be a vessel for cross-pollination. Even with the split WOC, we should avoid making the sprint discipline and forest disciplines two separate sports.... maintaining SML will encourage sprint folks to try running in the woods and vice versa.

I don't think this is too much of a problem, honestly. If you look at the best Olympic sport, volleyball, they have two completely separate events (indoor and beach) and there's virtually no cross-pollination at any level. Some people like both, and some people like just one.

With a SML, it's easy to get the pro-woods people to try a sprint: 90% of their "on the clock" time is already in the woods, so they won't complain about a "bonus" third event at a venue that sometimes isn't a great sprint venue (but hey, it's convenient to the woods). But it's a harder sell for pro-urban people to try woods events at a SML. Come for one possibly decent sprint, and stay for two slogs through the woods?

I guess my point is, it's a lot easier to cross-pollinate in one direction than the other. And we're talking national level events here. I'd imagine that most people figure out what they like better at local events, which are a mix of everything.
Aug 12, 2016 3:12 AM # 
well written pink socks. My thoughts on this are that we have had 10 years now to attract newbies to sprint but we have not succeeded. Would we have more success if we had a dedicated series and a sprint only champs? I think so but not sure but we do know that status quo isn't working.

Having a M-L only weekend may also be better suited as a 2-day total time champs (modified classic) or as NEOC andOttawa OC have often done a M time trial followed by a L pursuit.
Aug 12, 2016 2:41 PM # 
I love sprints (despite not being very fast) and orienteering in the urban environment and would love to see something like this in the US. I'm pretty jealous of some of the cool city maps I see coming out of WOC and other international events, but it's unlikely I'll ever make it to much overseas. And I miss the old Sprint Series, even though many of those were still park/forest sprints.

Personally I think I'd have a much greater chance of getting friends out to try an urban type sprint (and I think they'd be more likely to try it on their own or come more than once.) I've brought many people to traditional meets over the years, and while most enjoyed it they showed no desire to pick it up as a continuing sport or hobby.
Aug 12, 2016 4:42 PM # 
Already talking about this as director of sport development for OUSA. Can anyone speak for O Canada and their interest of working together? Lots of talk here who wants to do it?

We are working on an Urban A meet in BAOC this December. Format Night-O sprint relay, 3 round head to head elimination Saturday and Qual final Sunday. Could be included although that leaves a lot of east coast west coast races. Any good central venues?
Aug 12, 2016 5:14 PM # 
You know there's a difference between urban and sprint? What we found in the Uk (and Venice, Porto etc) is that elites like the 12-15 min sprint, but the bigger market for beginners and older folk is in the longer tourist run around "cool city maps".

The UK "urban league" has been going for 4-5 year, and already six copycat regional leagues have sprung up...

One advantage of the longer format is you can be a bit more laid back about road crossings, both in planning (trading technical challenge for safety) and racing (trading running speed for safety).

I can remember when the elites were very derisory about "sprint" - if the IOF choose the popular longer urban format as the "new WOC discipline" they'll take to that as well.
Aug 12, 2016 6:35 PM # 
thanks for posting graeme. The popularity of the longer format urban racing in the UK is why I suggested (if time permitted) having a longer street scramble or some other format. I think a variety of urban races on a weekend would be attractive to a variety of orienteers and the running community.
Aug 15, 2016 11:28 PM # 
Stripping Sprint from SML would make it niche elite event. Right now it attracts cohorts of masters. Sprint is part of WMOCs.

I would not personally travel to sprint only events.

Making a separate urban sprint long weekend annual NA championships may be a good idea. Coupled with club relay championships and other events to attract bigger crowd.

One another suggestion is always to couple these sprint champs with other major championships on the previous or following weekend. That would allow to have days in between filled with other events.

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