I first made notice of something happening while standing at the results wall of the Palatine Invite, where our injured captain, Patrick Santino, seemed to be taking extraordinary interest in the results of runners from other teams, not our own. He had a pen and paper, and he was taking notes.
Later, I found out why when another runner, either Ray Lewis or Tim Hatzopolous, showed me the scoring sheet for their “fantasy high school cross country” game that day. Four or five members of the team had conducted a draft before the meet, with each of them picking runners competing that day to assemble their own dream teams. Then they rescored the meet for their own fantasy meet according to the final results.
The idea, apparently, is not original to our boys. Other teams have been playing fantasy cross country on a meet by meet basis, as well. But our boys claim credit for taking the fantasy game to the next level.
On Friday evening, at our pasta party before the Pat Savage Niles West invitational, six members of our team conducted a fantasy draft from among all the top runners in the state. They have figured out some method by which they will score meets from the final two weeks before the conference meets, then the conference meets, then regionals, sectionals, and state meet. The different meets will be weighted in terms of importance. I suspect that there is some kind of prize involved for the winning fantasy coach.
I can probably collect more details if there are blog readers who want to organize their own fantasy leagues. But at this point I don’t quite understand it completely—and that is about as much understanding as I can handle.
Always looking for indications that our overall team program is making strides, I did consider that the fantasy game is a sign of progress for our program. Going back three or four years ago, few on our team would have been much interested in the results of the top runners in the state, other than those from our own Chicago Catholic League conference. Our boys now not only know those runners by names, schools, and performances, in many cases they know them personally—after a week together at the Wisconsin camp, or from the Tracktalk.net forum, or just chatting after races. Some boys refused to draft runners they didn’t really like; others picked them anyway, because they wanted to win.
During their fantasy draft, the boys made decisions based upon inside information about injuries and illnesses. Jack Keelan had talked with York’s Alex Mimlitz at Palatine about his injury status, and only after Mimlitz was drafted did Keelan divulge what he knew.
For the record, Keelan was allowed to draft himself number three overall. Santino drafted himself as his last pick, among the last in the draft overall. “I know I’m recovering from my injury,” he told the group.
The boys have promised me updates for the blog when they have something interesting to report on how the league is developing.