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Ivy League vs. NESCAC

BriskJoggerBriskJogger Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
I wanted to know the differences between the two leagues in regard to cross country and track. I'm going to be a senior this year and am looking at running mainly between schools in these two conferences. I want to hear about the differences between the two and what the pros and cons of each are? What are the time commitments like? Also, any personal experiences would help.
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Replies to: Ivy League vs. NESCAC

  • SwimDad99SwimDad99 Registered User Posts: 182 Junior Member
    edited August 9
    We just went through this process with my oldest son (a swimmer). His final choice was between Williams and Dartmouth.

    I think there are at least a few key factors here. First, how competitive would you be at each level? My son was a solid D1 swimmer, but understood that he'd be a conference level swimmer in D1 and probably a national level swimmer in D3. Also, how good are the teams? My son was choosing between a perennial conference champion D3 team versus a Dartmouth team that has finished in the cellar for as long as I can recall. He chose Williams in part because he assumed -- reasonably, I think -- that it would be much more fun to be a fast kid on a good team than a middle-of-the-pack kid on a bad team. Finally, there is the issue of time commitment. My son was very much aware that a D1 program would probably require a significantly higher level of time commitment, and he has other interests in addition to swimming and school that he'd like to pursue.

    Now, men's swimming at Williams and Dartmouth are relatively extreme examples. If we were comparing Johns Hopkins (big university but D3); Colgate (relatively small school but D1); and Pomona (small school and D3), the differences in terms of the sports experience would not be so stark, and it may come down almost exclusively to academic fit.

    In the end, this is a very personal decision, but I think my kid made the right call (for him) for the right decisions.

    Good luck as you sort this out!
  • shuttlebusshuttlebus Registered User Posts: 156 Junior Member
    My kid just went through the process and his final choices came down to a school in the NESCAC and a school in the Ivy League. My son chose the NESCAC school because he thought both the academic and athletic experience would be better for him at the NESCAC school.

    From an athletic standpoint, his reasons were very similar to those of @swimdad99.

    My older kid plays in the NEWMAC. D3 gives him time to pursue other activities outside the classroom besides athletics. I don't think this would be as easy to do if he were playing D1 at an Ivy.
  • ThankYouforHelpThankYouforHelp Registered User Posts: 1,220 Senior Member
    We went through this exact question with our recruited athlete. After talking to coaches and doing some research, we came away with the clear impression that the Ivies may not have scholarships, but they still act like D1 schools. That means that athletics is expected to be your biggest priority, that the time commitment will be larger, that it affects what classes you take, etc. She went to Amherst, where sports are taken seriously but are viewed as an extracurricular entirely subordinate to the academic experience, while the education quality and career outcomes are every bit Ivy-level. It has worked out great for her. If, however, you dream of going to the Olympics someday and want to maximize their track career, then it might not be the choice for you.

    Interestingly, we also learned that for an elite athlete with lesser academic qualifications, it is easier to get admitted to the Ivies than to the top NESCAC schools. The Ivy "academic index" allows for a lot more flexibility at the lower end than the banding system used at Amherst and Williams.
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  • Ohiodad51Ohiodad51 Registered User Posts: 2,233 Senior Member
    edited August 9
    I will give you the opposite perspective. My son was recruited by several schools in both the Ivy and the NESCAC. To him, the Ivy was preferable because of 1)higher level of competition, 2)better facilities and equipment, 3) better coaching, 4)better medical/training staff, 5)defined processes for admission and the handling of academic/athletic issues and 6)better financial aid, which was admittedly more important to dad.

    Lots of what is said above is true. Your committment in the Ivy will be greater than in the NESCAC. It is still not anything like normal D1 though, and I disagree strongly that athletics are supposed to be the top priority in the Ivy.
    Athletes there are still manifestly students first, which is as it should be. But Ivy athletes carry a lot on their plates. They are handling academics which are at least on a par with the top of the NESCAC while carrying a much larger committment to their sport. Sacrifice is required, and my son at least plays less x box and goes out far less often than he likely would if he was playing at Amherst (his favorite of the NESCACs). His summers are more truncated and his season much longer. It is just how it is.

    Some kids want the challenge, and feel that the essence of competition is to push themselves physically to succeed at a high level. For those kids, the sacrifices necessitated by the Ivy's more robust competition and consequent committment may be worth it. For others the point may be to find a level where they can compete while taking less time from other aspects of their life. It is very much a personal decision. Either way you jump, perspective is in order. Deciding between Williams and Penn for example is a choice to be relished.
  • politepersonpoliteperson Registered User Posts: 116 Junior Member
    @BriskJogger I'd take the time to look at the outdoor performance lists by conference on tfrrs.org. For a current Ivy recruit, it's worth asking whether the NESCAC would provide an appropriate competitive challenge when projecting for improvement. More importantly, will a single NESCAC program provide the opportunity to train with a group at your level? For some, the answer to these questions may be 'yes' and others may not care. But if these things are important to you and you're a boy running a 3:55 1500 already (or a girl running 4:35), then it's worth drilling down into the conference and team level results. (A lot more density at the top of the Ivy, likely a faster training group at each school, and the fastest are often legit NCAA finals contenders). If you're not at this level, the question may be moot anyway.
  • ChembiodadChembiodad Registered User Posts: 1,624 Senior Member
    @politeperson, not certain that a 4:35 is a reasonable benchmark as there are only ~30 HS girls in country that are running that mark; the top-250 achieved 4:50 and the top-500 achieved 4:50 - those are all D1 times.
  • politepersonpoliteperson Registered User Posts: 116 Junior Member
    @chembiodad yes, not all Ivy recruits are running those times. But those who are need to consider who they'll be running with and against. I could be a bit off on the girls side as I'm more familiar with boys, but my impression was that Ivies are looking for 4:35-40ish times for mid-d girls (usually converted from 1600 times). Maybe the range is wider than that? Anyway, my point is that someone in that range would have a different competitive and team experience in the different conferences.
  • wisteria100wisteria100 Registered User Posts: 2,986 Senior Member
    Ivies will post recruiting times as well as walk on times. For the women's mile, most recruiting times are sub 5 minutes, but does vary by school a bit.
  • wisteria100wisteria100 Registered User Posts: 2,986 Senior Member
    ^^one reason there are not so many high school girls with 4:35 times in the 1500, is because not all leagues/meets run that distance. Many run the 1600 or mile, and colleges will then convert times. But once you get to college meets, there were 700 girls posting that time this year.
  • ChembiodadChembiodad Registered User Posts: 1,624 Senior Member
    Ivy Women's Recruiting standard and Team standard are 10-15 seconds apart for the 1500, so when they are searching for 4::45 they are accepting 4:55-5:00.
  • politepersonpoliteperson Registered User Posts: 116 Junior Member
    @Chembiodad I just took a look at Harvard's recruiting class for this year. Of the 3 distance women they highlight, there's a 10:27 two miler, 4:48 miler (9:33 3k), and a 4:52 miler (2:10 800). Yale incoming class looks comparable (and a 4:23/9:23 gal--wow!). Those are the types of athletes my point was aimed at. It's great if they're including women in the range you mention, but my point probably isn't an issue for them.
  • StartingblockStartingblock Registered User Posts: 40 Junior Member
    I am a parent of a track and field athlete who nudged his kid toward NESCAC but he ended up at on an Ivy team. Several years later, here are a few takes for the OP on NESCAC vs. Ivy track and field:

    As others mention, basing part of your decision on whether to be a big fish in a smaller pond or vice versa makes complete sense. If you want to be an Ivy League conference event champion, or compete at DI nationals, you will need to be extremely talented.

    Basing part of your decision on expected time commitment, and assuming NESCAC is less time consuming than Ivy, may not serve you well. You should talk to the coaches about their training philosophies and practice schedules. The differences in training time commitment will largely be driven the team coach’s training philosophy and practice hours not by the athletic conference or division. I know others will disagree with this assertion but I suspect most will be commenting from the perspective of sports other than track and field.

    Related to time commitment, take a hard look at the number of meets and their locations. Some teams regularly make long bus trips to meets and have overnight stays which eats up many weekends during the school year. My athlete regularly competes at home meets or at tracks less than an hour away so he rarely does an overnight and he is not getting up early/home late on weekends. It adds up.

    Look into the medical/rehab resources. You will almost certainly get injured if you are competing all three seasons. I was pretty amazed at the resources made available to my son when he suffered a pretty significant injury.
  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone Registered User Posts: 14,065 Senior Member
    Related to time commitment, take a hard look at the number of meets and their locations. Some teams regularly make long bus trips to meets and have overnight stays which eats up many weekends during the school year. My athlete regularly competes at home meets or at tracks less than an hour away so he rarely does an overnight and he is not getting up early/home late on weekends. It adds up.

    I think this point has to be emphasized. My D's first year the team was also a first year team. The coach scheduled 3 weekend 10+ hour (each way) road trips. All were toward the end of the season, all were brutal. The kids were exhausted. Coach learned and now they only do one trip, at the beginning of the season. They play 11 of 15 games at home, and 2 of the others are within 3 hours of home. There are some teams doing the opposite, playing 10 games on the road, traveling every other weekend. Sucks for them.

    A friend's son is looking at schools for baseball and engineering. I told her to look at schedules and see how much travel the teams do as a Texas or Florida school might do a lot less than a school in the frozen north.
  • ChembiodadChembiodad Registered User Posts: 1,624 Senior Member
    Agree that while level of competition at NESCAC meets will never match Ivy, the training requirements and commitment may be similar with the exception of the 4:00 end of class rule which seems to be consistent across NESCAC. Regarding travel, as the NESCAC schools don't compete head to head in XC and track the travel requirements seems to be reasonable with some invitational and Conference overnights, but an equal number of home meets against local competition.
  • gointhruaphasegointhruaphase Registered User Posts: 351 Member
    The NESCAC has a travel rule and limitations on games. For example, the NCAA limits the number of baseball games in D3 to 40. It is not unusual for a NESCAC school to squeak in at 35, many of which take place in Florida during spring break. Also the length of travel is limited during the week. This is why most league games are on the weekend. Some schools are fairly close, so you may find Wesleyan playing Trinity during the week, but Trinity will play Bates on the weekend. There are many other rules, such as game time not breaking into a class. All of this is intended to protect the student athlete from becoming more athlete than student.

    That said, the competition level in the NESCAC is quite high. I think most people presume that the NESCAC collegiate level is that of a good high school team. It is not. It is significantly higher. You hear the stories of individuals on a team who were recruited to high level D1 programs, but who want to focus somewhat more on academics or other aspects of college. So many of the athletes are quite high level talent wise. To be sure, year round team practices will increase skill level, even if all other things were equal. So, could a Wesleyan or Williams baseball team beat Brown on a given day? Perhaps. But overall, skills will be better in the Ivies.
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