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The Owatonna girls soccer team, seen here lining up for the National Anthem during a late-season game at the Owatonna Soccer Complex this past fall, is one of four OHS teams to win Big Nine Conference titles in 2019-2020. (Jon Weisbrod/People’s Press)

The very concept of an All-Sports Cup is an inexact science, specifically when it comes to the Big Nine Conference.

The most glaring flaw in the process of calculating which overall athletic programs fared the best in a complete academic year is the simple fact that not every school sponsors every sport. Adapted floor hockey, competitive dance and clay target are three of the big ones that don’t have representation within the majority of the Big Nine.

And what about gymnastics? For some reason the conference site doesn’t list the standings or results. The only information given is a compilation of historic champions and individual all-conference performers from the most recent season. This past winter, Owatonna claimed the title for the fifth straight year.

Throw in the fact that Winona doesn’t have a girls hockey team, Red Wing doesn’t sponsor wrestling and schools are broken into a pair of separate districts for football, and it becomes crystal clear why this process is not considered empirical. That can especially be said for 2019-20 considering the entire spring slate was wiped away by the increased concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite all of its inherent faults, it was still interesting to dive into the numbers and reflect on how things panned out during the fall and winter seasons.

Let’s get right to it.

THE FORMULA

The method of calculating the All-Sports Cup was pretty straightforward.

Sort of.

Each school was given one point for where it ended in the official conference standings listed at Big9.org, meaning 77 total points were up for grabs in each sport except football (more on that later). The lower the number, the better.

If teams finished tied — whether it was first, last or somewhere in between — they were each given the corresponding number of their final position in the league. For example, Rochester John Marshall, Winona and Faribault each posted the same conference record in volleyball and tied for fourth place, so each was given four points.

Here’s where things got a little tricky. The conference’s 12 teams are broken into two different districts for football with New Prague being thrown into the mix just to complicate things. These leagues are the Big Southeast Red Division and the Big Southeast Blue Division.

In order to keep things consistent, numbers were attached based on where each football program landed in their respective sub-district, meaning Owatonna and Winona were each awarded one point even though they technically didn’t finish tied for first place. The Huskies captured the title in the Red Division and the Winhawks in the Blue. Both finished 8-0 in the regular season.

As for the two sports (girls hockey and wrestling) that are missing one school apiece, points were based on the average overall finish of the remaining 11 sports of the two teams that were left out.

Winona’s average spot was seventh, so it was given seven points for girls hockey. Red Wing’s average was eighth, so — you guessed it — eight points were added for wrestling.

THE FINAL TALLY

In an incredibly tight race for the top spot, it was Owatonna that took home this year’s All-Sports Cup with 48 total points.

Sliding in just behind was Northfield and Mankato West with 49 apiece, but it is the Raiders who — if this were an actual competition, of course — will officially be awarded the silver medal because they collected more conference titles by a 3-1 edge.

The remaining standings go as follows: 4. Rochester Mayo (55); 5. Rochester Century (59); 6. Mankato East (65); 7. Austin (83); 8. Winona (84); 9. Rochester John Marshall (89); 10. Albert Lea (96); 11. Faribault (97); 12. Red Wing (105)

FACTS, TRENDS, DATA

There are actually quite a few interesting things that emerged after crunching the numbers and sifting through the data.

Here is a distilled version of what was found:

-Each of the top five schools in the standings have at least 1,101 students and boast an average enrollment of 1,315. The bottom seven, on the other hand, have just two schools with more than 1,000 kids and feature a far greater contrast in student body numbers, ranging from the smallest, Albert Lea (678), to the second-largest, John Marshall (1,463).

-Three schools captured a league-high three conference titles. Unsurprisingly, Owatonna and Northfield are two of them. The third, Rochester Century, was less predictable as the Panthers finished in fifth place overall. It should come as little surprise that CHS also compiled three double-digit finishes as well. The Huskies, Raiders and Mankato East, on the other hand, ended no lower than ninth place in any of the 12 sports.

-The top four schools — Owatonna, Northfield, West and Mayo — were separated by just seven total points. The average finish for the foursome was right around fourth place with the Huskies posting a 4.0-even; West and NHS a 4.1 and Mayo a 4.6.

-Ironically, of the bottom four teams it was last-place Red Wing that accounted for the only conference title of the group, capturing the championship in girls basketball with a 20-2 record in league action. Outside of that, the Wingers’ best finish in the fall and winter combined was fifth place.

-There were only two schools that both captured at least one conference championship and finished in last place. The Wingers, as mentioned, took home the girls basketball title and finished 12th in three different sports. Austin was the other school that landed on both ends of the spectrum, finishing first in boys soccer and last in boys hockey.

-Northfield led the league with seven top-three finishes, four in the winter (boys hockey, girls hockey, boys swimming, wrestling) and three in the fall (boys soccer, girls swimming, volleyball). Three schools, Owatonna, Mankato West and Century, tabulated six top-three finishes.

-Of the Scarlets’ six top-three finishes, five came during the fall season as they did not end any lower than fifth place in the six eligible sports during those months.

ALL-BALL RESULTS

Though this calculation is incomplete since baseball, softball and lacrosse didn’t happen this year, the All-Ball standings are meant to determine which teams performed the best in sports that, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, include a ball.

This year, seven activities (boys basketball, girls basketball, football, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and volleyball) were taken into account and the final results were actually very interesting.

Amassing just 21 total points and finishing comfortably in first place, it was Rochester Mayo that won this year’s All-Sports sub-category. The Spartans racked up an impressive four top-two finishes in boys basketball (2nd), girls basketball (2nd), girls tennis (1st) and volleyball (2nd).

Another rather significant finding in the category was the fact that the All-Sports second place finisher, Northfield, amassed 39 points and ended in seventh on the All-Ball list, and this includes the Raiders’ conference title in volleyball and second place finish in boys soccer. Basically, it was feast or famine for NHS when it came to these particular sports. In the final Big Nine standings, Northfield came in ninth place in boys and girls basketball, seventh (of seven) in football and seventh in girls tennis.

The All-Sports winner, Owatonna, tallied 30 points and finished with the third-best total of 30 points, six behind Mankato West’s 24. Interestingly, half of the Huskies’ four overall titles came from sports on the All-Ball list.

The Scarlets absolutely cleaned up in the fall, capturing five top-three finishes in the Big Nine and ending no lower than fifth in any of the six sports.

Reach sports editor Jon Weisbrod at 444-2375, or follow him on Twitter.com @OPPJon. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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