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Another obscure track stat: finishing in alphabetical order

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  • #16
    I don't see how the fact that surnames are not evenly distributed across the alphabet affects the probability of a race finishing in alphabetical order. Any set of 100m runners (as long as you don't have any with identical names) can be put into alphabetical order and there is a chance that a race between them could finish in that order.

    Obviously the probabilities given upthread are based on the order being random when in reality that will not be the case. For example, an Adam Abrahams with a PB of 9.80 is practically certain to beat a Zachary Zorn who's PB is 10.75.

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    • #17
      I'm with Trickstat on this one. In any given race, there's an alphabetical order to the field, even if the field is filled with Youngs and Zebras. And there's no a priori reason to expect that their sprinting abilities have a substantial correlation to their place in that order.

      Now what is true is that for a single given field of sprinters, the likelihood of an alphabetical finish if the same field ran together many times will *not* be 1/720. But averaged over many different fields, I think it does.

      Looking to see how many times the London Marathon field has finished in alphabetical order.

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      • #18
        Originally posted by cigar95 View Post
        ....
        Looking to see how many times the London Marathon field has finished in alphabetical order.
        ignoring K's that is!


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        • #19
          Originally posted by Trickstat View Post
          I don't see how the fact that surnames are not evenly distributed across the alphabet affects the probability of a race finishing in alphabetical order. Any set of 100m runners (as long as you don't have any with identical names) can be put into alphabetical order and there is a chance that a race between them could finish in that order.

          Obviously the probabilities given upthread are based on the order being random when in reality that will not be the case. For example, an Adam Abrahams with a PB of 9.80 is practically certain to beat a Zachary Zorn who's PB is 10.75.
          My concern was whether the alpha order and finishing order are in fact independent odds or need to be combined. As you say, talent is driving results, so the odds of competitors' finishing order across the field are not equal in any individual race.

          Does this matter in the long run? Not if talent is evenly distributed acrosss the name space because then every name order will have its day. But is it? We know that sprint talent is concentrated in those with a particular geographical heritage and if this concentration of talent was also reflected in the name distribution this might skew the odds.

          As an extreme example, if the Zzyzzygy clan had a genetic mutation that produced a couple of Boltesque sprinters every decade, there's a much smaller chance of alphabetical order if they win 50% of the races every year.

          The natural odds for 1-6 when rolling a die are well know but that doesn't stop casinos being paranoid and checking!

          I won't be back on the board for another week or so won't be contributing here or elsewhere. I'll be looking forward to JC's reverse alpha results when I come back!

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          • #20
            Originally posted by gh View Post

            ignoring K's that is!

            Yes, somehow K’s are very good in distance races. This explains Kolehmainen, Kuts and Kardong!😂

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            • #21
              Originally posted by JC100 View Post
              I've found three cases in history where the first six in a men's 100 metres race finished in alphabetical order. Here they are:



              Villeneuve 2 July 1993
              10.03 Andre Cason
              10.04 Frank Fredericks
              10.07 Carl Lewis
              10.08 Mark McKoy
              10.16 Dennis Mitchell
              10.22 Bruny Surin
              Quite the field that Andre Cason, who is almost forgotten today, took down that day. The finishing order is so counterintuitive that they must have conspired to finish in alphabetical order!

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              • #22
                For the period when Bolt and Blake were in their best shape, the odds of alphabetic finishes were likely much higher in elite races than a few years earlier when Powell was dominant.

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by El Toro View Post
                  I won't be back on the board for another week or so won't be contributing here or elsewhere. I'll be looking forward to JC's reverse alpha results when I come back!
                  I had not actually thought of that! First six in reverse alphabetical order for the men's 100m:

                  Helsinki 7 August 1983 (quarter final 3)
                  10.31 Desai Williams
                  10.37 Allan Wells
                  10.39 Juan Nuñez
                  10.44 Osvaldo Lara
                  10.45 Chidi Imoh
                  10.55 Viktor Bryzgin

                  Des Moines 21 June 2013 (semi final 1, with strong tail wind)
                  9.85 Charles Silmon
                  9.86 Rakieem Salaam
                  9.97 Dentarius Locke
                  10.02 Trell Kimmons
                  10.06 Jeffery Demps
                  10.24 Kind Butler

                  College Station 26 May 2021 (quarter final 6)
                  10.09 Micah Williams
                  10.12 Jackson Webb
                  10.21 Demarius Smith
                  10.25 Kamden Jackson
                  10.26 Jalen Drayden
                  10.29 Gaston Bouchereau

                  I have 2404 races in my database with at least the first six finishers, so the 1/720 calculation is not too far off.
                  Last edited by JC100; Today, 02:28 AM.
                  100m - A New Look at the World's Greatest Race

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