What’s it like hosting a meet?

As a special, extra blog post this week, some of the West Point cadets wrote a little bit about the experience of directing and course setting a NRE! Read on to see what the process was like.

Tyler Wilson (Event Director):

While the planning process started back in October coordinating land use with Harriman State Park and Camp Buckner, the organization really picked up almost four months ago at the start of this calendar year. Every member of our 26-person team had an important role in the months leading up to the event. Our course designers began drafting designs for courses at Jackie Jones and Camp Buckner, our transportation team planned logistics, and our start, download, finish, and clothing drop crews conducted rehearsals leading up to the event. Meeting every few weeks, the team leadership deconflicted issues and planned ahead for the next meeting. We incorporated many of the lessons we learned from last year’s event to make 2023’s as enjoyable and memorable for our participants as possible. Every year, it’s an honor for us to host this event and to show off the delightfully rocky terrain around West Point we train in to the orienteering community.

For me, acting as Event Director was an incredible learning experience. It gave me a behind-the-scenes look at the challenges that directing an event entail, and taught me important lessons about planning, organizing, and leading a group of motivated people. The initiative shown by my teammates to actively take on challenges that arose made me all the more proud to be a part of the USMA Orienteering Club. Throughout the planning process, I received significant support from our team officers, as well as the director of last year’s event, Eddie Cruz, and relied heavily on their advice throughout the event. I’m grateful for the invaluable mentorship I received, and I look forward to passing it on as I advise the Event Director (one of our rising juniors) as they take on the event next year. To all our participants, thank you for coming to orienteer with us at West Point. We hope that it was as rewarding for you to participate as it was for us to host, and we hope to see you at the event next year!

Holden Sopoti (Sprint Course Designer):

Designing the Sprint course was a long and complicated process. Because Camp Buckner had some restricted areas and overall did not give me a lot of room to operate, I had to smart with my control choices. I was able to utilize the large hill in the middle of the map for the longer courses, getting all of my elevation gain in there and causing fatigue in the runners early. Then, I was able to use the final bay area before the finish to test the runners’ technical abilities by bouncing them between identical buildings. I set the courses up like this to test the participants’ ability to make route choice decisions after already accumulating some fatigue, and overall, I was really pleased by everyone’s performance. I really enjoyed designing this course and having the freedom to explore leg options.

Holden running his sprint

Shawn Mather (Middle Course Designer):

I began designing the West Point NRE Middle course in January of 2023 with only 1.5 years of experience of Orienteering in general. To say I had no knowledge base of how to design a course is an understatement, and my first drafts certainly exemplified that. My primary goal, however, was to find an ideal start and finish location for all courses that would be enjoyable for competitors and beneficial for logistics. I figured I could try to hide my lack of knowledge in how to make a technically challenging course through creating a more atmospherically pleasing experience. Designing a middle course is all about getting a competitor to focus on the map and be deliberate with route choice, and middles are my favorite courses to run personally. That’s why the most rewarding part of the course design process was me going out in the woods to visit every control, experience what it would be like to approach it from varying angles and trying to visualize the entire course in my head. The challenge of Cadet life, of course, limits me to an hour or two a week to actually work on courses and around 8 days to go out on the land for an hour or so each day. I never thought I would get the opportunity to design the Middle for this year’s NRE – and it certainly made my already busy life into an unbelievably busy life – but it was certainly an invaluable experience that I learned a lot from. I hope in the future to continue designing courses and take every opportunity I can to improve in that regard.

Neal Anderson (Long Course Designer): 

I want to start out by saying it was a great privilege to design a long course for a national ranking event. I learned so much about course design and orienteering in general. With it being a long course, the main focus was on creating as much route choice as possible, especially for the advanced courses. The goal was to create legs where competitors truly had difficulty choosing the best route. The process began with identifying as many interesting route choice legs as possible. With a lot of help from Jordan Laughlin, I created some legs that went beyond just the trail or no trail option, which was originally the extent of my understanding of route choice. From there, it became a matter of figuring out how to integrate these major route choice legs together with shorter legs. Since West Point has no shortage of excellent boulder, knoll, and cliff features, I decided to use them for many of the controls. This would force precise map reading near the control to challenge runners to avoid parallel feature errors, which on top of interesting route choice options, would make for a truly fun and demanding course. 

There were several significant challenges throughout this process. Balancing this rigorous process with cadet life was cause for more than a couple of late nights. This was made more difficult by the fact that Lake Welch is about half an hour away from West Point. Finding the time to get out there and run through the terrain was a challenge. My options for going to Lake Welch were limited to afternoon practice time and for a couple of hours on weekends. Additionally, designing the orange and brown courses was difficult due to the harsh terrain of the area. I felt my options were most limited with these courses. Nevertheless, I am grateful for every moment of the process, as it has improved my skills and truly cemented my passion for the sport. I would like to thank Jordan Laughlin and the training section of USMAOC for their invaluable contributions throughout the course design process. The long courses would not have been half as good without their guidance.

And to wrap up the post, just a reminder that the Junior Squad/YDP are hosting a control challenge to support travel to Europe this summer for the European Youth Orienteering Championships and for the Junior Worlds! Check out this post for all of the details.


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