Sunday, January 14, 2018

WEEKEND ROUNDUP: Heath finishes sixth at Great Edinburgh X-Country Challenge, plus indoor highlights...

Here’s a recap of what else happened with the state’s pro and college track and field athletes in the first full weekend of competition:

In Edinburgh, Scotland, Garrett Heath of the Seattle based Brooks Beasts (left/photo by John Nepolitan, dyestat.com) raced to a sixth place finish at the Great Edinburgh X Country Challenge race, finishing the 8k course at Holyrood Park Saturday in 25:03.

US Olympian Leonard Korir, whose younger sister Vallery was an NCAA cross country All-American for Washington State last fall, took the victory in 24:32, winning by three seconds over Kaan Kigen Ozbilen of Turkey, running for the European all-star team.

Heath’s sixth place finish was second on Team USATF behind Korir, as the USA finished second in the team competition behind Europe by a 47-50 margin, with Great Britain third with 74 points,


In Nampa, Idaho on Saturday, 2017 NCAA hammer qualifier Brock Eager of Washington State won the men’s 35-pound weight throw with a toss of 65-2 (19.86m),  while the Cougs’ Aoife Martin won the women’s weight throw on Friday night with a throw of 56-4.75 (17.19m) at the Ed Jacoby Invitational, hosted by Boise State.

Other winners for the Cougs included Ja’Maun Charles in the 60 and 200 (6.79/21.72); Jake Ulrich in the 400 (48.95); Nick Johnson in the 60 hurdles (7.98); and the men’s 4x400 relay (3:19.52).

Stephanie Cho was WSU’s other female winner, taking the 400 in 56.35.

WSU alum Kiana Davis won the triple jump with a personal best 42-10.25 (13.06m).

Puyallup native and Boise State alum David Elliott won the men’s mile in 4:06.30.


In Moscow, Idaho, the Eastern Washington women took six victories, while the men earned three wins at the Vandal Indoor Invitational hosted by the University of Idaho Friday and Saturday.

The Eagles’ Keshun McGee was the team’s lone double winner, taking the long jump (23-11.5/7.30m) and the triple jump (49-9.25/15.17m).

Larry Still won the men’s pole vault, clearing 16-6.75 (5.05m), while Samantha Raines took the women’s vault at 11-11.25 (3.64m).

Leanne Asper had the top women’s performance for the Eagles, winning the 800 in 2:12.49, just 1/100th away from the EWU school record of 2:12.48 set in 2005.


Eastern Washington travels to Pullman Friday and Saturday January 19-20 for the Washington State University Indoor Open.

NOTE:  USA Track & Field, and the sports information offices of Boise State, Washington State and Eastern Washington contributed to this report.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Stars deliver three world-leading performances at season opening UW Indoor Preview...

SEATTLE—The stars came to the Dempsey Saturday.

And the stars delivered as the University of Washington opened the gates of the Dempsey Indoor to open the Huskies’ 2018 indoor track and field season.

Shalane Flanagan (left/photo by Paul Merca), the four-time US Olympian, 2008 Olympic silver medalist in the 10000, and the winner of the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon, returned to the Dempsey for the first time since 2011 and delivered a world leading time at 3000 meters, winning in  8:55.11 on the 307-meter oversized track.

Former Husky Eleanor Fulton did the early pace work for Flanagan, running sub 9-minute pace, before dropping back and finishing seventh in 9:14.57.

Once Fulton dropped back after doing her work for Flanagan, it was a battle for second with Husky alum Mel Lawrence taking it in 8:57.83, followed by current Husky Amy-Eloise Neale, who ran 9:01.96, charging from sixth with 800 meters to go, to catch among others, US world championships team member Sara Vaughn, who ended up fourth in 9:07.37.

Neale’s time is the second fastest in school history, and is also the second fastest time in the collegiate ranks behind former world leader Elinor Purrier of New Hampshire’s 8:55.68.

Another world leading time was run in the women’s 400, as former USC Trojan Jaide Stepter ran 52.50, breaking her own meet record of 53.18 set two years ago.

Note that Flanagan and Stepter's marks will not count for qualifying for the IAAF World Indoor Championships due to the Dempsey being an oversized track.

A pair of London Olympic gold medalists left the Dempsey with wins, as Aries Merritt (left/photo by Paul Merca), the current world record holder in the 110 hurdles, won the 60 hurdles in a meet record time of 7.65, and Dempsey veteran Brittney Reese, the women’s long jump champ in London and the reigning world champ in the long jump, ditched her jumping shoes for sprint spikes and scored a mild upset in the 60 meter dash, winning in 7.31.

Merritt, who missed an extensive period of time after the 2015 world championships after receiving a kidney transplant from his sister, yet nearly made the 2016 Olympic team, tied the world lead with his winning time of 7.65.

Reese took down a field that included NCAA All-American Ashley Henderson (7.33), and Oregon’s Ariana Washington (7.46), who won a gold medal as part of Team USATF in the 4x100 relay at last year’s world championships.

Darrell Hill, the 2016 US Olympian, 2017 world championships finalist and the IAAF Diamond League champion in the shot put, opened up his 2018 campaign by winning the shot put with a best of 65-2.25 (19.87m) on his only fair throw to beat UCLA alum and Greek Olympian Nick Scarvelis, who threw 64-3 (19.58m) on his only fair throw of the day.

Arizona alum and 2017 world championships competitor Liz Patterson won the women’s high jump with a jump of 6-0.75 (1.85m).  Former Husky and Puerto Rican Olympian Diamara Planell Cruz won the women’s pole vault with a clearance of 13-9.75 (4.21m).

2016 Olympic bronze medalist Clayton Murphy, who made his debut as a member of the Nike Oregon Project, won the men’s 800 in 1:51.44, while NOP teammate Yomif Kejelcha of Ethiopia, the reigning world indoor champ at 3000 meters, won the mile in 4:02.70.

Drew Windle of the Brooks Beasts won the rarely contested 1000m run in 2:20.95, then came back to finish second in the men’s 400 in 48.43 to Stanford’s Julian Body, who ran 48.21.

Track and field action resumes at the Dempsey on January 26-27 with the UW Invitational.


NOTE:  The University of Washington sports information office contributed to this report.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Garrett Heath and Team USATF set to take on Brits and Euros at Saturday's Great Edinburgh X-Country Challenge...

EDINBURGH, Great Britain—Three time winner Garrett Heath (left/photo by Paul Merca) of Seattle’s Brooks Beasts is among the headliner performers for Team USATF for Saturday’s Great Edinburgh X-Country Challenge race at famed Holyrood Park.

He’ll be joined by 2016 Olympian and defending champ Leonard Korir, and Chris Derrick of the Portland based Bowerman TC on the men’s senior 8k squad.  Oregon alum Trevor Dunbar is also on the team, giving Team USATF three athletes with world cross country championship experience as they go against teams from Great Britain, and a European all star squad.

Media partner USATF.tv ($) will have streaming coverage of the Great Edinburgh X-Country Challenge Saturday morning starting at 5:15 am, pacific time.  Viewers outside the United States can watch it on the BBC.

The start lists for the race are available below (courtesy Alberto Stretti):


USATF ANNOUNCES BIDDERS FOR 2020 US OLYMPIC MARATHON TRIALS...

USA Track & Field announced that Atlanta, Austin, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Orlando have submitted bids to host the 2020 US Olympic Marathon Trials.

“To have four new bidders for the Olympic Trials Marathon speaks to the attractiveness of the property and the support for our increasingly successful American marathon corps,” USATF CEO Max Siegel said. “We look forward to taking the Olympic Trials to a new city to select one of the world’s best Olympic marathon teams.”

Final bids for the event are due March 19th.  The federation’s board of directors will decide the venue for the Trials sometime this spring, subject to approval by the US Olympic Committee.


Earlier in the week, the federation announced the return of this year’s senior outdoor championships to Des Moines, Iowa, at Drake Stadium.

The meet will be contested June 21-24 as the final stop of the USATF Championship Series.

Drake Stadium, home of the Drake Relays, has hosted the national championships twice before, in 2010 and 2013.

Vancouver native Kara Winger set the American record in the javelin at the 2010 championships, throwing 218-8 (66.67m), and in 2013, Jeremy Taiwo (above/photo by Paul Merca) made his first international team in the decathlon in Des Moines.


NOTE:  USA Track & Field contributed to this report.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The little rust-buster known as the UW Indoor Preview goes big-time Saturday...

Eight of nine of Washington’s NCAA Division I and II schools in action? Check!

Pac-12 schools Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford? Check!

Collegiate individuals from as far away as Villanova and Hawaii? Check!

Pro athletes from Seattle’s Brooks Beasts, and Beaverton’s Nike Bowerman TC & Nike Oregon Project? Check!

Numerous Olympians and IAAF world championships competitors, including two-time Olympic triple jump silver medalist Will Claye (left/photo by Paul Merca)? Check!

Olympic and world champions in the meet? Check!

New York City Marathon winner Shalane Flanagan? F4%k Yeah!

The meet that once was a low-key, post Christmas holiday rust busting season opener has now evolved into a meet that has all the feel of a big-time invitational, as the University of Washington opens the Dempsey Indoor to some of the area and the world’s best track and field athletes for the UW Indoor Preview all day Saturday.

The nine-hour track and field extravaganza kicks off at 9 am with a flight of the women’s pole vault, long jump, and weight throw, plus qualifying rounds in the 60 hurdles, and ends some time after 6pm with the 4 x 400 meter relay.

In between, track and field fans will see a bevy of collegiate and pro athletes either shake off the rust from fall training, or put out some marks that will be good enough to qualify for conference, national and world championship meets.

With the professional indoor schedule shortened because of the IAAF world indoor championships in Birmingham, England moved to March 1-4 (a week before the NCAA championships), more pros are entered in the meet than normal to get their rust busters out of the way before competing in paying meets.

Here’s a rundown of some of the key events to watch on the track:

Women’s 60 (qualifying 9:45 am, prelims 10:45 am, finals 12:30 pm):  A bevy of Olympians are in the field in Deajah Stevens and Ariana Washington, who will be joined by 2012 Olympic long jump champ and reigning world champ Brittney Reese (left/photo by Paul Merca).  San Diego State’s Ashley Henderson, and Oregon’s Makenzie Dunmore, who was part of the national champion 4 x 400 relay team.  Notably absent from the field is Oregon senior and Federal Way native Hannah Cunliffe, the reigning NCAA champ at this distance.

Men’s 60 hurdles (9:30 am qualifying; 10:30 am qualifying; 1:05 pm finals):  2012 Olympic champion Aries Merritt, the world record holder at the 110 hurdles is the man to watch, as the Phoenix-based Nike athlete, who was fifth at last year’s world championships in London, looks to make the world indoor championships team. Folks forget that he was the 2012 world champ at the 60 hurdles.  Washington State alum Jeshua Anderson is in the field.

Women’s 1000 (11:10 am): Hannah Fields of Seattle’s Brooks Beasts is the one to watch, along with NCAA scorer Olivia Baker of Stanford and NCAA cross country All-American Lilli Burdon of Oregon. Washington alum Eleanor Fulton, who had a breakout 2017 season, and represented Team USA at the world cross country championships last year will be in the mix as well as Florida alum Stephanie Brown.

Men’s 1000 (11:35 am):  World championships 800m semi-finalist Drew Windle of the Brooks Beasts is ready to prove that 2017 wasn’t a fluke. He goes against the Huskies’ Colby Gilbert, and Western Oregon All-American in the 1500 David Ribich, with Oregon’s Mick Stanovsek and Austin Tamagno thrown in.

Women’s Mile (11:50 am):  Savanna Colón (formerly Camacho), the Oklahoma State alum, makes her pro debut with the Brooks Beasts, where she goes against Nicole Hutchinson of Villanova, Idaho alum and Canadian world championships competitor Alycia Butterworth, and the Oregon quartet of Emma Abrahamson, Jessica Hull, Judy Pendergast and Carmela Cardama Baez.

Men’s Mile (12:10 pm):  Yomif Kejelcha of Ethiopia, the 2016 world indoor champion at 3000 meters, makes his Nike Oregon Project debut against 2-time US Olympian and 2008 Olympic team flag bearer Lopez Lomong of the Bowerman TC, with UCLA alum Daniel Herrera, former NCAA 1500m champ Chad Noelle, and Brannon Kidder of the Brooks Beasts looking to test themselves against the reigning world indoor champ.

Men’s 800 (2:50 pm):  Olympic 800m bronze medalist Clayton Murphy makes his Nike Oregon Project debut here. Murphy sustained an injury at the USATF championships in the 1500, where he was trying to pull off a 1500/800m double.

Men’s 200 (3:35 pm):  University of Oregon alums Michael Berry from Rainier Beach HS and Marcus Chambers from Foss HS go head to head in the fastest section at this distance.  Two time Olympic triple jump silver medalist Will Claye will run in the heat after Berry and Chambers, while Jeshua Anderson is in another heat.

Women’s 3000 (4:20 pm):  Shalane Flanagan (above/photo illustration courtesy Nike), the 2008 Olympic silver medalist at 10000 meters, bronze medalist at the 2011 world cross country championships, four-time US Olympian, and oh, by the way, the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon champion, goes against world championships team member Sara Vaughn, and the Huskies’ Amy-Eloise Neale, who was second at the NCAA cross country championships in November.

Just to give this race a bit of intrigue, the Huskies’ Maddie Meyers, who last raced two years ago, received a medical redshirt to compete as a sixth-year senior, and will be in the field.  Washington alum Mel Lawrence, who ironically was the last Husky to get a sixth year of eligibility, is also in the field, as well as Stephanie Brown, and Anna Maxwell and Emily Hamlin of the Huskies.

Men’s 3000 (5:00 pm):  Ole Miss alum Craig Engels makes his Nike Oregon Project debut against Bowerman TC vet Andrew Bumbalough, American Distance Project steeplechaser Michael Jordan, and recent college grads Robbie Farnham-Rose (Alabama), and George Parson (NC State).

Don’t sleep on the field events, which feature world championships competitor Liz Patterson (high jump); the women’s pole vault with Washington alums Kristina Owsinski of Oiselle and Diamara Planell Cruz of Puerto Rico, both former Pac-12 champs, going head-to-head: US Olympian Darrell Hill in the men’s shot put against Greek Olympian Nick Scarvelis; and, world championships discus competitor Valarie Allman of Stanford in the women’s weight throw.

Multi event specialists Kendell Williams, Erica Bougard, and Allison Reaser will run the 60 hurdles and the 600, and opt out of any field events.

One update--reigning world indoor 1500m champion Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands and the Nike Oregon Project has withdrawn from the meet. She was originally scheduled to run the 600 and the 400.

The home page to the UW Indoor Preview can be reached here, which includes heat sheets, time schedules, and a link to live results.  Spectator admission is $8. Please note that the UW has a basketball game against Stanford that starts at 5 pm, particularly if you plan to stick around to watch the 3000 meter runs and try to leave immediately.

Media partner Flotrack ($) will stream the entire meet live.

EAGLES HEAD TO IDAHO FOR VANDAL INVITATIONAL; SELECT COUGS OFF TO NAMPA…

Eastern Washington will be the only one of the state’s nine Division I & II schools not appearing in Seattle at the UW Indoor Preview, as the Eagles will stay on the east side and compete in the two-day Vandal Invitational hosted by the University of Idaho in Moscow at the Kibbie Dome.


A group of sprinters, jumpers, hurdlers, and throwers from Washington State will head east to Nampa, Idaho for Friday and Saturday’s Ed Jacoby Invitational, hosted by Boise State University.


NOTE:  The sports information offices of the University of Washington, Washington State, Idaho, and Boise State University contributed to this report.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Husky men's squad ranked #13 in USTFCCCA pre-season computer rankings...

NEW ORLEANS—The University of Washington men’s track team is ranked number 13 in the USTFCCCA’s pre season computer rankings released by the coaches’ association Wednesday.

The Huskies are in the national top-25 based on the strength of their distance runners, led by Colby Gilbert (left/photo by Paul Merca) and Fred Huxham in three events—mile, 3000, and 5000; and pole vaulter Chase Smith.

The national pre-season top five men’s teams are in order: Florida, Georgia, Arkansas, USC, and Colorado.

Other schools from the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation in the top 25 include #7 Oregon, #12 Stanford, and #20 BYU.

The Washington women are not ranked in the national pre-season computer rankings.

The top five teams in the women’s rankings are in order: Oregon, Arkansas, Georgia, USC, and Texas.

Stanford is the only other team from the MPSF ranked in the national top 25 at number 16.


The Huskies open the 2018 indoor track & field season Saturday when they host the UW Indoor Preview beginning at 9 am at the Dempsey Indoor in Seattle.

paulmerca.blogspot.com will have a full preview of the meet later this week.

Addition of Shalane Flanagan makes UW Indoor Preview meet even more stacked...

The 2018 season opening UW Indoor Preview just got another jolt, with the word from UW meet management that 2017 New York City Marathon champion Shalane Flanagan (above/photo by Paul Merca) is a late entry to Saturday’s meet, where she will run the 3000 meters.

Flanagan, the silver medalist in the 10000 meters at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and a bronze medalist in the 2011 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, had hinted on her Instagram account in the last day that she would be running 3000 and 5000 meter races this indoor season.


Also added to the field as late entries are fellow Bowerman TC members Lopez Lomong in the men’s mile, and Andrew Bumbalough in the men’s 3000.

As always, entries are subject to change.

paulmerca.blogspot.com will have a full preview of the UW Indoor Preview coming later this week.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Quartet of Nike Oregon Project runners entered in Saturday's UW Indoor Preview...

Reigning world indoor 3000 meter champion Yomif Kejelcha (left/photo by Paul Merca) of Ethiopia, along with Nike Oregon Project members Clayton Murphy, Sifan Hassan and Craig Engels are also among those entered in Saturday’s UW Indoor Preview meet at the Dempsey Indoor facility.

Kejelcha, an Ethiopian who was fourth in the 5000 at the world outdoor championships in London,  will run both the 1000 and the mile, while Murphy, the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist in the 800 meters, will run the 800. 

Murphy is coming off a disappointing 2017 season that ended at the USATF championships when he sustained an injury in the 1500 that caused him to withdraw from the 800, where he was among the favorites to earn a spot on the world championship team.

Hassan, the reigning world indoor champion from the Netherlands in the 1500, will drop down in distance, as she is entered in both the 400 and 600 meters.

Engles, a former All-American at the University of Mississippi, is entered in the men’s 3000.


paulmerca.blogspot.com will have a full preview of Saturday’s UW Indoor Preview later this week.

World record holder Aries Merritt and reigning world long jump champ Brittney Reese headline UW Indoor Preview...

The meet is only happening in a few days, but this Saturday’s UW Indoor Preview has all the feel of a mid-winter meet at the Dempsey, partially because of the early date of next month’s USATF Indoor Track & Field Championships, which is the qualifying meet for the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Birmingham, England.

2012 Olympic champions Aries Merritt (left/photo by Paul Merca) and Brittney Reese are the headline performers, with Merritt entered in the men’s 60 meter hurdles, while Reese, who has traditionally opened her season in Seattle the last few years, will run the 60 meter dash instead of long jumping, where she is the reigning world champion.

Merritt, who won the Olympic title at 110 hurdles in 2012, and is the current world record holder at that distance at 12.80, finished fifth at last year’s world championships in London.  He will use the UW Indoor Preview as a starting point for a possible run at making the world indoor championship team.  Merritt won the world indoor title in 2012 in Istanbul, Turkey, and has a personal best of 7.43 in the 60 hurdles.

The USATF indoor championship meet happens February 17th & 18th in Albuquerque, New Mexico, while the IAAF world indoors is March 1st-4th.

Two time Olympic triple jump silver medalist and former world indoor champ Will Claye is entered in the men’s 200 meters where he is scheduled to face former Pac-12 400 meter champions Marcus Chambers of Tacoma, and Seattle native Michael Berry.

Other Olympians and/or world championships competitors entered include Deajah Stevens and Ariana Washington (60m); Sara Vaughn (3000); Alycia Butterworth (mile); Erica Bougard (60 hurdles); Kendell Williams (60 hurdles); Elizabeth Patterson (high jump); Diamara Planell Cruz (pole vault); Drew Windle (400 & 1000); and Darrell Hill (shot put).

The list of accepted entries for Saturday's UW Indoor Preview is available here.  As always, entries are subject to change between now and meet day,

paulmerca.blogspot.com will have a full preview of Saturday’s UW Indoor Preview later this week.

NOTES:  paulmerca.blogspot.com has learned that Eastern Washington standout Colton Johnsen, who was the Eagles’ top runner during the cross country season, has transferred to Washington State University.  Johnsen, a native of Bellingham, was 37th at last fall’s Big Sky Conference championship meet, and 66th at the NCAA West regionals.  He also finished 10th at the Sundodger Invite, and won the Montana Invitational.

A text from WSU track & field sports information director Linda Chalich confirmed Johnsen’s transfer, which was rumored shortly after the conclusion of the cross country season. He is entered in Saturday's UW Indoor Preview in the 3000.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

And now...the 2017 Mercanator Awards!

While December was a slightly busier month for the blog than in past years (there were 13 posts that month, the most since 2010), we were able to take some time off to enjoy the holidays.

As many of you long time readers know, I tend not to post much in December, as I focus on family, my job, and my free lance gig covering NFL football for the television networks.

That said, it is now time to hand out the Mercanator Awards for the top performers and performances of the 2017 season, as chronicled by this blog.

In addition to covering almost all of the home indoor and outdoor meets of the University of Washington in 2017, the blog traveled to Bend, Tucson, Eugene, Sacramento, Lacey, Bellingham, Madison, and Louisville for various meets.  We also took two international trips to Kampala, Uganda for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships and to London for the world track & field championship meet, where yours truly was recognized as one of six Americans who have covered at least ten world championship meets.

And now, the 2017 Mercanators!

Here are the disclaimers:  Mercanator Awards are limited to athletes who have affiliations with the state of Washington—either they were born in this state, currently reside in the state or attend(ed) school in the state.  Also, not all categories from previous editions were awarded this year…publisher’s decision.

TOP PERFORMER—Men’s sprints/hurdles:  Former Renton native Devon Allen (left/photo by Howard Lao) gets his second award in this category, over a field that includes Foss HS grad Marcus Chambers, and Washington State’s CJ Allen.

Allen had a solid season, competing in five IAAF Diamond League meets where he placed no lower than fourth in four finals (he was DQ’d in Paris, after running a season best 13.10 in the heats). He won three meets in Lucerne, Warsaw, and the TrackTown finals in New York, and finished second in three IAAF World Challenge series meets in Kingston, Berlin, and Zagreb.  

The University of Oregon alum was third at the USATF championships in Sacramento, and got to the semis at the world championships in London. He was ranked #5 in the world by Track & Field News.

Chambers was 6th at the NCAA championships, and ran a personal best of 44.92 in the semis at the nationals.  He also finished second in the 400 and the 200 at the Pac-12s in Eugene, and earned a #10 ranking from Track & Field News in the 400.

WSU’s CJ Allen was second in the 400 hurdles at the Pac-12s, and missed the finals at the NCAA championships despite running a personal best of 49.40, the 15th fastest time in the US in 2017.

Drew Windle (Paul Merca photo)
TOP PERFORMER—Men’s Middle Distance: Those in contention in this category include a pair of athletes from the Brooks Beasts, Drew Windle and Shaq Walker.

This was an easy one to pick, with Drew Windle having the best year of his professional career, charging to third at the USATF championships, winning the TrackTown Summer Series final in New York, where he ran his personal best of 1:44.63 in the 800m, and finished fourth in the Monaco Diamond League meet, then advanced to the semis at the world championships.

Windle was ranked #3 by Track & Field News in the 800, while the now-retired Walker was ranked #8 by the publication at that distance.

TOP PERFORMER—Men’s Distance:  Another easy one, as former Emerald Ridge HS standout Hassan Mead, who competes for the Nike Oregon TC Elite gets the nod, based on his national championship in the 10000, and his 15th place finish at the world championships, where he ran a personal best 27:32.49.

Mead also ran 13:11.20 in the 5000 in 2017.  He was ranked #2 in the 10000 by Track & Field News, and #5 in the 5000.

One name missing from the list in the men’s middle and long distances is Bernard Lagat, who retired after the 2016 season, but is still competing on the road racing circuit.

TOP PERFORMER—Women’s Sprints:  Despite another injury filled end to her outdoor season, Federal Way native Hannah Cunliffe gets the nod here.

Cunliffe ran 11.11 in the 100 and 22.53 indoors in the 200. She won the NCAA 60 meter title, and took second in the 200, and broke the collegiate record in the 60, running 7.07.

TOP PERFORMER—Women’s Middle Distance:  This category was the most competitive, with plenty to choose from.  Nominees included Hannah Fields and Alexa Efraimson in the 1500, and Mel Lawrence (left/photo by Paul Merca) and Marisa Howard in the steeplechase, all of whom were ranked by Track & Field News.

Once again, this category was close, but in the end, the finish of the USATF championships was the deciding factor.  University of Washington alum Mel Lawrence gets the nod over Pasco HS grad Marisa Howard. While Howard ran faster last year (9:30.82 to 9:34.94), Lawrence finished ahead of Howard at nationals.

TOP PERFORMER—Women’s Hurdles:  University of Washington alum Gianna Woodruff gets the award here, as the Panamanian set a national record in the 400 hurdles, running 55.76 at the Tucson Elite meet, and making it all the way to the semis at the world championships in London.

TOP PERFORMER—Women’s Horizontal Jumps:  University Place resident Andrea Geubelle would be the first to admit that she had a down year, despite placing third in the triple jump at the USATF national championships.  She had a wind-aided best of 45-9.75 (13.96m), and a best legal of 44-8.25 (13.62m), but did not make the world championship standard after competing in the Olympics in 2016.  Nonetheless, she gets the nod here.

TOP PERFORMER—Women’s Throws:  The nod goes to Vancouver’s Kara Winger (left/photo by Paul Merca) here.  Winger, a regular in this category, won yet another national title in the javelin, making it seven crowns in her career, and competed in her fourth career world championship meet.  The Skyview HS grad was seventh in the IAAF Diamond League finals in Zürich, but missed the finals at Worlds.

Winger was ranked #1 in the country again by Track & Field News.

The 2017 Mercanator Awards for the best track & field athletes from Washington as selected by the editor of paulmerca.blogspot.com are Devon Allen for the men, and Kara Winger for the women…congratulations to the two of you!

Now on to the 2018 season!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Ex-EWU distance coach Chris Shane to pursue legal action against school...

According to a post on the Spokane Spokesman-Review’s web site, former Eastern Washington University distance and cross country coach Chris Shane (left/photo by Paul Merca) plans to take legal action against the school to challenge a report from the school that led to his departure from the team.

He told reporter Jim Allen, “My career has been blown up for nothing,” after receiving a termination letter from EWU president Mary Cullinan in the wake of a 57-page investigative report in which eighteen allegations against Shane were cited.

Shane said in Allen’s article that he wasn’t given ample opportunity to respond to the allegations in the report compiled by EWU investigator Jeff Lamoreaux.

The report includes testimony from school officials, the complainant, and several members of the team, whose names were redacted from the document.

When we originally wrote the piece about the school’s decision to part ways with Shane on December 20th, we included a link to the thread on letsrun.com’s message board.  Shortly after the thread was posted (which included posts by Shane and runner Isaac Kitzan), the thread was deleted.  

The Spokesman-Review filed a public records request for the investigative report from the school’s human resources department, and posted it on its website.


Shaq Walker of the Brooks Beasts retires from competitive running...

According to a post on media partner Flotrack, Shaq Walker of the Brooks Beasts (left/photo by Paul Merca) has retired from the sport, and has returned to Utah to finish his undergraduate degree with a goal to enter dental school the following year.

After finishing third at the NCAA championships in the 800 in 2016, Walker, who had one year of eligibility left at BYU, opted to turn pro and join the Seattle based Brooks Beasts, whose kit he donned for the first time at the US Olympic Track & Field Trials in Eugene.

In his Brooks Beasts debut, Walker made it to the semis in the Trials 800, then made contact over the final 50 meters with Ole Miss’ Craig Engles, causing him to lose momentum and didn’t qualify for the finals.

Last year, Walker had an external hemorrhoid two weeks before the USATF outdoors in Sacramento that required surgery.  With his training interrupted, he only managed to reach the semis.

After the national championships, he ran in the TrackTown Summer Series meets in Gresham, Oregon and in New York. He was supposed to run in Madrid, where he found himself taken out of the A section and relegated to the B section, due to an error between his agent and meet management.  Walker earned a #8 ranking from Track & Field News in 2017, the same ranking he earned in 2016. He retires with a personal best of 1:44.99, set in 2016 at the Sun Angel Classic.

Walker leaves the Beasts with two years remaining on his contract. He has had aspirations on becoming a dentist since age 19, a field he feels will give him the stability & freedom to spend more time with his family.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Tacoma's Marcus Chambers signs with Nike & reunites with Eric Metcalf...

In a post on his social media accounts, Tacoma native Marcus Chambers (left/photo by Paul Merca) announced Thursday that he has signed a contract to run professionally for Nike.

Chambers, who graduated from the University of Oregon, finished sixth at last year’s NCAA championships in the 400, running a personal best of 44.92 in the semis, then running 45.28 in the finals.

He was second in the Pac-12 400 last year in a time of 45.19, and also finished second in the conference championship in the 200.  Chambers earned a #10 US ranking in the 400 last year from Track & Field News.

In 2016, he won his second Pac-12 400 meter title in Seattle and was fourth in the 400 at the NCAA championships in Eugene.  He advanced to the semis at the 2016 US Olympic Team Trials.

The Foss HS graduate has moved back from Eugene to the Puget Sound area, where he will be reunited with his former Seatown Express coach and NFL legend, Eric Metcalf, who is the sprints coach at the University of Washington.  Chambers ran for Metcalf's Seatown Express club while he was in high school.


Here’s Chambers’ announcement on his Instagram account:




Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New 2018 (and some reflections from 2017)...

Happy new year! (David Eiger/AIPS photo)
I want to open 2018 by wishing all of you loyal readers of this blog a healthy and happy new year!  

I would like to take a moment to reflect back to the 2017 season. This blog, which started out in 2007 as an extension of my writing for the now-defunct Northwest Runner magazine, has now taken a more prominent role in covering the exploits of this state’s collegiate and professional track & field athletes now that the magazine no longer exists.

With the shift over the last decade from print to web-based media, the state’s daily newspapers, which once upon a time, used to cover the collegiate and professional track and field athletes in this state, don’t have space to cover the sport the way they would like to.  And to compound the issue, most of the news outlets are relying more and more on the school’s ability to send out news releases.

Unless that news outlet is willing to invest the time or the resources to actually send out a reporter and/or photographer to cover an athlete, the most that they’ll get is whatever release that school sends out.

If you’re a professional track & field athlete in this state, your ability to be recognized in mainstream media is even more limited, unless either your team or your agent puts out feelers to the media. Not only that, but quite frankly, unless it’s an Olympic year, the chances of a pro track & field athlete getting any kind of coverage from the mainstream media is somewhere between slim and none.

In 2017, this web site covered collegiate and pro meets here in Seattle, and traveled to Bend, Oregon; Tucson, Eugene, Portland, Sacramento, Lacey, Bellingham, Madison, and Louisville this year.  This web site also provided on-site coverage of both the IAAF world cross country championships in Kampala, Uganda, as well as the IAAF world track and field championships in London.

From left:  Jens Jorg Rieck, ARD/Germany; Volker Hirth of ARD/Germany; yours truly; Zoran Mihajlov of Macedonian Radio/Television, Macedonia; 
Ambrogio Sala, Corriere del Ticino, Switzerland; African Athletics president Hamad Kalkaba Malboum;  Jose Antonio Miguelez, Temp Sport Miguelez, Spain; John Bagratuni, DPA, Germany; Andreas Schirmer, DPA, Germany; David Eiger, Maariv, Israel. (photo by Giancarlo Colombo for AIPS)
While I’m not one to toot my own horn, one of the highlights of the IAAF world track and field championships in London was receiving an award from the AIPS (Association Internationale de la Presse Sportive, or International Sports Press Association) as one of some fifty-plus journalists and photographers worldwide who have covered ten or more world championships at a luncheon hosted by IAAF president Sebastian Coe and AIPS president Gianni Merlo.

I began covering the world championships in 1991 when a 5-8 high jumper from Seattle by the name of Rick Noji, who coincidentally went to the same high school that I graduated from (Franklin) and was coached by the same man who coached me as a distance runner (Don Bundy), competed for Team USA and finished eighth in that event in Tokyo, Japan.

Since covering the world championships in Tokyo, I’ve been privileged to cover twelve more world championships for ABC Sports, NBC Sports, ESPN, Northwest Runner, and paulmerca.blogspot.com, only missing the 1995 meet in Gothenburg, Sweden. I’m one of only six Americans according to the AIPS who have covered ten or more world championships.

There are people behind the scenes who helped the blog with text and photos in 2017.  Those include the sports information offices at Western Washington, Seattle Pacific, University of Washington, Seattle University, Saint Martin’s University, Central Washington, Eastern Washington, Gonzaga, and Washington State; photographers Howard Lao (howlaophotography.com), Kirby Lee (Image of Sport, and also one of the six Americans to have covered at least 10 world championships), Randy Miyazaki (trackandfieldphoto.com). Jeff Cohen (trackandfieldimage.com), and Michael Scott; as well as the media relations contacts at Nike, Oiselle, Brooks, adidas; various agents of pro athletes (you know who you are); and the countless number of individuals who have sent social media messages or emailed me with tips, news, complaints.  It’s you, the readers, who help keep this blog going.

While 2018 may or may not have the impact of a world championship or Olympic season, you can bet that someone out there is waiting to make their presence known this season!

As a teaser, we will put a bow on the 2017 season later this week with the unveiling of the 2017 Mercanator Awards…who will get the Mercanator?

Friday, December 22, 2017

Thirteen athletes with Washington ties earn US top-10 rankings from Track & Field News...

Drew Windle of the Seattle-based Brooks
Beasts earned his first US top-10
ranking from Track & Field News
(Paul Merca photo)
Track & Field News revealed its 2017 world and national rankings in its annual issue sent to its subscribers Friday.

Thirteen men and women with ties to the state of Washington received a national top-10 ranking by the magazine, which is based on honors won, win-loss record, and sequence of marks. The magazine’s rankings are often used by the major shoe and apparel companies as part of their criteria when paying performance bonuses and offering contracts to athletes.

The men with Washington ties receiving US top ten rankings by Track & Field News (rank in parentheses) are:

400—Marcus Chambers (10) 44.92
800—Drew Windle (3) 1:44.63; Shaq Walker (8) 1:45.68
5000--Hassan Mead (5) 13:11.20
10000—Hassan Mead (2) 27:32.49
110 HH—Devon Allen (2) 13.10

Hannah Fields of the Brooks Beasts
was ranked #9 in the 1500
(Paul Merca photo)
On the women’s side, these athletes with Washington ties were ranked by the magazine in the top ten (rank in parentheses)

1500—Hannah Felds (9) 4:05.30; Alexa Efraimson (10) 4:04.75
3000 steeple—Mel Lawrence (5) 9:34.94; Marisa Howard (6) 9:30.92
20k walk—Katie Burnett (3) 1:38:40
Triple Jump—Andrea Geubelle (3) 44-8.25/13.62m; Blessing Ufodiama (8) 44-2.5 (13.47m)
Javelin—Kara Winger (1) 212-7/64.80m

Hurdler Devon Allen was the only one of the twelve men and women with ties to the state to earn a world ranking from the magazine, earning a #5 world ranking despite not making the finals at the world championships.



NOTE:  Track & Field News contributed to this report. In the original post, we omitted Mead in the 5000, and Blessing Ufodiama in the triple jump. We apologize for the oversight.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Brooks Beasts' Garrett Heath to lead Team USATF at Great Edinburgh X Country Challenge...

INDIANAPOLIS—Three time Great Edinburgh X Country Challenge winner Garrett Heath (left/photo by Paul Merca) of the Seattle based Brooks Beasts leads Team USATF into Scotland on January 13, 2018 to take on teams representing Great Britain and Europe in Edinburgh.

Heath will be joined by 2016 Olympian Leonard Korir, the older brother of Washington State University All-American Vallery Korir, and multi-time USATF national cross country champion Chris Derrick of the Beaverton-based Bowerman Track Club.

Heath won the discontinued 4k race in 2014 and 2015, then upset former Nike Oregon Project and two time double Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah over 8k in 2016, before finishing sixth in the 2017 version of the race.

On the women’s side, Olympian Des Linden drops down in distance from the marathon to lead Team USATF over the 6k distance at famed Holyrood Park. 

USA Track & Field’s release announcing the teams is available here.

NOTE:  USA Track & Field contributed to this report.

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