Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The first annual "Mercanator" awards...

As we get set to sing "Auld Lang Syne" in a few hours to usher in 2009, 2008 was a great year for paulmerca.blogspot.com, as we covered, among major events this year (in chronological order), the USA Cross Country Championships in San Diego; the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland; the Nike Beijing Summit in Beaverton; the Pac-10 Track & Field Championships in Tempe; the Nike Prefontaine Classic in Eugene; back to Eugene for the US Olympic Trials; the Chicago Marathon; the run by the University of Washington women’s cross country team at the Pac-10s, NCAA regionals, and the NCAA national championships; and, the USA Track & Field Convention in Reno, where a new president was elected.

In keeping with the spirit of the holidays, I’ve decided to hand out the first annual “Mercanator” awards in recognition of some of the performances and performers that we’ve chronicled in 2008.

To some of the athletes receiving this award, winning a “Mercanator” award may not necessarily get you an extra bonus from your shoe company contract, but you will get the recognition from the readers of the mighty blogspot for a job well done this season, and a “BOOM! SHAKA-LAKA!” from yours truly.

For those of you who don’t get an award or feel you’ve been jobbed out of a “Mercanator”—there’s 2009!

Enjoy, and thank you to all the readers for your support of the mighty blogspot!

Disclaimer—Mercanator awards are generally 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.

THE MERCANATORS

**Crowd pleaser award—Norris Frederick, University of Washington. Since the Dempsey Indoor facility opened up a few years ago, few athletes, including Olympians, have managed to captivate audiences like Washington senior long/high jumper Norris Frederick.

Frederick was responsible for raising the roof off the Dempsey at the MPSF Championships in the long jump when he sailed a personal best 26-7 3/4 to win the event and set a new facility record, causing the crowd around the long jump to go absolutely nuts, and causing the public address announcer (me!) to yell into the microphone, “BOOM! SHAKA-LAKA!”

**Athlete perspective award—(tie) Katie Follett, University of Washington & Kara Patterson, Purdue University. Katie and Kara were gracious enough this year to share their personal thoughts and perspective to the readers of this blog on what it was like to compete at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, and Olympic Games in Beijing.

**Media relations award—(tie) Jacie Prieto, (Nike); Mike Bruscas (University of Washington); Linda Chalich (Washington State). In order to cover a sport as diverse as track & field, you really need the help of the media relations people, as they’re the gatekeepers. Jacie, Mike & Linda were extremely helpful to the blog this year in helping obtain interviews with athletes this year.

An honorable mention should go to the entire media relations staff at USA Track & Field (all year long), Anna Legnani of the IAAF (world cross), and to Greg Walker and Geoff Thurner from the University of Oregon (Olympic Trials & Pac-10 XC). We’d almost have to retire the award with these folks (and we just started handing them out!).

**Big tip award--All the unnamed inside sources in Beijing who tipped us off to the fact that Churanday Martina was about to be disqualified for a lane violation in the men's 200m final at the Olympics. paulmerca.blogspot.com was the first to break the news on Martina's disqualification before the major news agencies.

**”I can’t believe I just made the Olympic team!”—Diana Pickler. The 2007 WSU grad ran a personal best in the final event, the 800 meters, and stayed close to GiGi Johnson to earn the final spot on the team by 10 points. She also caused this writer to get chided by Seattle Times columnist Steve Kelley for the hug she gave me in the mixed zone while waiting to interview her…oh, well.

**Comeback award—Jessica Pixler, Seattle Pacific. Pixler came back from a stress fracture in her back that knocked her out of the track season to win her second straight NCAA Division II cross country title in November.

**Top performer-men’s sprints: Jeshua Anderson, 400 hurdles. The Washington State freshman, a true diamond in the rough, won the NCAA title, along with the world junior championship, and just missed making the finals at the Olympic Trials. Anderson ran 48.68 at the world junior championships.

**Top performer-men’s distances: Bernard Lagat, 1500/5000 meters. Despite a bum Achilles tendon that shot down any hopes of following up his double gold at the 2007 world championships with a pair of golds in Beijing, the former Cougar still was clearly the best at 1500 (3:32.75), 3000 (7:34.65), and 5000 (13:16.29).

**Top performer—men’s vertical jumps: Brad Walker, pole vault. Walker, like Lagat, is a regular on the blogspot, as the former Husky set an American record at the Prefontaine Classic of 19-9 3/4, and finished second at the world indoor championships. The 2007 world champ was ranked fourth in the world by Track & Field News, with his only blemish a no-height at the Olympics.

**Top performer—men’s horizontal jumps: Norris Frederick, long jump. The Husky senior finished second in the NCAA indoor, and sixth in the outdoor NCAAs, and earned a US #10 ranking by Track & Field News.

**Top performer—men’s throws: Ian Waltz, discus. In a year in which the US was down (as in no world rankers on the T&FN top 10), Waltz was clearly the best American. Waltz, a former WSU standout, threw 226-0, the fifth furthest throw in the world in 2008, but did not shine on the world stage.

**Top performer—women’s distances: Kendra Schaaf, cross country. The Husky freshman had an outstanding season, winning the Pac-10 championship, and finishing 12th in the NCAA championships in Terre Haute. For most of the season, she was clearly the leader of Washington’s national championship harrier squad.

There were strong cases for Washington teammates Michelle Turner (NCAA West Regional champ at 1500) and Katie Follett (Pac-10 champ at 1500) to get this award, but Schaaf gets the nod for the impact on the team.

**Top performer—women’s throws: Aretha Thurmond, discus. Aretha’s only win of significance in 2008 was at the Olympic Trials, where she threw a season best of 213-11. She was consistently in the hunt in every meet she competed, and finally got over her failure to make a final at the Olympics or world championships, finishing tenth in Beijing. Thurmond, the former Husky, was ranked tenth in the world by Track & Field News in the recently released issue.

**Top performer—women’s multi-events: Diana Pickler. This was an easy choice. Pickler finished third at the Olympic Trials with a personal best score of 6257 points, and third at the IAAF Multistars meet in Italy, scoring 6190 points.

**Team of the year (not): Oklahoma City Thunder. Forty-plus years of NBA basketball in the city of Seattle went down the toilet when the franchise formerly known as the Seattle Supersonics officially left town in July after Seattle mayor McCheese (aka Greg Nickels) accepted a buyout from owner Clay (I am a man possessed) Bennett to move the franchise.

Other folks culpable for this mess include former Sonics owner Howard Schultz, NBA commissioner David Stern, Washington governor Christine Gregoire, and the entire Washington state legislature.

**Team of the year: University of Washington women’s cross country team. In a year that can only be described as the worst in Seattle sports history, the Huskies ran roughshod over the competition to win the NCAA cross country title in Terre Haute, Indiana in November, despite not running their best team race.

The best performance by this undefeated team was at the Pac-10 Championships on October 31st, when the Huskies went 1-6, in recording the first perfect team score of 15 in conference history.

To all of you who won the award, click on the little video interview courtesy of media partner Flotrack:

Track and Field Videos on Flotrack

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lagat to run in Birmingham...

Former Washington State standout and reigning world outdoor champion at 1500 and 5000 meters Bernard Lagat will compete in the Aviva Grand Prix in Birmingham, England on February 21st.

“I was really happy with most of my season last year however unfortunately I picked up an injury mid July that was the worst possible time before Beijing. That was very disappointing for me but that is behind me now and I’m very focused on defending my titles at the World Championships in Berlin."

Lagat will open his indoor season January 30th at the Millrose Games at fabled Madison Square Garden in New York where he will attempt to tie the Wanamaker Mile win record owned by legendary Irish great Eamonn Coghlan.

To read the full story, click here...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

NCAA Women's Indoor track & field preview...

Courtesy of ncaa.com, columnist Brett Hess writes about the upcoming NCAA indoor track & field season, and how he thinks the undercover season, which climaxes in College Station, Texas on March 13-14th, will pan out.

Even with the loss of Olympian Jacqueline Johnson, the Arizona State Sun Devils appear on paper to be the favorites to win a third NCAA title, led by thrower Sarah Stevens.

LSU, Texas, Texas A&M, and a darkhorse in MPSF/Pac-10 rival Washington are the teams Hess feels have a shot at upending the Sun Devils.

"Up in the Pacific Northwest, Washington is hot off the most dominant women's collegiate cross country season of all-time. On an off-day the Huskies easily won the NCAA Championships; on a great day, they went 1-thru-6 to win the PAC-10 Championship, a meet that included several ranked teams, such as No. 2 Oregon.

If anything, the cross country season proved that the Washington women can run -- and excel at -- distances other than 1,500 meters. It might have been tough to feel any other way last track season, when four Washington athletes competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 1,500 and two others competed in the same event at the Canadian Olympic Trials.

Most are back, including Katie Follett (sixth in the mile at last year's NCAA Indoors). Others in this incredibly deep team, which will likely be asked to run in the 3,000 or 5,000 or distance medley relay include Mel Lawrence, Anita Campbell and Lauren Saylor, along with freshmen Kendra Schaaf and Christine Babcock. If this impressive array of talent can further display its versatility, who knows how many points the Huskies can score."

The Sun Devils and Huskies will see each other at least twice, and possibly three times this winter before the NCAAs--at the Washington Invitational on January 30-31st; the Husky Classic on Valentine's Day; and, the MPSF Championships on February 27-28th.

To read Hess' preview, click here...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Farewell to Sideline Smitty...

In the world of local sports journalism, today is a sad day, as long time Seattle Times sports reporter and columnist Craig Smith (left/photo courtesy Seattle Times) announced that he is taking a buyout from the paper and leaving the Times at the end of the year.

Even though the Times assigned him during his career to beats as varied as the Seattle Seahawks and Washington State University football, he always had a special place for high school sports.

Craig was one of the main reporters that covered the high school, college and pro career of high jumper Rick Noji in the 1980s and 1990s. He was a stalwart in the Times' coverage of the state high school track & cross country championships over the years, in addition to covering all of the other sports.

In the late 1980s, Craig actually wrote an article criticizing University of Washington track coach Ken Shannon and the team, stating that the Huskies were constant doormats in the Pac-10, because of Shannon's reluctance to invest scholarship dollars and competitive opportunities for non-throwing athletes. While Shannon was upset at Smith's charges in the article, Smith brought to light points that were known in the local track community.

As a measure of respect for what he did for the local track & field community, the Pacific Northwest Association of USA Track & Field even gave Craig an award for his service and coverage of the sport.

Even in his final months at the Times, I had the opportunity to watch and talk to Craig at three high school cross country meets this fall, as he asked me what I knew about Redmond's eventual state 4A champion Mack Young, along with questions about why cross country was such a popular sport among high school kids.

Here's a link to Craig's final "Sideline Smitty" column in Tuesday's edition of the Seattle Times.

Craig, you will be sorely missed. Best of luck to you in whatever you decide to do--hopefully, you'll blog some of your thoughts in cyberspace!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The finishing kick with the NCAA champions...


Courtesy of gohuskies.com, the seven runners on the University of Washington cross country team that won the NCAA title, along with assistant coach Kelly Strong share in their own words, their reflections on the magnificent ride that was the 2008 season.

From a personal perspective, it was a joy to watch these women run against the best that America had to offer. I had the opportunity to watch them run this fall on four occasions--the season-opening Sundodger Invitational at Lincoln Park; the Pac-10 Championships in Springfield; the NCAA West Regionals in Palo Alto; and, the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute.

The seeds for this run to the national championship were planted in Terre Haute one year before, when the Husky women finished a program-best eighth place at the 2007 championships, but left Indiana feeling unfulfilled.

The momentum was continued in Eugene at the Olympic Trials when Katie Follett, Amanda Miller & Michelle Turner all competed together in the 1500 meter run along with high school sensation Christine Babcock, who would become their teammate in the fall.

To read their thoughts on the 2008 season, click here...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

McNees named chief operating officer of USA Track & Field...

USA Track & Field CEO Doug Logan on Thursday named Michael A. McNees (left/photo courtesy USA Track & Field) the Chief Operating Officer of the organization.

As COO, McNees will be the principal deputy to the CEO; supervise USATF’s administration, operations and marketing departments; coordinate long-range planning; act as the principal staff coordinator and advocate to the masters community; and be the chief staff liaison to the new Board of Directors, assisting in the establishment of procedures and policies and coordinating Board training. He will officially join USATF on March 1.

Currently the County Administrator of Blaine County, Idaho, McNees has two decades of experience as a high-level administrator and COO, overseeing budgets in excess of $600 million and managing organizations with as many as 1,400 employees.

McNees was a three-time varsity letterman for the Indiana University track team and has an MBA from Louisiana Tech University. Specializing in the 400m hurdles, he earned all-conference honors and was a Big Ten team champion as well as a member of IU’s school and Big Ten meet record-setting 4x400m relay. As a graduate student at Louisiana Tech, he coached the school’s sprinters and hurdlers. Earlier this year, McNees, 53, began training again for masters competition in the 200 and 400 meters.

“Bringing Michael McNees on board is the first, crucial step for remaking USATF as a highly functioning business,” Logan said. “He has a unique blend of qualities that makes him extraordinarily well-suited for the particular challenges of this new role. He truly understands our sport on every level, and most important, he understands how to make even the most complex public bodies function on the highest levels.”

“I am thrilled to take on this new challenge, which will enable me to apply my professional skills to the sport that has been so instrumental in making me the person I am today,” McNees said. “I am energized about the possibilities for USA Track & Field, and I look forward to having a role in fulfilling Doug’s vision for the sport.”

Prior to his position in Idaho, which he assumed in June 2007, McNees was City Manager of Sarasota, Florida, from 2001-2007. As the top administrator for Money Magazine’s 2000 “Best Small City in America”, he oversaw a budget of approximately $140 million and managed operations ranging from the Sarasota Police Department to the Ed Smith Stadium, the spring training home of the Cincinnati Reds. He also was Executive Director for the city’s Downtown Community Redevelopment Agency, with nearly $1 billion worth of redevelopment projects under construction or in progress during his tenure.

He served Collier County, Florida – with 1,400 employees and a $611 million budget – in various capacities from 1984-2001, including as Assistant County Manager/COO from 1995 to 2001. As Utilities Administrator from 1994-’95, he managed a 200-employee, 75,000-customer utility, and as Management and Budget Director from 1989-’94 presided over the administration of a $291 million county budget.

McNees’ professional and community activities include serving four separate one-year terms as President of the Naples Players, Inc., where he helped guide to completion a successful $6.8 million capital construction campaign and startup of a two-stage theater complex. He is a former board member and first vice president of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Collier County and participated with Sarasota County’s Committee for Economic Development. He was a founding member of the Sarasota Actors Workshop and has been a volunteer varsity high school basketball coach.

About USA Track & Field

USA Track & Field (USATF) is the National Governing Body for track and field, long-distance running and race walking in the United States. USATF encompasses the world's oldest organized sports, some of the most-watched events of Olympic broadcasts, the #1 high school and junior high school participatory sport and more than 30 million adult runners in the United States.

For more information on USATF, visit www.usatf.org.

NOTE--USATF director of communications Jill Geer contributed to this report.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ato Boldon interview in Spikes...


Over the years working televised track & field meets around the world, I've had the opportunity to work with various announcers and analysts.

One of the rising stars in television track & field meets is former UCLA sprinter Ato Boldon (above/photo courtesy Spikesmag.com), who brings a "tell it like it is" mentality to the screen, and is one that's willing to throw an opinion down that may get athletes (some of whom he's competed against) riled up.

I've always had a respect for folks who actually take the time to do the research on the sport, and not feed you the "when I competed, I did this" type of logic that inexperienced (or lazy) analysts try to ram down the audiences' throats.

Whether it's a meet like the Pac-10 Conference or NCAA meet, where the team battle is the story, or the Olympics, you can count on Ato Boldon to give viewers concise analysis on what's happening on the track.

Courtesy of Spikesmag.com is an interview with Ato. You can read it by clicking here...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bauhs wins USATF National Club Cross Country Championships...

SPOKANE--Many apologies for not posting until Monday about Saturday's USATF National Club Cross Country Championships, as I was heavily involved with the organization of the meet and media relations.

Here's a recap, which I helped write for usatf.org and the local organizing committee:

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McMillan Elite and Boulder Running Company/adidas easily took the respective men's and women's titles Saturday at the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships at Plantes Ferry Recreation Park in Spokane, Wash.

Saturday's races were held under windy and blustery conditions, with a light dusting of snow that accumulated the night before. Temperatures were in the high 20s with the wind chill making it feel at least 10 degrees colder for the 900+ participants representing America's top post-collegiate club teams vying for top honors and bragging rights as the nation's top cross country team.

As the afternoon progressed, the wind picked up dramatically, and the temperature dropped to the mid-teens by the conclusion of the open men's 10-kilometer race.

Two-time NCAA Division II cross country champion Scott Bauhs, representing Transports adidas Racing Team eased his way into the lead in the open men's ten kilometer race, then held off a late challenge by Andrew Carlson of McMillan Elite to win his first national championship as a professional, clocking 30:47 to Carlson's 30:49.

Bauhs, an Olympic Trials qualifier this year at 10000 meters, and a member of this year's world cross country championships squad, took the lead shortly after the mile mark, while hotly pursued by several members of the winning McMillan Elite squad.

As the wind gusted up to speeds hovering around 30 miles per hour at times during the race, Bauhs began to extend his command over the rest of the field, except for Carlson, who hung on gamely to Bauhs through the final lap.

Carlson's runner-up finish, combined with Brett Gotcher and Gilliat Gebray's 4-5 finish led McMillan Elite to their first national title, as the Flagstaff-based squad scored 47 points, defeating the Bowerman Athletic Club by 17 points. Four-time men's team champions Hansons-Brooks finished third with 107 points.

In what can be best described as a race of attrition, Rebecca Donaghue survived the heavy winds and the early challenge of a group of four runners, including Toni Salucci, Kara June, Alisha Williams, and Jennifer Donovan to win the national title in a time of 21:38. The five women were the only ones to break 22 minutes for the 6-kilometer course.

Despite Donaghue's overall win, last year's third place team Boulder Running Company/adidas dominated the team competition with 69 points, defeating the women of New Balance Boston by 31 points. Three-time team champions Boston Athletic Association took third with 128 points.

In the day's opening race, Carmen Ayala-Troncoso of Austin, Texas, representing Rogue Running, won yet another masters championship, after taking an early lead over former Team USA cross country team member Liz Wilson from Redmond of the Eastside Runners (above/photo by Mike Scott), extending the lead over the final lap.

Wilson won the individual age-group title in the 40-44 division. Other age-group winners included Lynnwood's Regina Joyce (50-54); Suzanne Ray (55-59); and, Patty Foltz (60-64).

Team champions included Club Northwest (40-49) and the Impala Racing Team (50-59).

Simon Gutierrez of Alamosa, Colorado used a strong surge on the final lap of the race to break away from runner-up Dan Franek of the Dirigo RC to win his first national cross country title, running 33:50.

Gutierrez and 2006 champion Tracy Lokken were part of the lead group that broke away early from a chase pack that included the Fluffy Bunny TC trio of David Schumacher, last year's national champion Peter Magill, and Christian Cushing-Murray.

Other individual age-group titles went to Magill (45-49); Bob Winn (50-54); Mark Billett (55-59); Terry Delph (60-64); Doug Goodhue (65-69); Thom Weddle (70-74); and Mel Preedy (75-79).

Team titles were won by the Fluffy Bunny TC (40-49); Club Northwest (50-59); Boulder Road Runners (60-69); and the Snohomish TC (70+).

Clubs competed for a total prize purse of $24,000, with $19,000 going to the top open teams.

For more information about the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships, please visit www.usatf.org.

RACE QUOTES:

Scott Bauhs: I ran in snow at the NCAA D-II meet a few weeks ago, but this was worse.

I wanted to get out reasonably hard, then take the lead and go from there. I thought that I could hold off Andrew Carlson (on the final stretch). I wasn't completely confident with the conditions, but I felt that I could hold him off at the end.

Rebecca Donaghue: Truthfully, these were the worst conditions I've ever run in. I can't feel my face; I can't feel my fingers. The wind blew me over at about a mile and a half. I drafted off of other people, as the wind was absolutely brutal.

I ran in the NCAA cross country championships a few years ago where it was this cold, but never that windy. This is real cross country weather.

Carmen Ayala-Troncoso: I knew I was in great shape going into today. Liz Wilson and I have raced against each other for a long time, and she just move up into the masters category, so I'm going to have to train harder to keep up with her.

I originally planned to wear half tights, but when I got here and felt the wind, I decided to change my mind and wear as much stuff as I can and feel comfortable, even if that were the difference between losing seconds during the race. The footing wasn't bad; it was the wind.

Simon Gutierrez: I thought I would make a hard push in the fifth mile. I threw a couple of surges in the middle of the race to see how everyone else was feeling. People warned me not to let guys like (former champions) Tracy Lokken and Peter Magill near me towards the end because they're such good kickers.

I live in Alamosa, Colorado, and so the conditions were not that bad. The cold didn't bother me, and I was used to the hard surface.

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To check out the photos from Saturday's races, click here...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Spokane welcomes USATF National Club Cross Country Championships...

2008 Olympic marathoner Brian Sell (left/file photo by Paul Merca) will lead the men of Hansons-Brooks as they seek their fifth team title, while the women of the Run Ohio Racing Team hope to win a second consecutive team crown Saturday, December 13 at the 2008 USATF National Club Cross Country Championships at Plantes Ferry Recreation Park in Spokane, Washington.

In what could be one of the most competitive team competitions in the history of the event, the four-time team champions (2001-03, 2005) of Hansons-Brooks Distance Project from Rochester Hills, Mich., will face several of the nation's top club teams including Eugene, Ore.-based Oregon Track Club Elite, led by Will Leer, who was fourth in the 1,500 meters at the 2008 Olympic Trials.

Also in the fray for the team title will be McMillan Elite from Flagstaff, Ariz., led by 2008 USA 15 km champion Andrew Carlson; and the Bowerman Athletic Club, which will be led by Max King, a two-time member of the Team USA World Cross Country squad. Due to recent injuries, defending champions ZAP Fitness are not expected to field a scoring team.

Challenging for the individual title will be recent NCAA Division II Cross Country Champion Scott Bauhs, who will represent the TRANSPORTS adidas Racing Team.

On the women's side, 2007 World Championships marathoner Ann Alyanak will lead the women's squad from the Run Ohio - Second Sole Racing Team as they defend their national title. Alyanak will be joined by last year's scoring members Leigh Daniel, Tara Storage, Kara Storage and Melissa Converse, along with newcomer Carmen Baxter.

The main challenges for the women's team title are expected to come from the women of New Balance Boston, led by the fourth-place finisher at this year's USA Women's 10 km Championship Rebecca Donoghue. The women of the Boston Athletic Association will also be on hand to seek their fourth team title at the event.

Masters action

More than 45 club teams will be represented in the masters events in Spokane. Among the leading teams will be the men of the Fluffy Bunny Track Club, led by defending individual 45-49 year-old champion Peter Magill, as they seek their second 40+ team title. The women's team race will see the the Impala Racing Team face-off with See Jane Run for the 40+ title.

The 11th annual USATF National Club Cross Country Championships features America's top post-collegiate club teams from across the United States vying for top honors and bragging rights as the nation's top cross country team. Close to 1,100 competitors are expected at the event, which features a 10-kilometer men's race and a 6-kilometer women's race. Clubs will compete for a total prize purse of $24,000, with $19,000 going to the top open teams.

Seattle area clubs, including Club Northwest, Eastside Runners, Snohomish Track Club, and the Seattle Running Company will field squads for Saturday's national championships.

Action at Plantes Ferry Recreation Park gets underway at 9:30 am with the community 6 km run. The masters women's 6 km starts at 10:30 am, followed by the masters men's 10 km at 11:30 am. The open women's 6 km begins at 12:45 pm, with the open men's 10 km concluding the day's activities at 1:30 pm.

NOTE: USA Track & Field contributed to this report.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Weekend wrapup: December 6-7...

A small band of Huskies gathered in the Dempsey Indoor facility Saturday to jumpstart the 2008-09 indoor track season with the UW Winter Preview. Several freshmen got their first crack at college competition while a handful of veterans got some early marks under their belts.

All-American pole vaulter Jared O'Connor, the 2nd-place finisher at last spring's NCAA meet, had a solid day, clearing 16-feet, 6 ¾-inches, as did junior Ryan Vu. Both O'Connor and Vu took three shots at the NCAA provisional mark of 17-0 ¾ but could not get over.

Newcomer Kelly McNamee from Ferris High School in Spokane could give the women's team a major boost in the high jump, as she won the event with a clearance of 5-feet, 8-inches. That mark was better than any Husky posted indoors or outdoors in all of 2008, and McNamee has all season to better it. In fact, McNamee's clearance already ties her for fourth on the UW indoor Top-10 list.

The day's most impressive performance was turned in by Amanda Miller, now falling under the Husky alum category after she completed her collegiate career at NCAA Cross Country two weeks ago, helping the UW women to their first national championship with a top-40 finish. Miller, a four-time track All-American during her career, won the 3,000-meter race in 9:22.25, defeating Western Washington cross country All-American Sarah Porter, who ran 9:47.86.

The time would have broken UW's indoor school record, and was 32-seconds faster than her personal best.

Washington hosts five more major indoor meets this season, beginning with the UW Indoor Preview on Saturday, January 17.

Meanwhile, back in Reno, USA Track & Field CEO Doug Logan unveiled "Project 30" in his state of the sport speech to those attending the USATF Annual Meeting.

He laid out clear goals for the next seven years: 30 medals in London, a $30 million budget by 2012, increasing membership by 30 percent and hosting the 2015 IAAF World Outdoor Championships.

You can read the full text of his speech here.

In addition to the presidency, several key committee positions were voted upon at the convention, as Pullman's John Chaplin was re-elected chairman of the powerful men's track & field committee. Sue Humphrey of Texas was elected chair of women's track & field, replacing newly elected president Stephanie Hightower.

Retired sprinter Jon Drummond was elected chair of the Athletes Advisory committee, while the committee selected Aretha Thurmond of Federal Way, along with marathoner Deena Kastor and walker Philip Dunn to serve on the new 15-member board of directors of USATF, joining Hightower and IAAF Council member Bob Hersh.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Huskies open 2009 indoor season Saturday...

It may still be 2008, but the University of Washington Huskies will open the 2009 indoor season with the UW Preview Meet at the venerable Dempsey Indoor facility.

This is the second year that Washington has got a head start on the indoor season with a December meet. The meet gives many of UW's freshmen a chance to get their first collegiate marks under their belts and gauge their progress with weeks of training and bigger meets ahead.
Field events begin at 10 a.m. and running events at 11 a.m.

By Dempsey standards, the Winter Preview is a small-scale event, but still between 200 and 300 athletes from small colleges and clubs are expected to compete. Admission is free for all spectators.

The Dempsey has become the premier indoor track and field facility on the west coast, welcoming thousands of competitors and producing hundreds of NCAA qualifying marks year after year. The Winter Preview is the first of six collegiate meets on the schedule between December and March of 2009. The indoor season culminates with the NCAA Indoor Championships on March 13-14 hosted by Texas A&M in College Station, Texas.

Some of team's sending competitors include Seattle U., Seattle Pacific, Western Washington, Central Washington, University of Puget Sound, St. Martin's, Western Oregon, Evergreen St., and San Francisco St.

The women's 3000 meter run features a matchup between two cross country All Americans from this fall, Western Washington's Sarah Porter, and Washington's Amanda Miller.

The start list for the UW Preview Meet can be viewed here...

Stephanie Hightower elected president of USATF...

RENO, Nevada--In a closer than expected vote, current women's track & field chairman Stephanie Hightower was elected president of USA Track & Field over current USATF vice president Dee Jensen.

Hightower, a former world class hurdler and member of the 1980 Olympic team, garnered 328 votes in Friday afternoon's runoff election to Jensen's 300 votes.

In Friday morning's voting, Redmond's Bob Bowman was eliminated with 58 votes; Hightower led with 304, and Jensen following with 263. As Hightower did not earn 315 votes (50% majority), an afternoon runoff was necessary.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to serve this organization," said Hightower. "We have a multitude of opportunities that lie before us, and I'm just happy that I'll have the opportunity to work with the USATF family and move the sport into the 21st century."

"This is a historical Annual Meeting," Jensen said. "As I said throughout the campaign, we are at a critical juncture. I would like to congratulate Stephanie on her victory and thank my supporters for their hard work. I look forward to continuing to contribute to USATF's future."

Hightower brings a wealth of experience to the USATF presidency. In addition to serving as USATF's Women's Track & Field Committee Chair, she started her USATF Board service as a member of the Athletes Advisory Committee (ACC) and serving as AAC Secretary and AAC/USOC representative.

Hightower serves on USATF's International Relations Committee and chaired the 2007 CEO Evaluation Committee. The women's team manager at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Hightower was the U.S. team leader at the 2005 IAAF World Youth Championships in Morocco. She was the Chief of the Delegation for Team USA at the 2003 World Outdoor Championships in Paris, served as head team manager at the 1999 World Championships in Seville, Spain, and was an Assistant Manager for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

A resident of Columbus, Ohio, Hightower currently serves as Vice President for Institutional Advancement for the Columbus College of Art & Design, where she is responsible for leading marketing and communications, media relations, philanthropy, community relations, alumni engagement and legislative affairs. She is involved in directing the college's first comprehensive campaign geared to raise $12 million for capital improvements and endowment growth. She has also held cabinet positions with the Mayor's office, where she was responsible for handling sports development.

A former world class 100m hurdler who competed on more than a dozen U.S. national teams, Hightower held several American and world records and was a member of the 1980 Olympic Team prior to retiring in 1988. As a student-athlete at The Ohio State University, Hightower earned Big Ten Conference, NCAA and National championship titles.

Moments before posting, paulmerca.blogspot.com spoke to Hightower, where she expressed her gratitude to those who voted for her and stated her intent to work with all constituents of the USATF family.

Hightower succeeds Bellingham's Bill Roe, who served as president for the last eight years.

NOTE: USA Track & Field contributed to this report.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Restructuring measures approved by USA Track & Field delegates at opening session...

RENO, Nevada--In a bit of a mild surprise, the restructuring measures talked about by USA Track & Field mandated by the US Olympic Committee was approved at the opening session of USATF’s annual meeting in Reno Wednesday night.

The surprising aspect of the restructuring measures were the fact that there was not a hint of a floor fight that many believed would happen with the measures proposed to the body.

The bylaw changes were formally presented to membership for a vote at Wednesday evening's Opening General Session of USATF's 2008 Annual Meeting. The changes were approved by a voice vote of membership in which "ayes" heavily outweighed a handful of "nays", more than providing the necessary two-thirds majority to approve.

"This was a historic vote, culminating reorganization efforts that had their roots as far back as the mid-1980s" said USATF president Bill Roe. "It is about improving the organization. Our own board, the group that will be remade by this legislation - the group that will remove most of itself with these changes - recognized this fact. They put their own self-interest aside to act in the interest of the sport. I congratulate our membership on making these extraordinary changes final."

"What our membership did this evening has given us the tools to reinvent USATF, becoming more responsible, responsive and professional," said USATF CEO Doug Logan. Taking the podium moments after the vote to approve the measures, he quipped, "Somebody told me this organization was dysfunctional. It looks pretty functional to me."

Here’s a capsule summary of the changes, some of which were discussed in earlier posts this week:

BOARD/COMMITTEE RESTRUCTURING

* The USATF Board will be reduced in size from 31 to 15 members. Included in those 15 seats are USATF's elected president; seats nominated by each of six USATF Divisions: High Performance, Long Distance Running, General Competition, Youth, Coaches and Officials groups; three seats for athletes; three "independent" seats; one seat for "5E" organizations (groups such as the NCAA, NAIA and others); and one seat for USATF's IAAF Council member. Under the proposal, the new Board would be in place in coming months.

* The Board will elect its own Chair. If the USATF President is not elected as Chair, the President will be named Vice Chair. This gives the Board the authority to elect its own leader while ensuring the continuation of a popularly elected President to represent the interests of USATF's volunteer sector. The President will preside over the Annual Meeting and non-board committees, leading a Volunteer Leadership Group in addition to sitting on the Board.

* Each of USATF's constituent groups with a nominated seat on the Board will provide the Board with three names as potential candidates for their respective seat. A Nominating and Governance Panel, which also will select and/or recruit the Independent Board Members, will choose the Board members from among the three names listed for each Board seat. This process will ensure the overall diversity, gender equity and competence of the Board.

* Committees will continue to select their own Chairs, with the Board providing final approval of all Chair positions.

* In accordance with a Board directive established over the summer, a Youth Division is being created.

ADMINISTRATIVE/NATIONAL OFFICE CHANGES

* USATF's High Performance Plan (HPP), as developed by the High Performance Committee, will be implemented by USATF staff accountable to the CEO.

*National Team Staffs will be submitted by the relevant selection committees to the CEO, who following a review will forward to the Board for approval. Once approved, the staff will be accountable to the CEO.

*National Championship site selection will be supervised by the National Office in conjunction with the relevant sport committee.

*The Board will continue to approve USATF's annual budget. The CEO will be responsible for all financial disbursements.

Other highlights of the first general session Wednesday night included a video presentation of the year in review; the handing of Presidents’ Awards by Roe; and a short speech by each of the three candidates running for president—Bob Bowman, Stephanie Hightower, and Dee Jensen.

NOTE: USA Track & Field contributed to this report.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

USA Track & Field at the crossroads (part 2)...

Current USA Track & Field board member, and until recently, High Performance Chairman Brooks Johnson blogs his opinion on the events upcoming at the Annual Meeting, including the election of a new president.

You can read it here...

NOTE: paulmerca.blogspot.com is staying neutral and chooses not to endorse any candidate for president, despite contact by all three candidates and/or their representatives.

USA Track & Field at the crossroads...

Beginning Wednesday, USA Track & Field will hold its annual meeting in Reno, Nevada, and paulmerca.blogspot.com will report on the major events surrounding the convention.

The convention marks the final meeting presided by current president Bill Roe, a long time fixture in the local and national track & field community, who got his start in the sport as a student manager at Nathan Hale HS and at the University of Washington, and rose to prominence through his hard work at all levels of the sport.

With Roe's term as president expiring this week, the delegates will elect a new president between Stephanie Hightower from Ohio, Dee Jensen from North Dakota, and Redmond's Bob Bowman.

Unlike past years, the office of president will be the only position on the board of directors that the membership will vote on, due to a restructuring process mandated by the US Olympic Committee that forces USA Track & Field to streamline its board of directors from 32 to 15.

Naturally, the axing of the board in half is a point of contention among the constituents of USATF, with the various factions positioning and lobbying for spots on the new board, which USATF CEO Doug Logan outlined in his blog of November 4th. Naturally, the people in groups as diverse as Youth, Masters, Officials, Long Distance Running, Race Walking, and High Performance are all wondering how this will affect their piece of the pie.

The diversity of USATF has led to infighting over the years between its constituents, as well as between the national office staff and the volunteer board of directors. Some people within USA Track & Field feel that the infighting was the lightning rod that led to former CEO Craig Masback's resignation early this year.

In preparation for this week's meetings, we've linked to a multi-part story written by Adam Jacobs of TheFinalSprint.com called, "Dysfunction Run Amuck".

You can read it here...

You can also listen to a series of questions asked of all three candidates written by Jimmie Markham in TheFinalSprint.com. The link to the podcasts are here...

NOTE: paulmerca.blogspot.com is staying neutral and chooses not to endorse any candidate for president, despite contact by all three candidates and/or their representatives.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Greg Metcalf named 2008 Division I USTFCCCA National Cross Country Coach of the Year...

NEW ORLEANS – Oregon’s Vin Lananna and Washington’s Greg Metcalf (left/photo by Paul Merca) picked up more cross country coaching honors on Monday as the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association announced the Division I Cross Country National Athlete and Coach of the Year honors.

After the most impressive season in school history, Washington Huskies head coach Greg Metcalf, was named the Division I Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year. His Huskies capped an undefeated season in 2008 by winning the Division I Cross Country title. Metcalf’s program finished eighth a year ago, which was the best finish for the Husky women at the time, before winning this year’s title, Washington’s first cross country championship. The Huskies dominated the meets they competed in this season. The women posted a perfect 15 points at the Pac-10 Conference Championships and scored 25 team points to win the West Regional title in November. Metcalf was earlier named the Division I Women’s West Region Coach of the Year.

Oregon head coach Vin Lananna was named the Division I Men’s Cross Country Coach of the Year after leading his Ducks to their second consecutive team championship. Oregon went undefeated during the season and was ranked No. 1 nationally from the preseason poll through the final standings.

NOTE: The USTFCCCA contributed to this report.

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