Thursday, December 31, 2009
As publisher, editor, and designated gofer for the blog, I must also give thanks to social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter for helping expand the readership. Those of you who are friends/followers on those two outlets are receiving notices every time a new post comes up.
I must also give a special tip of the hat to Martin Rudow, the publisher of Northwest Runner magazine, as he has done a lot through the magazine and nwrunner.com to help expand our readership.
Track & Field News, and various blogs too numerous to name (but you know who you are) also get thanks for linking stories we posted this year.
In 2009, paulmerca.blogspot.com ventured to several places around the country and around the world to give you what I feel is the best coverage of Washingtonians competing at the highest levels of the sport.
The major events covered this year included the USA cross country championships outside of Washington DC; the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Amman, Jordan; the Nike Prefontaine Classic and the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene; the IAAF World Track & Field Championships in Berlin, Germany; the Nike Spring 2010 running summit in San Francisco; the NCAA West Regional Cross Country Championships from Eugene; and, the NCAA Cross Country Championships from Terre Haute, Indiana.
As we did to end 2008, we'll end 2009 with the presentation of the "Mercanator" awards in recognition of some of the performances and performers that we covered this year.
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 2010!
Enjoy, and thank you to all the readers for your support of the mighty blogspot!
Here are the disclaimers: 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. Also, not all categories from 2008 were awarded this year…publisher's decision.
The "Thanks for the Memories" award--To recently retired miler Chris Lukezic. Chris was a true friend of the blogspot, and was always very accommodating whenever we requested an interview. After several years of competing at the sport's highest level, including a spot on the 2005 world championships team in Helsinki, the former Auburn High School and Georgetown University standout decided to hang up the Reebok spikes to join a start-up company in the Bay Area.
I'll always remember the photo I took of him receiving his award from the Nike Border Clash from none other than Bernard Lagat, who is still ticking!
Former Washington women's distance coach Kelly Strong also gets this award for her help and cooperation during her tenure at Huskyville. She will be missed!
Media relations award--A tie again between Jacie Prieto (Nike), Mike Bruscas (UW), and Linda Chalich (WSU), with Seattle Pacific's Dan Lepse thrown in the mix. All four were helpful this year for various projects.
TOP PERFORMER--Men's Distances: Another Mercanator award to Bernard Lagat, 1500/5000 meters. Lagat bounced back from the disappointment in Beijing to earn a bronze medal in the 1500 and a silver medal in the 5000 at the world championships in Berlin. He ran 3:32.56 for 1500, 3:51.34 indoors in the mile, 7:33.15 for 3000, and 13:03.06 at 5000.
TOP PERFORMER--Men's Throws: Jarred Rome, discus. The former Marysville-Pilchuck HS standout returned to the finals at the world championships, and had the third best throw by an American this year at 214-11 (65.51). He unseats training partner Ian Waltz for the award.
TOP PERFORMER--Men's Vertical Jumps: Brad Walker, pole vault. While the 2007 world champion may admit that 2009 was a disappointment in that he didn't get to defend his world title thanks to an injury suffered in Monte Carlo weeks before the world championships, he did win the USA outdoor title, and cleared 19-0 1/4 (5.80m).
TOP PERFORMER--Men's Sprints/Hurdles: Jeshua Anderson, 400 hurdles. Anderson successfully defended his NCAA championship in the intermediate hurdles, running 48.47, then finished fifth in the USA championships, missing a spot on the world championship team.
TOP PERFORMER--Women's distances: (tie) Kendra Schaaf, cross country & Mel Lawrence, steeplechase. Husky teammates Schaaf and Lawrence get the award which Schaaf won outright in 2008. Schaaf finished second in the NCAA cross country championships, won the NCAA west regionals, and won the Canadian senior harrier title.
Lawrence finished third in the NCAA steeplechase title race, running a school record 9:40.98, then followed it up with a fifth place finish in the USA Championships.
TOP PERFORMER--Women's throws: Aretha Thurmond, discus. The former University of Washington All American made the finals in the discus at the world championships, placing tenth with a mark of 196-6 (59.89m). She threw a season best 205-1 (62.51) at the USA championships in Eugene.
TOP PERFORMER--Women's multi-events: Diana Pickler. Another easy choice, as the Washington State grad scored 6290 points to win the national title in Eugene, and placed 11th at the world championships with a final score of 6086 points. She also scored 5998 to get sixth at the Decastars heptathlon in France.
Finally, we can't end 2009 without giving a special "Mercanator" award recognizing Berlino as clearly the best mascot of this year! Months after the conclusion of the IAAF World Track & Field Championships, Berlino still gets raves for his performance during the nine days of competition at the Olympiastadion.
The IAAF should seriously consider making Berlino the organization's official mascot, or at least travel him to all the Diamond League meetings around the world in 2010!
Who will get the "Mercanator" awards for 2010? You'll have to follow the blogspot for a full year to find out!
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Several other web sites do an outstanding job covering the high school scene, so I've let them carry on with their work. On the other hand, I don't pretend that I know anything about masters track & field, even though I'm old enough to compete at that level; therefore, I choose not to cover that angle of our sport. Besides, that would stretch my resources pretty thin.
My interest in track & field has always been with the collegiate and post collegiate athlete trying to get themselves up to the national or international level, or as one of my contemporaries, the late Bill McChesney once said, "I don't want to be the big fish in a small pond, nor do I want to be a small fish in a big pond. I want to be the biggest fish in the biggest pond!"
My journalism teacher at Seattle's Franklin High School, Barbara Nilson, once told me that I should write about something that I feel passionate about, and to write about it with conviction. This blog, my friends, is my way of repaying her. Thank you.
On a lighter note, I'd like to share with you two videos (hopefully they don't get yanked by the owners) as a little holiday gift to you...please enjoy it as you enjoy the last week of this decade with friends, family and loved ones.
May you feel the joy this holiday season that Polish pole vaulter Anna Rogowska (above/photo by Paul Merca) felt after winning the world championship this summer, and may you get to share your joy with friends, or even a dancing bear! :-)
Thanks for following the sport on my blog!
Sunday, December 20, 2009
The 2007 World Outdoor 1,500m and 5,000m champion out of Washington State University, Lagat won his seventh Wanamaker Mile title at last year's Millrose Games, which tied all-time Irish legend and "Chariman of the Boards" Eamonn Coghlan for the most wins ever in that prestigious event.
The Wanamaker Mile is the traditional concluding event of the Millrose Games, which is the first stop of USA Track & Field's Visa Championship Series Indoor Circuit that will culminate with the 2010 USA Indoor Track & Field Championships, February 27-28 in Albuquerque, N.M.
The 103rd Millrose Games will be televised live on January 29 on ESPN2 from 8-10 p.m. Eastern Time. The Wanamaker Mile is scheduled to begin at 9:50 p.m.
Lagat knew to expect a move by Olympic bronze medalist Nick Willis in the 2009 version of the Wanamaker Mile. That move came with just over a lap to go on the 145-meter track, when Willis burst past Lagat on the backstretch. Lagat appeared momentarily stunned but quickly responded and got on the New Zealander's shoulder. Just after the bell lap, Lagat began his move and passed Willis on the backstretch, winning in 3:58.44.
The oldest continuously held event in Madison Square Garden, the Millrose Games have historically featured track and field's greatest athletes in "The World's Most Famous Arena," including Carl Lewis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Yelena Isinbayeva, Gail Devers, Maurice Greene, and countless others.
NOTE: USA Track & Field contributed to this report.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Butcher writes on his web site, globerunner.org, "On the first night of his eight-day solo engagement in the Olympiastadion, Berlino was interrupted by a young man masquerading as a sprinter, and trying to steal the ursine star’s limelight. Never one to rebuff a young hopeful, the bear played along.
In an exclusive interview with Globerunner, Herr Berlino told us, ‘At first I thought it was Carl Lewis, ‘cause he’ll do anything he can to get his picture in the paper nowadays. But I quickly realised that this guy had hair and straight teeth’.
Berlino refuted counter-claims that he was on his way across the track, with the objective of trying to maim another young Jamaican female hurdler. “That’s nonsense,” said the bear. “In any case, she wasn’t a hurdler, she was a Walker.
Referring to the interloper, Berlino said affably, “Someone said the kid’s name was Usain Bolt. I looked him up later, and found that Bolt won the world junior 200 metres back in 2002, then disappeared. I knew it was a hoax, because someone said this kid had run 9.58sec and 19.19sec, and it’s clear that that’s impossible. That nice Michael Johnson told me no one was going to break his 200 metres record for 25 years, and I believe him”.
Colorado's Jenny Barringer and Oregon's Galen Rupp (left/photo by Paul Merca) were the winners of The Bowerman, the honor bestowed by the USTFCCCA to the top collegiate track & field athlete of 2009. The award was presented to the duo at the USTFCCCA convention in Orlando on Wednesday night.
The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) is the non-profit professional organization that represents men's and women's cross country and track & field coaches in the United States. The organization represents over 8,000 coaching members, including 93% of NCAA track & field coaches.
Not only did Rupp pull off an individual double-double at the indoor and outdoor NCAA Championships in 2009, he posted a new indoor American and collegiate record at 5000 meters in running 13:18.12 at the Tyson Invitational in February. At the NCAA Indoor Championships, Rupp helped Oregon to a national team title, accounting for 22½ team points, garnering national titles at 3000 meters and 5000 meters and as anchor leg of the Ducks’ distance medley relay. Rupp overcame near-disaster in the 5,000 meters at the outdoor national championships as he was stepped on early in the race and had to stop to put his shoe back on. In spite of the setback, Rupp came back to win the event by three seconds.
Barringer (left/photo by Paul Merca) had an amazing 2009, setting two indoor and three outdoor collegiate records on the track while adding two NCAA and two Big 12 crowns. Indoors, Barringer set all-time collegiate bests in three events over the span of five weeks. On February 14, it was a 15:01.70 clocking at Washington’s Husky Classic over 5000 meters that was the fastest time ever run by a collegian, all-conditions, indoors or outdoors.
Two weeks later at the Big 12 Indoor Championships in College Station, Texas, Barringer blazed a 4:25.91 clocking in the mile to earn the conference title in the event. In another two weeks, she returned to College Station to win the NCAA 3000 meters in a collegiate record time of 8:42.03. Outdoors, Barringer broke her own collegiate 3000-meter steeplechase record twice and defended her NCAA title in the event while also recording an outdoor 5000-meter collegiate record.
The full story can be read here…
The NCAA announced that Oregon will host the 2013 and 2014 NCAA track & field championships at Hayward Field.
Oregon will host the 2010 NCAA championships this coming June.
"With the commitment from University President Richard Lariviere and Athletic Director Mike Bellotti for not only this June's NCAA Track & Field Championships, but also for 2013 and 2014, we are poised to create a truly spectacular experience for the student-athletes, the fans and the national television audience at Hayward Field," said University of Oregon associate athletic director Vin Lananna.
The full story can be read here…
Finally, here's a link to a press release we received from Martin Bingisser of the Evergreen Athletic Fund announcing that it has partnered with RunnerSpace.com to put together a new and improved version of its popular CollegeHammer.com and HSHammer.com websites. While the Evergreen Athletic Fund was only founded last year, CollegeHammer.com and HSHammer.com have been providing the nation with news, rankings, results, and other information about prep and collegiate hammer throwing for the past decade. None of that will change with the move.
Evergreen Athletic Fund President Martin Bingisser says the move will allow both sites to increase their interactivity and better promote the niche sport. "By allowing users to share video, pictures, news, and more, the EAF will emerge as moth than just a content provider," said Bingisser. "Getting our users more involved will only help the sport grow more."
The full story can be read here...
NOTE: The USTFCCCA, the University of Oregon, and the Evergreen Athletic Fund all contributed to this report.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Clearly the best mark of the afternoon's competition was pole vaulter Scott Roth's (left/photo by Jason Drake, Univ of Washington) 18-0 1/2 (5.50 meters) jump to win the event for the Purple team. Afterwards, he told us that he was pleasantly surprised that he jumped that high, especially in December.
Roth took three good shots at 18-4 1/2 (5.60m) to end the competition.
Another outstanding mark was in the men's turbo javelin competition, as Kyle Nielsen of the Purple team won with a throw of 65 meters (213-3)
Dominique Lauderdale (Purple) won the rarely contested women's 88 meter dash in a new world indoor best of 10.87. Ryan Hamilton of the Gold team laid claim to the men's indoor world best, winning in 9.63 seconds.
The highlight of the meet was the running of the co-ed (we think) 30 x 307 meter relay as throwers, jumpers, and sprinters combined forces to run the climactic event.
As they did throughout the meet, the Gold team won the relay, in a time of 22:25.6, with the Purple crossing the line in 22:46.3 (hand-timed).
The regular season opens for the University of Washington on January 16th with the UW Indoor Preview meet at the Dempsey Indoor facility. The team is currently going through fall semester finals, before embarking on its Christmas break.
Here are video highlights from the UW Purple/Gold Intrasquad meet:
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Lind broke Matt Ludwigson's 2007 record of 4,951 points. Lind's previous best was 4,910 set in 2008. He also qualified for the Big Sky Conference Championships.Lind was one of 18 qualifying marks attained for the BSC Championships.
In dual-meet scoring, EWU men defeated Montana 64 -30 and Eastern women lost to the Grizzlies 50.5 to 46.5.
Complete results from the heptathlon can be obtained here, while complete results from the Candy Cane Invitational are available here.
Friday's pentathlon results, won by Lindsey Hall of Montana, are available here.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Patrick, a past president of the Track & Field Writers of America, emailed LetsRun.com, stating that he "loved covering the sport the past 34 years and hope(s) to be able to continue (doing so) in the future. (I) love your website and appreciate the play you gave some of my stories. (Unfortunately), it may be a while before you post any more."
From a personal perspective, I found it rather curious that Patrick, a regular at the IAAF World Track & Field Championships, was not in attendance in Berlin.
Then again, the number of Americans covering the world championships was down, as is normally the case in a post-Olympic year.
With his departure from the newspaper, the number of writers at major newspapers in the USA that focus on track and field are now few and far between, as the papers are using sources like Associated Press and Reuters to cover the big national and international events.
Most of the writers from the major papers that currently cover track and field at the highest levels are primarily Olympic sports beat writers, such as Phil Hersh of the Chicago Tribune/LA Times, Amy Shipley of the Washington Post, Liz Robbins, Christopher Clarey & Juliet Macur of the New York Times. There are also others, such as the San Francisco Chronicle's John Crumpacker, who come from other sports beats to cover track (he had the coveted San Francisco 49ers beat)
In an unrelated development, long-time television track & field statistician Walt Murphy informs paulmerca.blogspot.com that long-time New York Times track & field writer Frank Litzky last month went in for elective knee replacement surgery, and ended up having a quadruple heart bypass surgery instead.
As he sat in a Fremont coffee shop talking about his career, Ken Foreman (left, with Doris Heritage/photo courtesy Seattle Pacific University) was still very much in a coaching mode.
No surprise there. He has been coaching since age 25. And he’s not ready to stop at age 87.
“If I walked out that door right now, and somebody needed instruction, I would be willing and happy to do it,” Foreman said.
Matter of fact, the legendary Seattle Pacific track and field coach, who at different times also served the school as a basketball coach, cross country coach and athletic director, is still teaching the finer points of his trade to the track and cross country teams at Konawaena High School in Kailua Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Come Saturday night in Indianapolis, Foreman will reap one of the ultimate rewards for his 62 years of time and coaching talent when he is inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame.
“How this happened, I do not know. But I’m shocked and humbled,” Foreman said. “The call came to my wife (Denise), and she passed the phone to me. Somebody started talking about the Hall of Fame, and I thought they were saying I had been recommended. But they said, ‘No – you’re in the Hall of Fame.’
“I was speechless.”
Foreman might have been stunned at his selection, but many of his former athletes certainly aren’t.
Truth be told, some are wondering what took so long.
“I was embarrassed to be in any Hall of Fame before he was,” said former distance running star and longtime coach Doris Heritage. “He didn’t always have everything easy, and I think that’s the case with a lot of good coaches. He has practiced what he preaches about accepting challenges and opportunities, and stretching yourself to levels you haven’t been, using your God-given capabilities and the gifts you’ve been given.”
Added Lynette Matthews, who developed into a world-caliber discus and shot put star under Foreman’s guidance, “He gave and gave of himself in so many ways to see us be and do our best. He was a coach, but he is a friend. He’s more than an athletic coach. He’s a life coach whose life spoke loudest.”
VERSATILITY ONE OF HIS HALLMARKS
The man who became synonymous with track and field as a coach, whether at Seattle Pacific or with the U.S. national team, was a college All-American athlete in his day … as a gymnast. And was an interscholastic world record holder … in the rope climb. And won high school all-city recognition in Los Angeles … as a second baseman.
I loved everything in season,” Foreman said. “I loved being a baseball player, but that option didn’t present itself (after high school). So I went for gymnastics and track and field.”
Even when he came to what then was Seattle Pacific College in 1949, Foreman’s duty was that of JV basketball coach. He did that for three years, then moved up to head basketball coach and athletic director.
But, “My real love was for the growing track and field program,” Foreman said. “We had some good kids early on.
“The rest is history.”
During his three tenures at the track helm – 1950-57, 1965-78, and 1985-2000 – Foreman’s athletes made plenty of history. The man regarded as the patriarch of Falcon athletics and the builder of Royal Brougham Pavilion and of the Foreman Track/Wallace Field facility had 13 of his women’s teams finish among the top 10 in the country. Altogether, his athletes recorded 26 individual national titles and 159 All-American performances.
“He honored and treated us as women on and off the field,” Matthews said. “Somehow, he drew our motivation out from deep within rather than by dangling carrots in front of us.”
It wasn’t actually on the track where Foreman decided he wanted to be a coach. It was in the middle of the South Pacific during World War II, where he served in the Coast Guard.
“One night, I was standing watch between Guam and Okinawa, and I said to myself, ‘If I make it home from the war, I’m going to try to go to school and be a coach,’ Foreman recalled. His reasoning?
“I would not be where I am if not for high school coaches. They were huge in my life.”
What gave Foreman an edge? One thing was his extensive knowledge of exercise physiology. In fact, he says, for any coach who wants to be successful today, “You either have to know physiology, anatomy or biomechanics. You have to be a quasi scientist. That would not have been possible when I started coaching in 1947.”
Said Heritage, “When he first started coaching, there were not very many people in the field who had the knowledge to be a good coach. He has a physiological background, and there were few people with that kind of background who worked with athletes – particularly people who worked with women.”
Another facet of his success was keeping it all in perspective.
“I think anyone who knows me would say, “Ken Foreman was always more interested in me as a person and as an athlete rather than as someone who could get points for the team or for him,’” he said. “I could care less how many points the team scores. I want each athlete to do her or his best.”
“What he gave to people is he helped them believe in themselves and in being a well-rounded human being,” she said. “He treats everyone like they’re capable of being an Olympic athlete. As a result, these people rise and believe in themselves, and it makes them a different person.”
Now retired in Hawaii with wife Denise, Foreman returns to Seattle a few times a year for medical appointments. His blood still runs a very deep shade of SPU maroon.
“None of this could have happened anyplace other than Seattle Pacific,” he said. “President (C. Hoyt) Watson gave me the opportunity to explore the world, unfettered, as long as what I did was beneficial to the school. It’s the school and the kids with whom I was privileged to work who have lifted me to whatever I have achieved.”
Foreman recalled a comment from legendary Tennessee State coach Eddie Temple as a simple way to sum up his own success at Seattle Pacific.
“He said, ‘I loved them a little, I learned them a little, and they performed.”
NOTE: To read the full story, please click here...
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Some traditions are enduring, valuable and should stand the test of time. Turkey on Thanksgiving, champagne at weddings, the Yankees beating the Red Sox in the American League playoffs. Others seem arbitrary and should be re-examined from time to time. Last year I broke with tradition by providing the Bylaw-mandated CEO's State of the Sport address at the Closing Session of the Annual Meeting, rather than at the Opening. This year I will break with tradition once again.
First, I will divide my address into two parts. The first comes now, at the Opening Session. You'll have to stick around until Sunday morning to hear the rest.
Last year I was told it was traditional for the CEO to introduce the National Office Staff before the speech. I have come to the realization that by introducing and dismissing my colleagues prior to my address, I marginalized their contributions to this enterprise. Today, we break with another tradition as we stand before you to report on our accomplishments during this very challenging year.
One year ago in Reno, I gave a State of the Sport speech that laid out multiple goals. Different people remember different things about that speech. Based on comments I've received, a distressingly large number seem to recall my brown pinstripe suit. But the most memorable refrain from that pulpit-delivered speech was the biggest goal.
One year ago, we stated plainly that we will win "30 CLEAN MEDALS IN LONDON."
We are on our way. Led by Chief of Sport Performance Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, we have put into place many of the resources necessary to achieve that goal. As we develop more far-reaching development programs for technical events in the next 18 months, our progress toward that goal will become more obvious and measurable. But when you look at Berlin vs. Beijing in the technical events, we added two long jump medals and improved the color of our men's shot put hardware. We had more athletes than at any time in the last decade at or near the top of IAAF performance lists in the field events. Our women's middle-distance runners were ranked #1 in the world by the international statistical website All-Athletics.com. And about a month ago, we placed six men in the top 10 of a World Marathon Major, including winner Meb Keflezighi. Yet there is much, much more to be done.
One year ago, we said, "We will expeditiously adopt the recommendations of our Project 30 Task Force."
Done. And constantly developing. In February, the Task Force released its report and recommendations for structuring a high-performance plan that will lead to 30 medals. Their recommendations included hiring a GM of High Performance, creating a transparent team staff-selection system, restructuring the composition of team staffs, shortening the Olympic Trials, terminating the national relay program, establishing a comprehensive 2012 team preparation program, targeting technical events for medal growth, creating a professional athlete designation, establishing a more stringent anti-doping reinstatement system, and promoting and fostering an athlete's union.
As of today, all of those goals have been achieved or are in process, except for the athlete's union recommendation.
One year ago, we said, "We must find the way to connect the disparate parts of the long-distance community and provide it with needed services... We can and should apply newer technologies such as live streaming of races in order to propagate interest and following."
Done. USATF in 2009 provided live streaming of five national championship road races, thanks to a partnership with flotrack.com. We also provided videostreaming of the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. We look to at least match those numbers, and possibly increase them, in 2010, including the webcasting of three Youth events.
One year ago, we said, "We should create compelling reasons for more long distance runners to be members of USATF. Accordingly, we are challenging ourselves to grow our membership by 30 percent by the year 2012."
We are on our way. Our 2009 membership levels were up 11 percent from 2008, and the number of member clubs increased 5 percent. In perhaps a telling anecdote, after videostreaming our events, we received several emails from members saying that for the first time, they felt USATF was providing them with a valuable service. That's right, we actually got emails from SATISFIED customers! We even gained a few first-time members from the effort. That, my friends, was the idea.
One year ago, we said, "We will take this $16M business and grow it to a $30M business by the year 2012. We will forge new partnership alliances and negotiate higher prices for existing sponsorship arrangements."
We are on our way. On Monday, our Board of Directors unanimously adopted our submitted budget for 2010, which you, our members, hopefully will vote for on Sunday. After nearly six years of a flat budget of approximately $15 million, we have submitted an annual budget for 2010 of $21 million. Twenty-one million dollars. To increase our budget 40 percent in daunting economic times, we increased our revenue and changed our mindset from status-quo to "go, go, go." Our business plan is designed to generate new and higher-value sponsorships. In doing so, management is making itself accountable to deliver on what we are promising.
One way we have already done this is by reaching a deal in mid-2009 that increases the value of Nike's contribution to USATF by almost 50 percent. A good portion of those funds are earmarked specifically for the athlete, thanks to a pool of money known as the "Project 30 Fund". That Fund is one of the most revolutionary and important parts of our agreement with Nike, and it could have the biggest impact on our fortunes in London. It also will have a huge impact on the day-to-day functioning of the organization and our abilities to serve our grass roots constituencies.
Of course, getting the money is just the first step. What we do with it is what determines our success or failure. As President Stephanie Hightower described in her remarks, the introduction of Challenge Grants is one of the most exciting parts of the budget for the upcoming year. We believe that these grants, which will go to projects that foster competitive excellence, will have an profound impact on the Youth, Masters, Race Walking, Long-Distance Running and Disabled disciplines of our sport and will revolutionize how programs are created and administered. Groups that may in the past have felt overlooked, or at least under-funded, will each have between $25,000 and $50,000 in grant money earmarked for them. Now it's up to them, and you, to brainstorm the programs and state your case.
One year ago, we said, "We will do a far better job at getting our compelling stories out to the public through a variety of media platforms."
Done, but by no means finished. Shortly after I was hired, I instructed our staff to get us on Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and any other social media that might expand our outreach, especially to young people. We are just a fraction of the way to where we want to be, but our Facebook presence has tripled this year alone, and we are increasingly communicating with fans and "friends" by posting non-USATF articles and fostering online discussion. Still ahead is a planned upgrade to our web site, including better use of our vast video archives to create compelling online content. By now, we hope you have seen our redesigned and re-imagined Fast Forward, while Elite Athletes have a fresh new magazine as well. That reinvention will continue and accelerate.
One year ago, we said "We must be global in our outlook. This includes participation in more international competitions with full teams, hiring multicultural, multilingual executives, and becoming more active in our international federation."
Done, and on our way. In 2009 we participated in smaller international competitions in the Caribbean, almost exclusively for the purpose of showing our goodwill as members of the NACAC region. We began talks with federations across the Atlantic to force team-based international dual, triangular or quadrangular meets, and of course 2010 will mark the debut of the highly anticipated USA vs. Jamaica home-and-home series.
One year ago, we said, "We pledge to find both a venue and financing and will successfully bid on the outdoor World Championships for 2015."
We're working on it. I don't know that I've ever been accused of mincing words, so let me say unequivocally that Chicago losing the 2016 Olympic bid was more than a small bump in the road for us as we move toward this goal. That bid would have given this country a stadium capable of holding a World Championship. But we haven't given up, and we are actively pursuing alternative options with other U.S. cities to consider a 2015 bid.
One year ago, we said, "If we want to make a serious statement as a major sport, we need to establish a presence on both coasts of the country. We will relocate a cadre of marketing and communications professionals to New York in 2009 in order to be able to perform those functions more effectively."
Done. Our New York office opened in October and is staffed regularly by Chief Public Affairs Officer Jill Geer. I will be spending one week per month in New York and am currently interviewing candidates for a full-time marketing sales position that will be based there.
One year ago, we said, "A large percentage of our elite athletes live or train in the Southern California area, and we will have a one- or two-person presence to service our athletes' needs in the region by the end of next year."
Done. Director of Coaching Terry Crawford, herself a coaching Hall of Famer, is based on California and is charged with overseeing USATF programs there, including the training center at Chula Vista.
One year ago, we said, "We will reach out to the coaches and their organization with a hand of friendship and solidarity."
One year ago, we said we will "return to the Chula Vista training camp in a major, managing role."
One year ago, I said, "We will look internally at our rules to eliminate those that are arbitrary, unenforceable or inconsistent with modern cultural norms."
Done. You accomplished much of that last year by enacting a small but meaningful set of Bylaw changes. At this Annual Meeting, you will have an opportunity to finish the job and make this organization more highly functioning than at any point in its history.
In the 12 months since Reno, we have spoken regularly about several additional items that all have been achieved and which all have significantly upgraded the professionalism of this organization.
Even before I was hired, this organization desperately needed a Chief Operating Officer and a "succession plan". The need to have a second-in-command was made vividly clear in 2008 when USA Track & Field had to cobble together a leadership team to help direct the administration though six months without a leader. Thanks to the selfless work of Bill Roe and a core group of National Office staff, we made it through just fine, but leadership should never be an ad-hoc venture.
Of course, we now have a COO in Mike McNees. Even more important, we have in our Bylaws a mandated procedure for what happens when the CEO is away from the office, traveling on business, taking a vacation, or has been abducted by an angry mob demanding an end, or at least a name change, to the CEO's blog. In any of those events, the Chief Operating Officer steps in. We haven't broken the news to Al Haig yet, but I think Mike can handle him.
Another constant directive from the USOC was that we must produce an Annual Report. Not a blow-by-blow summary of our finances or detailed account of all our activities, but a professional, corporate Annual Report that lays out the fundamental philosophies and core strengths of the organization and puts it in the context of the preceding year. In 2009, we did just that, in an Annual Report that is literally, visually and factually powerful. I expect us to improve upon it in 2010.
Nearly one year ago, I delivered a speech to Focus on the Future, a gathering of the dietary supplement and healthy food industries in Scottsdale, Ariz., the text of which I posted as a blog on the USATF Web site. In my remarks, I derided the Wild West-style regulation of the supplement industry, which is to say there is no regulation, and asserted that the lack of oversight in the face of blatantly obvious contamination was hurting our athletes and the American public. For those remarks, I was rewarded in the desert with shouts, boos, and people getting up and walking out. I'm pleased to report that yesterday, USATF joined the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and many of this country's most important sports organizations in launching an offensive to end the dangerous and unscrupulous practices of rogue manufacturers within the nutritional supplement industry. This new effort, called "Supplement Safety Now", will work to eliminate the practice of selling dangerous products containing steroids and other drugs as "safe and legal" dietary supplements. Although that battle is just beginning, we have every confidence that our goals will be achieved.
Finally, one year ago at our Closing Session, I talked about what at that time was my upcoming collaboration with newly elected President Stephanie Hightower. One year ago, I said, "you will never think of the phrases 'shrinking violet' or 'reclusive' when describing the leadership of USATF."
We certainly have lived up to that statement. I've often described my working relationship with Stephanie as one of the most rewarding of my professional life, and it continues to grow, change, and challenge both of us daily. In June, Stephanie and I sat down for a joint interview that became part of the Annual Report. More than any description either of us could offer, that interview captures the nature of our collaboration, and the chemistry, competitiveness and cooperation that has enabled us to play a joint role in elevating USA Track & Field to where it is now. We learn from each other. We learn how to lead, how and when to back off, and how best to guide this many-headed hydra of an incredible sports organization to a place where we have the financial and organizational stability to do our job better than any other organization of its kind.
Eighteen months into this journey, we can now say the groundwork is all there to really move toward the loftiest goals we discussed in 2008. It is now our responsibility to make sure that three years from now, we can recall that #1 goal of 30 CLEAN MEDALS IN LONDON and give a one-word report card:
The text of Logan's speech comes courtesy of USA Track & Field. This was Doug Logan's opening session speech to the delegates attending the USA Track & Field Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Thursday. Logan will present the second part of his "State of the Sport" address at Sunday's Closing Session.
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