Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How I voted for The Bowerman, and why...

As some of you who read the blog regularly know, I was selected by the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association as a voting member of The Bowerman, the award that will be presented Wednesday in San Antonio, Texas to the outstanding collegiate male & female track & field athlete of 2010.

As a media member who covers the sport at the regional, national, and international levels for among others, this blog, Northwest Runner magazine, and the various television outlets I freelance for (this year, I worked meets for NBC Sports, CBS Sports, and Fox Sports Net), I do take these opportunities to help select the winners of awards such as the Bowerman and the Jesse Owens (the USA Track & Field athlete of the year) seriously, and try not to have fan popularity sway my decision making.

I can say that I saw all six finalists—Ashton Eaton (left/photo by Paul Merca) and Andrew Wheating of Oregon, Ryan Whiting of Arizona State, Queen Harrison of Virginia Tech, Lisa Koll of Iowa State, and Blessing Okagbare of UTEP compete in person this season, with obviously seeing all three male finalists numerous times, primarily during the indoor season in my role as an announcer at University of Washington home track meets.

MEN

This was actually pretty easy, as I gave Ashton Eaton of Oregon my first place vote. Setting the world record in the heptathlon at the NCAA championships on the same weekend as the IAAF world indoors in Doha in my mind pretty much sealed the deal.

Eaton scored 6499 points in Fayetteville, Arkansas on March 12-13 to eclipse Dan O’Brien’s 1993 world record set at the world indoor championships.

Eaton’s decathlon score of 8457 points at the NCAA outdoor championships shattered the old NCAA championship meet mark of 8276 set by Tennessee’s Brian Brophy from 1992, and is the second best mark in the world this season, behind Bryan Clay’s 8483 in Gotzis.

I struggled between Whiting and Wheating over who should be ranked 2 and 3 on my ballot (voters had to rank them 1-2-3). I gave it to Whiting based on his dominance over the field all season long in the shot put, as he went undefeated against collegians, winning both the indoor and outdoor NCAA titles, the latter in a mark of 72-1 (21.97m), the #2 performance in collegiate history, and the fifth best performer in the world this season.

I did not take Whiting’s NCAA championship in the discus into consideration, quite honestly when making the choice for 2-3.

Wheating’s loss to Robby Andrews in the NCAA 800 indoors was the only major blemish on Wheating’s resume. Having said that, if marks made after the NCAA championships could be considered, then I would most likely flip Wheating to #2 based on his 3:30.90 in Monaco…but remember, we are talking about who the best collegiate track and field athlete of 2010 is.

WOMEN

While the women’s voting was a bit tougher, I went ahead and voted for Queen Harrison of Virginia Tech as my Bowerman Award winner.

I thought that she was the most dominant athlete in her events—the 60m hurdles indoors, and the 100 and 400 hurdles outdoors, going undefeated in all finals this season.

Her 7.94 at the ACC Championships indoors was the #8 performance in collegiate history and made her the #5 collegiate performer all time.

Harrison became the first woman to win both hurdle races at the NCAA outdoors, winning the 100 hurdles in 12.67, and the 400 hurdles in 54.55, making her the #9 collegiate performer all-time.

Additionally, her 12.61 at the Penn Relays tied her for third best performer on the all-time collegiate list, and was the sixth best performer in the world this season.

Once again I struggled between Okagbare and Koll for positions 2-3. Like the Whiting/Wheating vote, it came down to what happened in the NCAA indoor meet, when Koll was beaten in the 3000 by Illinois’ Angela Bizzarri.

Though the argument can be made that she was beaten at a shorter distance, my counterpoint is that you need to be dominant over all collegiate competitors, particularly in the finals.

Okagbare in the 60 indoors, the 100 outdoors, and the long jump both indoors and outdoors was just that in finals--dominant. You can say Koll was dominant at the 5000 and 10000 outdoors, and has better marks on the collegiate, and world lists (particularly in the 10000, where she is #5 worldwide this year at 31:18.07, a collegiate record, which she set at Stanford), and I’ll give folks that.

I go with what many of the long-time folks who cover this sport say: if there’s any doubts, go with head to head competitive records.

In voting on thebowerman.org, the fans disagreed with me. Over 27,000 votes were cast this year and Lisa Koll (53 percent) was the women’s top vote getter while Queen Harrison (43 percent) and Blessing Okagbare (4 percent) followed. The men’s voting was incredibly tight as Ryan Whiting (39 percent) earned the fan vote nod, followed by Ashton Eaton (35 percent) and Andrew Wheating (26 percent).

America will find out Wednesday who gets The Bowerman Award.

Media partner flotrack.org will stream video coverage of The Bowerman Award beginning at 7pm central time (5 pm pacific).  The awards show, emceed by ESPN’s John Anderson, will feature each of the six finalists and include one-on-one interviews with each of the athletes.

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