Before signing off from Eugene, I wanted to post a personal note of congratulations to "Down The Backstretch" and its publisher/editor, Charlie Mahler, as the web site was awarded the Track & Field Writers of America's Adam Jacobs Award for excellence in blogging.
(above/photo courtesy Down The Backstretch) for almost a decade, having first met at the USA Cross Country Championships in Vancouver. On several world cross country championship trips, Mahler was one of my cohorts in the mixed zone, helping grab quotes from tired athletes and incorporating them into the USA Track & Field story.
He was also, among other things, one of my roommates at the 2003 IAAF World Track & Field Championships in Paris, and a guy that was on the receiving end of the world famous football at several world cross country championship meets, as we would play catch with anybody and everybody before getting to work.
Mahler's blog was actually the inspiration for this very blog, in that the focus has been, first and foremost, on the athletes from our state--in Charlie's case, the athletes from the state of Minnesota. His format was the blueprint for how this blog is created.
I was honored to present him his award Friday at the TAFWA annual breakfast at the Eugene Hilton, after receiving word from TAFWA president and my old high school coach Jack Pfeifer Thursday night in the press area at Hayward Field.
Knowing how much the athletes from the state of Minnesota admire and respect his work, I asked as part of my presentation for 2004 Olympian Carrie Tollefson to write a few words.
She wrote, "Charlie is amazing. He is such a great guy with such knowledge of the sport. He's so willing to help us athletes out whether it be back in the day pacing us and helping us through long workouts or by writing about us as human beings first and athletes second."
"He has a true love for the sport but I think he respects the hard work, dedication, heart, emotion, and commitment it takes to be a runner. That shows in his writing. He is never one to bring an athlete down in his writing, and always lifts them up and makes the story real, showing everyone has great moments but also off moments as well. I really have nothing but great things to say about Charlie. Class act all around."
Somewhere up there, Adam Jacobs is smiling down upon Charlie, and the athletes from the state of Minnesota that he covers.
You and your blog are an inspiration to myself, the athletes you write about, and the countless number of track & field web journalists in this country.