Monday, December 31, 2012

And now...the 2012 edition of the Mercanator Awards...


ORLANDO, Florida--Greetings from sunny Orlando, where I'm writing the final blog post of 2012 at the airport.

If you're wondering why I'm here, it's because I'm doing a mileage run from Seattle to accrue enough miles to maintain elite mileage status for 2013 on Alaska Airlines, which will come in handy for two overseas trips.

In 2012, I did accrue platinum status traveling via Toyota Corolla, which doesn't get me anything but an 'attaboy' -- it doesn't get me a cup of coffee either, so here I am after flying on a red eye to Atlanta, and changing planes to go to Orlando.  

You guys and gals help make the blog what it is--a trusted source of information on  Washington state's collegiate and professional track and field athletes.

As publisher, editor, and designated gofer for the blog, I must give thanks to social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for helping expand the readership. We've also started up an Instagram account for the blog this year, as well as a Pinterest account.  Those of you who are friends/followers on those three outlets are receiving notices every time a new post comes up.

I must thank publisher Martin Rudow and editor Heather Romano of Northwest Runner for their support, as this blog is really an extension of what I do for them.

We've been fortunate enough to have numerous web sites link to us whenever we've run stories of significant importance, and I'd like to thank all of you.

The many writers and photographers who contributed pieces to the blog are to be thanked as well, as their input and contributions are very valuable.  I'd like to give a special shout out to Randy Miyazaki of trackandfieldphoto.com along with Mike Scott for letting me use their photos from various meets.

Thanks go to the many media relations folks who were of immense help this year, including Greg Walker at Oregon, Linda Chalich at WSU, Mike Bruscas at the UW, Megan Saalfeld and Heidi Burgett at Nike, Angelique Chondi at Nike Hellas, Caitlin Albaugh at adidas, and Tom Lewis at the USTFCCCA.

As always, Jill Geer at USA Track & Field along with her staff, including Katie Branham and Jared Slinde deserve special mention, as well as Nick Davies' staff at the IAAF.

In the Olympic year, most of our travels were to Eugene, Oregon for the Nike Prefontaine Classic, the Pac-12 championships, and of course, the US Olympic Trials.

We also took trips to St. Louis for the USA cross country championships, Santa Clarita, California for the Pac-12 cross country championships, Pullman for the UW/WSU dual meet, Richmond BC for the Harry Jerome Indoor meet, and Athens, Greece for the We Run Athens 10k.

We also covered all of the indoor track meets hosted by the University of Washington at the super-fast Dempsey Indoor oval.

And now…the Mercanators for 2012!

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 previous editions were awarded this year…publisher's decision.

TOP PERFORMER--Men's Sprints:  Rainier Beach HS grad Mike Berry, competing for the University of Oregon again gets the nod, based on a solid second place finish in the NCAA 400 meter finals, running a personal best 44.75 in Des Moines.  He also finished second in the Pac-12 400, and third in the NCAA indoor 400.

Washington's James Alaka gets an honorable mention for winning the Pac-12 title in the 200, and achieving the Olympic A standard in Eugene, running a PR 20.45.

TOP PERFORMER--Men's Distances:  The wily veteran from Washington State, Bernard Lagat (left/photo by Paul Merca) gets this award again for finishing fourth in the finals of the Olympic 5000 meter run, and second in the US Olympic Trials, and earned a #5 world ranking from Track & Field News.

In a very tactical final, Lagat and Kenya's Isiah Koech bumped into each other entering the homestretch, losing momentum and real estate, running 13:42.99, .32 away from a third career Olympic medal.

Lagat also won yet another world indoor 3000 meter title, running 7:41.44 to outkick eventual Olympic 5/10k champ Mo Farah of Great Britain.

An honorable mention goes to Stanford alum and Bellingham native Jake Riley, who won the USATF club cross country title earlier this month, and helped Team USA to a third place finish in the Chiba Ekiden in November.

TOP PERFORMER--Men's Throws:  Marysville-Pilchuck alum Jarred Rome earns the nod by making his second career Olympic team with a sixth round toss and season best of 207-10 (63.35m) to finish second at the US Olympic trials.  He was also ranked #4 in the US by Track & Field News.

TOP PERFORMER--Men's Vertical Jumps:  Spokane native Brad Walker swept both the US indoor and outdoor national titles, and finished third at the world indoor championships in Istanbul, marking the third time he's medaled at that meet, winning in 2006 in Moscow, and taking second in 2008 in Valencia.  He also jumped a season best of 19-4 1/4 (5.90m) in Chula Vista in July.


TOP PERFORMER--Women's Sprints/Hurdles:  Rainier Beach HS grad Ginnie Crawford (above/photo by Paul Merca) gets the nod with an oh-so-close fourth place finish at the US Olympic Trials.  Despite that fourth place finish, she was ranked #4 in the world by Track & Field News, running a best this season of 12.59.

TOP PERFORMER--Women's Distances:  There was two ways to go about this--either take Washington's Katie Flood based on winning the NCAA 1500 crown and anchoring the Huskies to an NCAA distance medley crown indoors, or take Washington alum Katie Mackey for making the finals of the US Olympic Trials, and getting a #9 US ranking in the 1500.

While winning the NCAAs was impressive, I had to go with Mackey, as her 4:06.67 was the 7th fastest time in the country this season, while Flood's 4:11.38 was good for #26.

TOP PERFORMER--Women's Vertical Jumps:  Former WSU Cougar Ebba Jungmark gets the nod, based on a second place finish in the high jump at the world indoors in Istanbul, jumping 6-4 3/4 (1.95m), the 12th best jump in the world this season.

TOP PERFORMER--Women's Throws:  Another wily veteran, Aretha Thurmond gets the honors again, more for her consistency this season, after making Olympic team #4, throwing 204-2 (62.23m) in Eugene, and a season best of 208-2 (63.44m), the 20th best mark in the world in 2012.

Vancouver's Kara Patterson gets my courageous performance award for competing in the Olympic javelin qualifying round despite a torn ACL suffered in finishing second at the US Olympic trials with a toss of 196-2 (60.49m).

While it's been clearcut in the past, my pick for Washington state track & field athlete of the year goes to Bernard Lagat and Ginnie Crawford.

Congratulations to the two of you!

Oh by the way, we are not very far away from the start of the 2013 indoor track & field season!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy holidays from all of us at paulmerca.blogspot.com!

Photo from the 2012 Pac-12 track & field
championships in Eugene, Oregon
(photo courtesy Kirby Lee/Image of Sport)

We've changed up our annual Christmas video just because...we felt like it!

On behalf of myself and the many contributors to the blog, happy holidays, and look for the annual Mercanator awards in a few days!

Get your workouts in, and enjoy the day with family, friends, and loved ones, and remember...indoor track swings into full action shortly!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Bowerman goes to Cam Levins and Kimberlyn Duncan...


ORLANDO--Southern Utah’s Cam Levins (left/photo by Mike Scott) and LSU’s Kimberlyn Duncan were named winners of The Bowerman on Wednesday in front of a packed house at the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Convention at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes in Orlando, Fla. The Bowerman is awarded to the most outstanding collegiate male and female athlete of the year.

Levins (Black Oak, B.C.) swept NCAA Outdoor crowns at 5000 and 10,000 meters in 2012, becoming the first to do so since 2009 when Oregon’s Galen Rupp – The Bowerman winner from that year – did so in Fayetteville, Ark. Using a 58.06 final lap split, he maintained his two-second lead to take the 10k title in 28:07.14, the best time in meet history since 1984. In the 5000, Levins closed in 54.28 on the final lap and 1:59.66 over the last 800 meters, to win by over a second (13:40.05).

Duncan (Katy, Texas) became the first in LSU history to win the award. In 2012, she became the first woman in NCAA Division I history to win back-to-back indoor and outdoor national titles in the 200 meters.

At the NCAA Championships, Duncan won the 200 meters and finished runner-up in the 100. She crushed the field in each of the NCAA’s four rounds in the 200 meters, winning each race by at least three tenths of a second. In the event’s final, Duncan clocked 22.86 despite a 2.3 meters-per-second headwind. In the national semifinal Duncan claimed a new low-altitude all-time collegiate best time of 22.19 seconds.


NOTE:  The USTFCCCA contributed to this report.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Here's how my vote went for the 2012 Bowerman Awards...


ORLANDO--With one week to go before Christmas, many of the country's top collegiate and high school track & field coaches are gathered in Central Florida for the annual USTFCCCA convention, as the coaches' association gathers to interface with each other in a setting other than a 400 meter oval or a cross country course.

One of the highlights of the annual convention is the presentation of The Bowerman to the country's top collegiate track & field athlete of the year, as the USTFCCCA continues to add value to make the trophy presentation on a par to football's Heisman Trophy and basketball's Wooden Award.

Although I was not able to make the trip from Seattle to Orlando for this year's presentation, I was selected by the USTFCCCA as a voting member of college track & field's top honor for the third consecutive year.

I was not able to attend the 2012 NCAA indoor championships in Nampa, Idaho nor the outdoor championships in Des Moines; however, I did see five of the six finalists (Brigetta Barrett of Arizona, Kimberlyn Duncan of LSU, and Brianne Theisen of Oregon; Cam Levins of Southern Utah and Tony McQuay of Florida) compete in 2012, with Illinois' Andrew Riley the only one I didn't see run in person this season.

Here's who I voted for:

MEN

As much as I would've loved to give fellow car mate from Seville to Punta Umbria Cam Levins my vote, Florida's Tony McQuay (left/photo by Mike Scott) got my first place vote.

McQuay won both the NCAA indoor (45.77) and outdoor (44.58) titles, and anchored the Gators to the national crown in the 4 x 400 relay.

Though winning the NCAA 5000 (13:40.05) and 10000 (28:07.14) titles were big outdoors, I felt that Levins' efforts couldn't trump McQuay's.

Riley won both the 100 (10.28 into a headwind) and 110 hurdles (13.53 into a headwind) outdoors, becoming the first man to win both titles in the same championship meet.

WOMEN

Had the voting period for the women extended to the Olympics, I would have switched my first place vote easily.

However, since the voting period ends at the NCAA championships, I gave my first place vote to Oregon's Brianne Theisen (left/photo by Paul Merca)

Theisen won both the pentathlon (4536 points) indoors and the heptathlon (6440 points) at the NCAA championships, earning her fifth and sixth national titles in those events.

My second place vote went to Arizona's Brigetta Barrett, who won the NCAA indoor (6-5, 1.96m) and outdoor (6-4, 1.93m) high jump titles, winning 12 straight meets during the collegiate season.

Barrett finishing second at the US Olympic Trials and earned a silver medal at the Olympics, setting a personal best of 6-8 (2.03m) in London, accomplishments that I felt were strong enough to trump Theisen's 2012 efforts (she was 11th in London with a final score of 6383 points).

LSU's Kimberlyn Duncan won back-to-back national titles indoors and outdoors at 200 meters (22.74 indoors, and 22.86 into a headwind outdoors), and was a key component to the Tigers winning the national outdoor team title, before they had to vacate it last month due to a positive drug test by 4 x 100m relay team member Semoy Hackett.

Media partner Flotrack will stream The Bowerman presentation show from Orlando's JW Marriott Grande Lakes Hotel beginning at 4 pm, pacific time, preceded by a red carpet show starting at 3:30 pm pacific.

Finalists were chosen by the ten-person Bowerman Advisory Board based on performances recorded during the indoor and outdoor 2012 track & field seasons. Only performances through the conclusion of the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships are used in consideration. Voting for the The Bowerman includes members of the Advisory Board, media personnel, statisticians, collegiate administrators, along with past winners and online voting by fans and USTFCCCA members.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Bellingham's Jake Riley & Eastern alum Mattie Suver win USATF national club cross country titles...


LEXINGTON, Kentucky--Bellingham native Jake Riley (left/photo by Mike Scott) and Eastern Washington alum Mattie Suver claimed the men's and women's individual titles at the USA Track & Field National Club Cross Country Championships at Masterson Park, two weeks after representing Team USA at the Chiba Ekiden in Japan.

Racing for team champion Hanson-Brooks Distance Project, Riley, who attended Sehome HS before an outstanding collegiate career at Stanford, cruised through the 10 km course in a final time of 29:59. He finished ahead of Craig Forys of the New York Athletic Club in a time of 30:06 and Elliot Krause, who was competing unattached and placed third in 30:06.

Suver, who now resides in Boulder, Colorado, led a 1-2 finish by the Boulder Running Company, winning the 6k race in 20:01, with teammate Brianne Nelson second at 20:13, and University of Washington alum Katie Mackey third in 20:14, representing Club Northwest.


EAGLES OPEN INDOOR SEASON BY HOSTING CANDY CANE INVITE

In Cheney, Eastern Washington University track and field teams started off the indoor season Saturday by nabbing six qualifiers for the Big Sky Indoor Conference Championships at the Fifth Annual Candy Cane Invitational.

On the men’s side, senior Marlyn Anderson  qualified in the shot put after taking first at the meet with a toss of 52-8 3/4 (16.07m). The Eagles had two qualifiers in the weight throw, including Zack Nielsen and Jordan Arakawa, who took first and second with marks of 56-10 3/4 (17.34m) and 55-11 3/4 (17.06m), respectively.

For the women, Eastern grabbed three qualifiers in its specialty, the pole vault. NCAA indoor scorer Keisa Monterola took first with a vault of 12-9 1/2 (3.90m). Freshman Anandae Clark made the most of her debut, clearing the bar at 12-3 1/2 (3.75m). Robin Taylor had a mark of 11-9 3/4 (3.60m), also qualifying her for the BSC Championships.

The men had a total of six event winners on the day, including freshman Kris Durr in the long jump, who had a mark of 22-7(6.88m). Sophomore Brad Michael placed first in the 55-meter dash with a time of 6.64. Nick Stearns won both the pole vault (14-11, 4.55m) and the 55-meter hurdles (8.10).

Other top performances at the meet came from senior Whitney Leavitt, who placed second in the 55-meter dash with a time of 7.33. She was followed closely by Kasey McNeill, who placed fourth in 7.35. Vania Tauvela finished second in the weight throw with a mark of 53-01 (16.18m). Elise Jepsen took second in the high jump, clearing the bar at 5-3 (1.60m).

In dual scoring, the Eastern men prevailed over Montana 45-30. The Grizzly women defeated Eastern 61-36.


NOTE:  USA Track & Field and the sports information department at Eastern Washington University contributed to this report.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fall training block ends for Husky track team with Purple/Gold intrasquad meet...

Javelin thrower Ally Mueller
of the winning Gold team
in the All x 307 relay
(Paul Merca photo)

SEATTLE--The fall training block for the University of Washington track & field team concluded with the annual Purple vs Gold intrasquad track meet Thursday night at the Dempsey Indoor.

For freshmen Daje Pugh and Chris Williams, it was a stirring debut, as two of the Huskies' most heralded recruits turned in victories.

Pugh, the California CIF champ in the 300 hurdles, won the 60 hurdles for the Purple squad in a time of 8.82 seconds, a time that would've been the fastest on last year's UW squad, beating out the Gold's Naivasha Sophusson Smith (9.02), the Dawgs' top hurdler indoors last year.

Williams, one of the country's top hurdlers and pole vaulters from Pennsylvania, soundly won the 60 hurdles for the Purple squad in a time of 8.08, a time that easily would've been tops on the Husky team last season.

NCAA scorer and Olympic Trials qualifier Logan Miller won the women's vault with a clearance of 12-11 1/2 (3.95m).

Williams also tied for first in the men's pole vault with reigning Pac-12 champ JJ Juilifs in the Purple/Gold competition, though Washington alum Scott Roth, who finished third at the 2012 US Olympic Trials was the overall winner.

Issaquah standout Haley Jacobson broke the meet record in the 88 meter dash (length of the Dempsey straightaway), running 10.90.

Pac 12 200 meter champ James Alaka of the Purple and the Gold's Maurice McNeal had two spirited battles in the 88 and 300 dashes, with Alaka winning the short race in 9.63 to 9.67, while McNeal turned the tables on the British national, winning the 300 in 34.06, with Alaka finishing fifth overall in the two-section event, running 35.72.

Jordan Carlson of the Purple squad, a member of Washington's national championship distance medley relay team, won the women's 300 in a time of 39.43 in the three-section final.

The Gold's Jaleecia Roland won both the high jump (5-5/1.65m) and the shot put (42-0 1/2/12.81m).

The Gold's Julian Bardwell was a double winner, taking both the long and triple jumps (22-4 1/2 6.82m and 43-5 1/4 13.24m), jumping off short approaches.

In the mystery event, which turned out to be a circuit relay race involving the sprint squads, the Purple won 340-325 over the Gold in six different events, which included pit burpees, a sled pull with a 10 kilo weight, thrusters throwing a 8-pound medicine ball against the wall for a minute; a battle rope slam; and, a one-minute backward run.

The night's final event, the All x 307m relay race involving runners, jumpers, and throwers, was won by the Gold team, anchored by senior Jeremy Taiwo.  

Taiwo, the 2011 Pac-10 decathlon champ who did not compete last year, also finished in a tie for second in the high jump (6-4 3/4, 1.95m) and won the shot put (46-8 1/4, 14.23m).

For the Huskies, their attention turns to the fall term finals before heading home for the holidays.  The Dawgs open the 2013 season on January 12th with the Husky Preview meet at the Dempsey.

Katie Flood nominated for Seattle Female Amateur Sports Star of the Year Award...


University of Washington junior Katie Flood (left/photo by Paul Merca) has been nominated as one of five finalists for the 2012 Seattle Female Amateur Sports Star of the Year by the Seattle Sports Commission.

Flood, a native of Des Moines, Iowa, who prepped at Dowling Catholic HS, won the 2012 NCAA title in the 1500 meter run on the famed blue oval at Drake University in her home town, where she had won numerous Drake Relays and Iowa state high school championships. Her win gave the Huskies its second NCAA title in that event.

Flood also anchored the Huskies to victory in the distance medley relay at the NCAA indoor championships in March, teaming up with Chelsea Orr, Jordan Carlson, and Baylee Mires to win the Dawgs' first national indoor title in that event.

Flood was nominated in the amateur sports star of the year category, along with Olympic rower Mary Whipple, Olympic swimmer Ariana Kukors, Olympic judo player Marti Malloy, and Olympic cyclist Jennie Reed.

In the other categories, Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch was nominated along with Sounders women and Olympic star Alex Morgan; Sounders FC forward Eddie Johnson; NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne; and supercross rider Ryan Villopoto in the pro sports star of the year.

The male amateur sports star of the year nominees includes Olympic swimmer Nathan Adrian; Husky golfer Chris Williams; Washington football's Austin Seferian-Jenkins; Maryland lacrosse star Drew Snider; and Stanford football player David DeCastro.

Winners will be announced at the 78th annual MTR Western Sports Star of the Year awards show on January 25th at Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle.

Fans can vote for their favorite stars and stories daily by visiting www.sportsstaroftheyear.org through January 18th.  


NOTE:  The Seattle Sports Commission contributed to this report.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Fall conditioning ends for Cougs and Dawgs with intrasaquad meet; Eags face Grizzlies...



Believe it or not, three of the state's Division I schools begin their 2013 indoor track and field campaigns this week.

Washington State University gets things going Wednesday with their intrasquad meet at their indoor track complex in Pullman.

The next day, the University of Washington gets started with their fourth annual Purple/Gold intrasquad meet at the Dempsey Indoor complex, beginning at 5pm Thursday night with the weight throw and high jump on the infield.  The long jump commences at 5:30, with the pole vault starting at 6 pm.

Track events get going at 6:15, with the 60-meter hurdles. After a 300m dash and 1200m run, the coaches have scheduled a "Mystery Event" for 7:20. 

Two years ago, the mystery event featured distance runners Kailey Campbell and Christine Babcock in sumo wrestling garb in a best of three falls.

That is followed by the now-traditional 88.11-meter dash, which is the full length of the Dempsey straightaway. Final field events include the triple jump and shot put.

Everything culminates in the final Allx307-meter relay, in which the full teams lineup and each athlete takes one lap around the 307-meter oval, a race that last about a half hour last year and yet still was competitive with several lead changes.  The winning team has usually been the squad that's taken advantage of mismatches in their lineup order, most often a weight event athlete matched up against a sprinter.

paulmerca.blogspot.com will be on site at the Dempsey and hope to live tweet the event.

While the Cougars and Huskies go against each other, Eastern Washington hosts the fifth annual Candy Cane Invitational at the Jim Thorpe Fieldhouse.

This competition will primarily be a dual-meet between the Eagles and the University of Montana Grizzlies.

The meet begins Friday with the men’s heptathlon and women’s pentathlon starting at 10:30 a.m. The men will conclude the heptathlon Saturday with the first of the final three events starting at 8:30 a.m.

The regular portion of the meet will take place Saturday with field events beginning at 11 a.m. The running events start at 1 p.m. The meet will feature all field events, but the only running events contested are the 55-meter dash and 55-meter hurdles.

The common theme for all three meets is that it's being used as a gauge to see how their squad's fall conditioning programs have panned out.  Unlike the school's distance runners, who have gone through a full fall cross country season, the other event groups have not had any competitive opportunities.


The Millrose Games announced Wednesday that Washington State University hall of famer Bernard Lagat will run the two-mile at its event on February 16th at the Armory in New York City.

"Running in New York has always been a great experience for me," Lagat said. "I am really proud of my record at the Millrose Games. I am looking forward to running my best two-mile ever indoors in February. I know there will be a good and knowledgeable crowd there and that makes it a lot of fun."

During last year's 5,000m event in the Millrose Games, Lagat (13:07.15) held off training partner and University of Arizona standout Lawi Lalang (13:08.25) and in doing so surpassed Galen Rupp's American 13:11.44 indoor record.

NOTE:  The University of Washington, Eastern Washington University, and the Millrose Games contributed to this report.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Husky commit Katie Knight finishes third at Nike Cross Nationals...

PORTLAND--University of Washington commit Katie Knight (left/photo by Paul Merca) of Spokane's North Central HS finished third at the Nike Cross Nationals on December 1st at Portland Meadows.

Knight, who was second in the Washington state 3A cross country championships last month, ran 19:32 to finish behind Sarah Baxter of California (19:17) and Mary Cain of New York (19:21).

Finishing right behind Knight was sophomore Alexa Efraimson of Camas, the Washington state 4A champ, who ran 19:34.

Amy-Eloise Neale, the 3-time Washington 3A harrier champ from Glacier Peak HS in Snohomish, finished eighth in 19:45.

Neale recently declared that she would join Knight as an incoming freshman at the University of Washington next fall.

The Nike Cross Nationals features many of the country's top high school runners and teams in what amounts to the closest thing to a true national championship meet.

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