Monday, December 30, 2013

The 2013 US national lists are now available from Track & Field News!

With 2013 about to end, the final US top marks of the 2013 season was published by Track & Field News shortly after Christmas.

Bernard Lagat
Among athletes with Washington ties who made the top ten in 2013 were:  Michael Berry in the 400 (45.14); Joe Abbott (1:45.04) and Mark Wieczorek (1:45.36) in the 800; Jordan McNamara in the 1500 and mile (3:34.00/3:52.42); Bernard Lagat in the 3000 and 5000 (7:34.71/12:58.99); Jeshua Anderson in the 400 hurdles (49.14); Brad Walker in the pole vault (19-1 1/2); Jarred Rome in the discus (208-7); and Jeremy Taiwo in the decathlon (8239).

On the women's side, Washingtonians with top-10 marks include: Phoebe Wright in the 800 (2:00.20); Katie Mackey (4:04.60/4:32.0) and Brie Felnagle (4:05.64/4:30.3) in the 1500 and mile; Felnagle (8:52.59/15:14.33) in the 3000 and 5000; Jamie Cheever (9:29.13) in the steeple; Mattie Suver (32:29.14) and Megan Goethals (32:52.78) in the 10000;  Ginnie Crawford (12.67) in the 100 hurdles;  Andrea Geubelle (21-11.5/46-6.25) in the long and triple jumps; Aretha Thurmond (204-1) in the discus; Britney Henry (228-10) in the hammer; and Kara Patterson (187-5) in the javelin.

Andrea Geubelle
An abbreviated version of the lists is available via the USA Track & Field web site.  The complete list is available only to subscribers of the magazine.

As many of you have noticed, paulmerca.blogspot.com tends not to post very much during the holiday season, as the focus shifts away from the track, roads, and field to my family, many of whom put up with what I do during the other eleven months of the year., whether it's me missing a family outing, bumming a ride to the airport, or blocking phone calls, texts and emails in order to finish a story.  Additionally, there's a little thing called the NFL post-season that I'm involved in covering that's taken some time away from the blog.

Rest assured that once the indoor season gets under way, paulmerca.blogspot.com will be back in full force!

Once again, thank you very much for visiting this web site to get your news on Washington state's elite professional and collegiate track & field scene.  Enjoy the rest of the holidays!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Clemson's Brianna Rollins and Indiana's Derek Drouin hoist The Bowerman Trophy...

ORLANDO, Florida--Clemson hurdler Brianna Rollins (left/photo by Paul Merca) and Indiana high jumper Derek Drouin were awarded The Bowerman Trophy as the most outstanding collegiate track & field athletes of the 2013 season in a ceremony held Wednesday evening at the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes as part of the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Convention.

Rollins is just the second hurdler to win the award — the first since Queen Harrison in 2010 — and the first from Clemson, while Drouin scored a plethora of firsts for the award. He is the first from Indiana and the Big Ten to win the award, and is the first field event specialist to hoist The Bowerman Trophy.

Rollins emerged out of a strong field that included another pair of collegiate record holders in Arizona high jumper Brigetta Barrett and hurdler Kori Carter of Stanford.

Drouin (above/photo by Paul Merca) had to consistently defeat 2012 Olympic silver high jump medalist and rival Erik Kynard for his two NCAA championships in 2013, and he had to surpass equally difficult competition in Arizona’s four-time 2013 NCAA champion distance runner Lawi Lalang and UCLA NCAA champion discus thrower Julian Wruck for The Bowerman Trophy.

Rollins bookended her season with an indoor 60 meter hurdles collegiate record of 7.78 in her very first final of the season and kept an undefeated hurdles season going through the NCAA Outdoor Championships. In Eugene, Ore., for the championships, she set the collegiate record twice in the 100 hurdles, including a 12.39 in the final over fellow finalist Carter.

She went on to set the American record in the 100 hurdles en route to a U.S. outdoor title at 12.26, and staged an impressive come-from-behind world title over defending Olympic champ Sally Pearson of Australia to claim the gold  medal in Moscow.

Drouin turned in nearly flawless NCAA Championships performances en route to indoor and outdoor national titles, and had an overall record to match with nine wins in nine collegiate events. He won both NCAA titles  at heights of 7-8 (2.34m) or higher, and just before the NCAA Championships tied the No. 2 all-time collegiate mark with a leap of 7-8¾ (2.36m) at the Nike Prefontaine Classic.

After the collegiate season, Drouin claimed a Canadian championship and then went on to take bronze at the IAAF World Championships with a Canadian record of 7-9¾ (2.38m) in the high jump after claiming the Olympic bronze in 2012.

NOTE:  The USTFCCCA contributed to this report. Paul Merca of paulmerca.blogspot.com is a voter of The Bowerman Award.

My Bowerman votes--Derek Drouin & Brianna Rollins

The nation's top track and field coaches are currently assembled in Orlando, Florida for the annual USTFCCCA convention, which began on Monday.

One of the highlights of the annual convention is the presentation of The Bowerman Wednesday night 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.

I've been a media voter for the Bowerman Award for the last several years, and have always felt that it's my obligation to let the readers know who I voted for and why.

Due to other obligations, I did not attend either the NCAA indoor or outdoor championships this year; however, I did get to see all six finalists (Brigetta Barrett of Arizona, Kori Carter of Stanford, Brianna Rollins of Clemson; Derek Drouin of Indiana, Lawi Lalang of Arizona and Julian Wruck of UCLA) compete in person at least once.

My vote for the Bowerman:

MEN:

I went with Derek Drouin of Indiana (left/photo by Paul Merca), the NCAA indoor and outdoor high jump champion, who went undefeated both indoors and outdoors during the collegiate season, jumping 7-8 1/2 (2.35m) indoors, and 7-8 3/4 (2.36m) outdoors, before topping that mark with a jump of 7-9 3/4 (2.38m) at the IAAF world championships in Moscow.

Though it was in a losing effort, I was actually impressed with his 7-8 3/4 jump at the Nike Prefontaine Classic, where he went toe to to with Qatar's Mutaz Essa Barshim, before Barshim got the win at 7-10 1/2 (2.40m).

Though he won the NCAA 5/10 double outdoors, and the mile/3k double indoors, the quality of marks Lawi Lalang put up wasn't that good relative to the marks put up by Drouin.  Wruck put together a solid series of throws during the season, capped by a best of 223-7 (68.16m) in the discus in Claremont, California shortly before the NCAA championships in Eugene, which he won.

Looking back at my ballot, I should have gone Drouin-Wruck-Lalang instead of Drouin-Lalang-Wruck.

WOMEN:

That was an easy choice--Brianna Rollins  (left/photo by Paul Merca) of Clemson, the NCAA indoor and outdoor hurdles champ and collegiate record holder indoors and outdoors.

Rollins in my opinion put together one of the most dominating performances of the collegiate season, not losing a final, and not losing 17 races indoors and outdoors, cumulating with an impressive 12.39 run in the finals of the 100 hurdles at the NCAA championship race, a collegiate record.

After the collegiate season, she won the finals of the 100 hurdles at the IAAF world championships in Moscow.

Any other year would have given Arizona's Brigetta Barrett my first place vote for the Bowerman, as she went undefeated during the collegiate season, and set a collegiate record in the high jump of 6-6 1/4 (1.99m).

Kori Carter of Stanford's record in the 400 hurdles any other year would have given her at least a second place vote, with Carter sweeping the Pac-12 and NCAA titles, and setting a collegiate record of 53.21, not to mention going undefeated in final races.


Finalists were chosen by the Bowerman Advisory Board based on performances recorded during the indoor and outdoor 2013 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.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Husky alum Brad Walker moves over to Mizuno and New York Athletic Club...

In case you missed it, University of Washington alum and two time US Olympian Brad Walker (left/photo courtesy Mizuno), the American record holder in the pole vault, recently signed a deal to wear Mizuno in competition for the 2014 season, according to a tweet posted on his account.

Walker, the 2007 world outdoor champion and 2006 world indoor champion, also announced that he will compete for the New York Athletic Club, and will be represented by Karen Locke of Bay Area based Elite Athletes Network.

Walker was dropped by long time sponsor Nike after his fourth place finish at the world championships in Moscow when the company became upset because he taped his competition spikes.

According to sources, Walker's Mizuno deal is a multi-year agreement.

Walker is currently based in Phoenix, where he's training under coach Dan Pfaff at the World Athletics Center.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Beasts TC & Joe Gray take home national titles at USATF National Club Cross Country Championships...

BEND, Oregon--Led by Cal alum Deborah Maier's third place finish, and top ten finishes by Angela Bizzarri, and Brie Felnagle, the Seattle-based Beasts TC took home the national title at the USA Track & Field National Club Cross Country Championships at the River's Edge Golf Course on a chilly, snow-filled day.

University of Colorado alum Laura Thweatt took the victory over the 6-k course that featured numerous tight turns and slippery footing, winning in a time of 21:43.

Maier crossed the line in 22:06, with former NCAA cross country champ Bizzari one place and one second back, and 2011 club cross country champ Felnagle seventh in 22:15.

Completing the scoring for the Beasts were Seattle Pacific alum Jessica Tebo in 13th in 22:25, and Minnesota alum Jamie Cheever in 18th in 22:33.

The Beasts won the national title with a low score of 34 points, easily ahead of second place Boulder Running Company, which had 85 points.

Among runners with Washington ties that finished in the top 25 included Sequim HS alum and former Stanford runner Stephanie (Marcy) Dinius in 11th (22:20); Washington alum Christine Babcock in 21st (22:37); and defending champion Mattie Suver in 24th (22:46).

On the men's side, Lakewood resident and University of Portland alum Joe Gray of Club Northwest (above/photo by Mike Scott), who is known nationally as one of the country's premier mountain and trail runners, found the tough course to his liking, as he won the national title in 31:05 over the 10k course, six seconds ahead of runner-up Sean Quigley.

Washington State alum Jono Lafler of the Palouse Pirates missed a top-25 placing, finishing 26th in a time of 32:03.

Complete results from the USA Track & Field National Club Cross Country Championships are available here.

NOTE:  USA Track & Field contributed to this report.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Palouse Pirates set to swing their swords in Bend at USA National Club Cross Country Championships...

Singlet of the Palouse Pirates, who will
compete at the USA Track & Field
National Club Cross Country Champs
(photo courtesy Palouse Pirates)
The state of Washington will have a significant presence in Saturday's USA Track & Field National Club Cross Country Championships in Bend, Oregon, led by defending champions Jake Riley and Mattie Suver, along with 2011 women's champion Brie Felnagle.

One of the teams from Washington looking to make their presence known at the club championships is the newly-formed Palouse Pirates squad from the east side of the state, and more specifically, Pullman.

Washington State University football coach Mike Leach, who has an obsession for pirates, and the pirate culture, was the inspiration for the Palouse Pirates.  

Consistent with that inspiration is the fact that all of the members of the Pirates have ties to Washington State University, as three members of the team--David Hickerson, Justin Englund, and Jono Lafler are Cougar grads, while two others--Andrew Kimpel and Drew Jordan, currently compete at Wazoo.

In true pirate tradition, the team will race in Bend in their distinctive white, low-tech cotton singlets with a skull and crossbones spray painted, in marked contrast to the polyester, Dri-Fit tops many teams will sport at the club championships.

The idea of competing at the club nationals began with Kimpel, who was out of cross country eligibility this fall, looking for meets to run in.  The older members of the Pirates thought that it would be fun to make their own team, consisting of Cougar alums, rather than join an established track club.

Due to the fact that Kimpel and Jordan both have eligibility left at Washington State, the team members are self-funding their trip to Bend to compete in the club nationals.


When asked if the Palouse Pirates could be expanded in the future, Jordan said, "If it could grow into something more and be a sustainable way for some alumni to compete competitively for a couple years after college--absolutely we would do anything to make that happen.  The running and athletic culture in Eastern Washington is pretty amazing.  The idea of pairing with some businesses is not far-fetched at all."

A thank you note to the USA Track & Field Cross Country Council...

In the trenches interviewing
Blake Russell at 2006 IAAF World Cross
Country Champs (Patti Stirk photo)

I regret not being able to accept the award in person in Indianapolis last week; nonetheless, I am humbled and honored to accept this award.

Doris Heritage is a woman whose passion for cross country I've had the privilege of witnessing in person here in Seattle from the time I started in the sport in the early 1970s.  Through her work at Seattle Pacific as a competitor and coach, all the way to being a coach/team leader on various national squads, world cross country and Olympic teams, she has represented our sport well at all levels, and is a wonderful ambassador of the sport.

My association with the USA Track & Field Cross Country Council began in 1999 when I was the media relations director for the local organizing committee staging the USA championships in Tacoma, Washington, and also served stints doing media relations for the Vancouver (WA) local organizing committees.

I've been lucky enough to assist eleven USA national teams with media relations at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships wherever they've been contested, along with helping out in the trenches at the national championships.  

I'm honored to follow in the footsteps of those who have won the award before me, many of whom have done more for the sport and USA Track & Field than I have, including Dr. Ken Foreman, Anne Timmons, Lynn Jennings, Lance Harter, John Babington, Patrick Shane, Adam Goucher, Blake Russell, and Bill Roe.

Before signing off, I'd like to thank the various meet directors at the national championship meets for their help and feedback, along with the USA Track & Field staff, especially former staff members Tom Surber, Michael Cain and Aron McGuire, along with current staffers Jill Geer and Jim Estes for putting up with me for all these years.

I also want to thank the many men and women around the country and around the world who have covered Team USA and its athletes at various national and world championships.

Most of all, I'd like to thank the athletes and staff who have been cooperative whenever they've been asked to provide a quote or speak to the media, and to Cross Country Council chair Mike Scott and the entire committee for having faith in me.

Thanks!


PS--Have a great meet in Bend this weekend!

Eugene gets next eight NCAA outdoor champs; UW the 15/17 NCAA west regionals; US Club XC champs...

Catching up on some news from the last few days here…

The NCAA announced Wednesday that Eugene will host the next eight editions of the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field championships at Hayward Field.

 “We are excited that Hayward Field will remain the dream destination for every Division I athlete and we plan to turn the NCAA Championships into the hottest ticket in the sport,” said University of Oregon Senior Associate Athletic Director and President of TrackTown USA Vin Lananna. “It took a remarkable partnership of entities from not only from the Eugene-Springfield community, but the entire State of Oregon to make this commitment to the sport of track and field.”

The NCAA meets give the Eugene-Springfield community an unprecedented number of high caliber events in the coming decade with the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships coming to Eugene next summer, the USA Championships on the slate for 2015 and the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials returning to TrackTown for the third consecutive time.

Additionally, the University of Washington was announced as the host school for the 2015 and 2017 NCAA West Regional cross country championship meets, which will be contested at the Jefferson Park Golf Course on Beacon Hill.

Courtesy of the NCAA, here is the video of the national championship site announcements:



Eastern Washington's Keisa Monterola was named the Big Sky indoor track & field athlete of the week for winning the pole vault competition at the Candy Cane VI invitational in Cheney last Saturday.

Monterola entered the competition with the bar at 13-5 1/4 (4.10m) and cleared it on her second attempt, qualifying for the Big Sky Championships in Pocatello, Idaho on Feb. 27-Mar. 1. That mark sits atop the Big Sky performance list and third in the nation on the young season.
This is the fifth time the Venezuelan-native has been named Athlete of the Week since joining the squad as a junior-college transfer in the 2011-12 season.  Monterola is competing in her final indoor season for the Eagles and has exhausted her outdoor eligibility.


The country's biggest open cross country championship race happens Saturday in Bend, Oregon as the USA Track & Field National Club Cross Country Championships are contested featuring the nation's top cross country teams. More than 1,200 competitors and 100 teams are entered in 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 $25,000.

Returning to the women’s field are 2012 champion Mattie Suver, the Eastern Washington alum and 2013 world cross country team member who led Boulder Running Company to a second-place finish a year ago, crossing in 20:01.

She'll be challenged by a slew of runners familiar to Washington fans, including 2011 champ Brie Felnagle of the Beasts TC, and former NCAA champ Angela Bizzari.

The Seattle based Beasts TC will also have in their arsenal Jamie Cheever, Deborah Maier, and Jessica Tebo to give the Beasts a legitimate shot at winning the national team title.

Seattle based Oiselle will run two squads, with one group consisting of its Project Little Wing team featuring Lauren Fleshman and Washington alums Mel Lawrence and Christine Babcock, and another group with runners from the Seattle area, including Seattle Pacific alum Natty Plunkett.

The Greater Bellingham RC, featuring Oregon alum Bronwyn Crossman and Western Washington alums Sierra Brisky and Courtney Olsen will have a squad in Bend, as will the Seattle Running Club and Club Northwest.

Among the big names entered on the women's side include Olympian Shannon Rowbury and Oregon alum Jordan Hasay of the Nike Oregon Project.

The men's race will be led by Bellingham native and defending champion Jake Riley of the Hanson's/Brooks Distance Project.

He'll be challenged by former Olympians Matthew Centrowitz and Alan Webb, along with German Fernandez.

One of the most interesting team entries in the men's race is from the newly formed Palouse Pirates squad which features David Hickerson, Drew Jordan, Jono Lafler, Andrew Kimpel & Justin Englund, all of whom have ties to Washington State University.

Also entering teams in Bend are the Greater Bellingham RC; Seattle RC with 10-time Seattle Marathon champ Uli Steidl and SeattleU alum Erik Barkhaus; the Tacoma City RC with UCLA alum Alex Crabill; the Spokane Distance Project; and Club Northwest.


NOTE:  The NCAA, USTFCCCA, USA Track & Field, and the sports information offices of the University of Oregon and Eastern Washington University contributed to this report.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Eagles' season opener nets 14 qualifying marks for Big Sky indoor championships..

CHENEY--The Eastern Washington University track and field team had 11 athletes meet conference standards, with three earning two each to attain a total of 14 Big Sky qualifying marks at the Candy Cane VI Invitational Friday and Saturday (Dec. 6-7) at the Jim Thorpe Fieldhouse.

Nick Stearns kicked off the solid weekend for the Eagles, earning a qualifying score of 4,729 points in his first heptathlon, a mark that ranks him fifth all time in school history.

On the track, senior Steven Warner (left/photo courtesy EWU Athletics) had the most notable mark of the meet, running 7.61 in the prelims of the 55 meter hurdles, and following it up with a 7.63 time to win the finals.

In the women's pole vault, All-American Keisa Monterola, who only has indoor eligibility left at Eastern, won the event with a mark of 13-5 1/4 (4.10m).

The Eagles had 11 event winners at the Candy Cane Invite, with seven on the men’s side and four for the women.

In dual-team scoring, the Eagle men defeated the University of Montana Grizzlies 53-38, while the Eastern and Montana women tied 52-52.

The Eagles will take over a month off before they head to Seattle to compete at the UW Indoor Preview on January 18th.



NOTE:  The sports information department at Eastern Washington University contributed to this report.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Candy Cane VI season opener now underway at Eastern Washington...

CHENEY--Eastern Washington University opened its 2014 indoor track season with the annual Candy Cane indoor scoring meet with the University of Montana Friday at the Jim Thorpe Fieldhouse.

In the men's heptathlon, the Eagles' Nick Stearns is currently in second with a four-event score of 2435 points behind Montana's Austin Emry with 3083.

The women's pentathlon was won by Montana's Shayle Dezellem with a score of 3313 points as the Grizzlies took the top three places.  Katrina Chamberlain was the Eagles' top finisher in fourth with 2764 points.


Meanwhile, courtesy of Eastern Washington, here's a link to a preview of what to expect from the Eagles in the 2014 season, led by pole vaulter Keisa Monterola and thrower Jordan Arakawa (above/photo courtesy EWU Athletics), including a video interview with men's coach Stan Kerr, and women's coach Marcia Mecklenburg, both of which you can access here.




NOTE:  The sports information department at Eastern Washington University contributed to this report.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Jax Thoirs clears personal best to highlight UW Purple/Gold intrasquad meet...

SEATTLE--At the end of the day, no one will remember that the Gold squad took the victory over Team Purple by a count of 244-226 at the fifth annual Purple/Gold Intrasquad meet to celebrate the end of the fall training block for members of the University of Washington track and field team.

But those who were in attendance at the Dempsey Indoor Thursday will remember the jump that Jax Thoirs (left/photo by Paul Merca) cleared, as the native of Glasgow, Scotland cleared a personal best of 18-1 3/4 (5.53m) to highlight the meet, and serve notice to the collegiate vault field that he will be one to watch this season.

Thoirs opened the competition with a first attempt clearance of 15-11 3/4 (4.87m) followed by a third attempt make at 16-7 1/4 (5.06m).

After a clearance of 17-7 (5.36m) on his first attempt, he had officials raise the bar to 18-1-3/4 (5.53m), three centimeters above his previous personal best of 18-0 1/2 (5.50m) set this summer in Finland.

Thoirs ran through the pit on his first attempt before clearing the bar on his second attempt.

UPDATE:  Thanks to our friends at Scottish Athletics, we've now been told that his jump is a Scottish national record, pending the usual verification process.

His reward?  A leg on the all x 307m (distance around the Dempsey oval) relay for the Gold squad, the last event of the evening, as sprinters, jumpers, and throwers get together to run one lap to determine the final results of the meet.  

Thoirs and women's pole vault winner Logan Miller clinched the meet for the Gold squad, as the Purple team won the all x 307 relay.


The other significant mark of the meet came from hurdler Chris Williams, as the Pac-12 freshman of the year from last season came close to matching his personal best in the 60 hurdles of 7.92, as the sophomore from Philadelphia ran 7.94.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Indoor season gets underway Friday and Saturday in Cheney for Eagles...

Eastern's Nick Stearns
(photo courtesy EWU Athletics)
Believe it or not, the 2014 indoor track & field season gets underway Friday and Saturday, as Eastern Washington University hosts the sixth annual Candy Cane Invite at the Jim Thorpe Fieldhouse in Cheney.

While it's a bit of a low-key season opener for the Eagles, the meet will be scored as a dual meet between the Eags and visiting Montana.

“Each year we feel like the meet is involving and that remains true this year,” said head men’s coach Stan Kerr. “It’s a great meet on a lot of different levels.”

“This is an opportunity for our athletes to see what they’ve accomplished from fall training,” said head women’s coach Marcia Mecklenburg. “It’s a great time for them to have fun and see where they’re at.”

“It’s always fun to go against Montana because they tend to be competitive in events we’re also competitive in,” said Mecklenburg. “I can’t tell you how many times one point has separated us with Montana in terms of team standings at conference, so we’re always in the mix with them.”

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 12:30 p.m. In addition to the 55-meter dash and 55-meter hurdles, the one-mile run has also been added to the list of running events offered at the meet.

Courtesy of Eastern Washington University, here's a video preview of the meet:


Meanwhile across the state, the University of Washington will have a low-key intrasquad meet to celebrate the end of the fall training block Thursday night at the Dempsey Indoor starting at 5pm, with the first running event at 6:15 pm.

The final event of this intrasquad meet is the entertaining all x 307 relay, which involves every team member from throwers to sprinters, as each runner, jumper, and thrower goes one lap around the Dempsey oval.

NOTE:  The sports information office of Eastern Washington University contributed to this report.

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