Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Jeremy Taiwo returns to Seattle area to train for Rio berth (and announces fundraising campaign)...

When we last saw Jeremy Taiwo (left/photo by Paul Merca), he was fighting his way through a left knee injury at the world championships in Beijing that ultimately knocked him out of the competition after the discus portion of the decathlon, after languishing in 12th place after the first day of the two-day event.

In the mixed zone afterwards, he sounded down, and generally bummed out at dropping out of his second straight world championship decathlon, telling reporters, "It was a tough decision, and one I didn't want to make. It was a battle between my will to finish, and my instinct for what my future may be. I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do [indoors]. I would be ecstatic if the USA chose me to represent my country, especially since it's in the Northwest. But if I'm not chosen, it will impact how I work towards making the Olympic team. A million things are running around in my head. But I just need to get home, take time off, feel healthy. And see if I want to start this journey."

That time off for the Newport HS and University of Washington alum included going home to the Seattle area to visit his parents Joseph (a two-time Nigerian Olympian in the triple jump) & Irene, and ponder his next move in the run-up to what hopefully will be a spot on the US Olympic team in Rio next summer.

During that time, he consulted with Seattle Seahawks team physician Edward Khalfayan, after consulting with others about his knee issues.

He also made the decision to leave the US Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California, where he had resided since the end of 2013, and the multi-events training group headed by coach Kris Mack, and return to Seattle and reunite with UW coaches Pat Licari and Atanas Atanassov, who guided him to his first world championship team in 2013.

In addition to training with the UW multi-events group, Taiwo will have two-time US Olympian and Washington alum Duncan Atwood coach him in the javelin, along with former Husky baseball player Daniel Jahn as his strength and conditioning coach at Maximum Sports Conditioning in Bellevue.

Barring an injury or withdrawal by either reigning world record holder Ashton Eaton or US outdoor champ Trey Hardee before the IAAF world indoor heptathlon championships in Portland in March (unlike the other events contested at the world championships, the multi-events are by invitation only based primarily on world rankings and finish order at world outdoors), Taiwo does not expect to compete at the world indoors, and will play his indoor campaign by ear, despite being the reigning USA heptathlon champ.

He does not yet know his competition schedule for the outdoor season leading up to the US Olympic Trials in Eugene (decathlon will be contested July 2-3), but stated he would like to return to Gotzis, Austria for the Hypo-Meeting,where he finished fourth in a personal best of 8303 points.

Despite being the reigning US indoor champion, and compiling the third best score by an American in 2015 (and #12 score in the world in 2015), Taiwo enters 2016 without the benefit of a sponsor, an advantage that Eaton and Hardee have with Nike.

Taiwo is making ends meet by working part-time at Dick’s Sporting Goods, through a US Olympic Jobs Opportunity program.  He, along with the support of several friends, have started a GoFundMe page to raise $15,000 to defray the costs of coaching, specialized shoes for each of the decathlon events, strength training, and travel.

To date, Taiwo has raised over $6500 since starting the page in mid-December.


Those interested in contributing and/or attending the Tamaleda event on January 9th can click the links above for more information.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Oregon's Jenna Prandini & Florida's Marquis Dendy win The Bowerman...

SAN ANTONIO, Texas—Oregon’s Jenna Prandini and Florida’s Marquis Dendy (above/photo by Paul Merca) were named the recipients of the Bowerman Award, given to the nation’s top collegiate track and field athlete at a ceremony at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa.

Prandini, a junior from Clovis, California, scored 49 points at both the indoor and outdoor championships for the Ducks, capped by victories indoors in the long jump and outdoors in the 100 meters.

Dendy, a senior from Middletown, Delaware, won both the long and triple jump titles indoors and outdoors, jumping 27-2 (8.28m) and 57-0 (17.37m) undercover and 27-8w (8.43m) and 57-5 (17.50m) outdoors in Eugene.

Dendy became only the second man in NCAA history to leap 57 feet or farther in the triple jump both indoors and outdoors (Mike Conley is the other).

Prandini’s 23 points scored indoors were the most scored by an individual since 2003, and her 26 tallied outdoors only trailed three-time Olympic champ Gail Devers and nine-time Olympic medalist Merlene Ottey in the record books.

The other finalists were Oregon’s Edward Cheserek and Akron’s Shawn Barber on the men’s side, and Stephen F. Austin’s Demi Payne and Kentucky’s Kendra Harrison.

Prandini is the fourth University of Oregon athlete to win The Bowerman, joining Galen Rupp, Ashton Eaton, and Laura Roesler.

Both winners are now competing as professionals.

NOTE:  The USTFCCCA contributed to this report.

Who I gave my Bowerman vote to...

SAN ANTONIO, Texas—I am back in San Antonio to attend the presentation of The Bowerman, given to the country’s most outstanding male and female collegiate track and field athletes of the 2015 season.

For the past several years, it’s been an honor and a privilege to be one of the national voting members of this award.  As I’ve stated, I do take this vote seriously, and I try not to have any regional biases or fan popularity sway my decision making.

All voting members of The Bowerman received their ballots in July, and had until August 11th to submit their ballots to the USTFCCCA, the organization that sponsors the event.  The most important caveat in voting is that performances made after the NCAA championships in Eugene, including meets such as the USA outdoors, Diamond League meets, the various foreign national championships, and even the IAAF world championships were not considered when making the vote.

I saw all six Bowerman Award finalists compete in person at least once, namely at the NCAA championships, though I did see Edward Cheserek of Oregon compete at the Pac-12 championships at UCLA, and Jenna Prandini of Oregon at the UW Preview.

MEN

The men’s vote was a slam dunk—I went with Akron’s Shawn Barber (left/photo by Paul Merca) over Florida long/triple jumper Marquis Dendy and Oregon distance runner Edward Cheserek.

Barber won both the indoor and outdoor NCAA titles in dominating fashion, setting a collegiate record of 19-4.75 (5.91m), and broke his own collegiate indoor record four times.  He cleared 19 feet (5.80m) more times last season indoors than all other collegians in history combined.

Despite having a bit of a scare early in the competition, Barber pulled through to win the national outdoor title.  After the NCAAs, the highlight for the Canadian was winning the world championship in Beijing, clearing 19-4.25 (5.90m).

WOMEN

I struggled with this, flip-flopping between Oregon’s Jenna Prandini (below/photo by Paul Merca) and Stephen F. Austin pole vaulter Demi Payne, though an argument could be made for Kentucky hurdler Kendra Harrison.

The question was whether Payne setting a collegiate record indoor and winning the outdoor title in the pole vault would trump the performance of Prandini, who carried the Ducks on her back.

Prandini’s 49 total points scored in both the indoor and outdoor championships, highlighted by wins in the long jump indoors and the 100m outdoors was just enough to trump Payne’s 13 wins and NCAA outdoor meet record in the pole vault.

An argument could have been made to give Kendra Harrison the second place vote over Payne, as she won both the indoor 60 and outdoor 100 meter hurdle titles, while Payne only won the NCAA outdoor title, losing the indoor crown to Arkansas’ Sandi Morris in an epic battle.

All six Bowerman Award finalists with the exception of Cheserek competed this summer at the IAAF World Track & Field Championships, with Barber winning and Prandini earning a relay medal.


The Bowerman Award ceremony will be live streamed on the USTFCCCA web site beginning at 4:20 pm pacific (6:20 pm central) Thursday night, hosted by 2010 Bowerman winner Queen Harrison and Flotrack’s Ryan Fenton, with ESPN’s John Anderson the MC of the ceremony.

The Bowerman Voters consist of national and regional media personnel, track & field statisticians, NCAA collegiate administrators, past winners, and Presidents of affiliated organizations. The Bowerman Voters represent 23 U.S. states and one U.S. territory.

In addition, USTFCCCA members collectively receive one (1) vote in The Bowerman voting. Fans also collectively receive one (1) vote in The Bowerman voting.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Heath wins USATF national club cross title, while Club NW women finish third...

SAN FRANCISCO—Garrett Heath (above/photo courtesy USA Track & Field) of the Seattle based Brooks Beasts won the men’s championship at the USA Track & Field National Club Cross Country Championships Saturday at Golden Gate Park.

Heath, who won the Great Edinburgh individual title earlier this year, took the title with a 29:06 clocking over the 10k course, winning by four seconds over Boulder TC’s Jonathan Grey.  

University of Portland alum Scot Fauble took third in 29:26, to lead the Hoka One One NAZ squad to the team title, as all five runners finished in the top 25.

Runners from the state of Washington who finished in the top 50 included Dorian Ulrey of the Brooks Beasts in 25th (30:16); Riley Masters of the Beasts in 27th (30:22); Seth Bridges of Club Northwest in 31st (30:26) and WSU grad Drew Polley of Club Northwest in 46th (30:50).

The Beasts finished sixth with 302 points, led by Heath, Ulrey and Masters, with Travis Burkstrand finishing 68th in 31:12, and Nick Symmonds rounding out the scorers in 219th in 33:21. For Symmonds, the two-time US Olympian and 2013 world championship silver medalist at 800m, this was his first cross country race since running for Willamette University in Oregon in 2005.

Also running for the Beasts Saturday was 2015 world championships team member Cas Loxsom, who was their final runner, crossing the line in 275th place in 34:07.

Club Northwest finished 17th with 433 points, while the Seattle Running Club was 27th with 788 points.

On the women’s side, Stanford alum Jessica Tonn of the Brooks Beasts was the top finisher from the state of Washington, placing 10th in the 6k race in 20:14, just ahead of her former teammate and Sequin HS alum Stephanie Dinius, who was 11th in 20:19.

Washington alum Mel Lawrence was 14th in 20:23, while Club Northwest’s Jamie Cheever was 21st in 20:34, and teammate Amber Schultz 34th in 20:48.

Emma Kertesz of Club Northwest was 44th in 21:01, while Gonzaga alum Lindsey Drake was 46th in 21:05, one second ahead of Hannah Fields of the Brooks Beasts in 47th.  SPU alum Jane Ricardi of Club Northwest was 50th in 21:11, the same time given to WSU alum Collier Lawrence in 51st.

In a close race, Amy Van Alstine of Hoka One One won the national title, running 19:51 to nose out Laura Thweatt by one second, with Rochelle Kanuho third in 19:53.

The Boston AA won the national title with 28 points, while Club Northwest finished third with 156 points, led by Cheever, Schultz, Kertesz, and Ricardi.  Former Western Washington All-American Katelyn Steen rounded out the CNW scorers, finishing 59th in 21:21.

The Seattle Running Club finished 25th with 696 points.


NOTE: USA Track & Field contributed to this report.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Peter Newing, the dean of UW track & field officials, passes away...

The state of Washington lost a leader in the track & field community on December 6th with the passing of Peter Newing (left/photo courtesy Newing family), the Godfather of track & field officials in the area, and one of the driving forces behind the formation of the Pacific Northwest Track & Field Officials Association.

Newing, who was born in Walton-on-Thames, United Kingdom on August 28, 1924, spent his childhood in the UK and India, and served in the British Royal Navy during World War II, working on minesweepers in the Far East and North Sea.  

After marrying Hazel Gerrard in 1948 in Wales, they had three children—Geoffrey, Deborah & Andrew, before moving to the USA in 1959, settling first in Ontario, California, before moving to Renton three years later, where he worked as a senior service engineer in the aerospace industry.

In 1965, Newing began officiating track meets as a head timer at high school meets, as well as meets hosted by the University of Washington.  In 1973, he began officiating at the Washington state high school track & field championships, and several years later, helped form the Pacific Northwest Track & Field Officials Association.  He was also instrumental in starting up the Renton School District All-City meet for its high schools

It was while he and his family were involved with the Washington track & field program that I got to know him, beginning with my freshman year at the UW in 1978 when I was a student manager on the men’s track team, and when I ran on the cross country team.  Pete was one of the timers when Henry Rono of Washington State broke the world record in the 3000 meter steeplechase at Husky Stadium, running 8:05.4 at the Northwest Relays meet on May 13,1978.

After graduating from the UW, I always knew that if I were at a track or cross country meet in the area, there was a better than even chance that I’d run into Pete, especially near the finish line.

I’ll miss Pete’s love and devotion towards the Husky track & field and cross country programs, regardless of whether you were a stud All-American or the lowliest walk-on.  He and his family touched the lives in some way, of countless UW track & cross country athletes, as well as the coaches and support staff.

He’s survived by wife Hazel, three children—Geoff, Andy, and Deborah—all of whom are involved in the local track & field community, as well as three grandsons, and sister Rosemary Stevenson.

Pete’s life will be celebrated Saturday December 12th at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, 4228 Factoria Boulevard SE in Bellevue at 2pm.

Pete, you now have the best seats in the house to watch the Huskies indoors at the Dempsey and outdoors on the purple Husky Track!

IAAF MODIFIES RIO QUALIFYING STANDARDS

The IAAF announced changes to the qualifying standards for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games Thursday in 17 events.

According to the IAAF, their technical delegates proposed amendments, with the aim being to have more athletes make the standard, and get closer to the target number of total participants in the track & field portion of the Olympics.

The most immediate and notable change to the standards is in the marathon, where the men’s standard is now 2:19. and the women’s is at 2:45.  The current qualifying standards for the US Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles on February 13th is 2:18/2:43, a mark that is tougher than the IAAF standard.

The question of whether USA Track & Field will allow those runners who have times between 2:18 and 2:19 (2:43 and 2:45) during the quailfying period of August 1, 2013-January 17, 2016 into the Trials remains to be seen. paulmerca.blogspot.com has sent an email to USA Track & Field inquiring about this and are awaiting an official reply.  As discussed on letsrun.com, there is a provision in the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act that states that the standards for the Olympic Trials cannot be “…more restrictive than those of the appropriate international sports federation (in this case, the IAAF).”

The IAAF release and a link to the amended standards are available here.

UPDATE (9:15 am, December 11) :  USA Track & Field responded within the last hour on its web site by announcing that the entry standards for the US Olympic Team Trials-Marathon in Los Angeles on February 13th has been changed to reflect the IAAF standards. 

One beneficiary of the revised standard is Western Washington alum Bennett Grimes, who ran 2:18:47 during the qualifying period, according to a post on letsrun.com.  Under the old standard, Grimes would have been out.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Freshman Aaron Pullin wins Candy Cane heptathlon with second best score in EWU history...

CHENEY—Eastern Washington freshman Aaron Pullin (above/photo courtesy EWU Athletics) won the heptathlon at the Candy Cane Invitational at Jim Thorpe Fieldhouse on the campus of Eastern Washington University with the second best score in school history, compiling a final two day total of 4965 points to easily meet the qualifying standard of 4700 points for the Big Sky Conference indoor championships.

In the dual meet competition between the Eagles and Montana, the two teams split, with Montana winning the men’s meet 55-44, and Eastern winning the women’s competition by a 55-44 count.

Pullin, a graduate of Centralia HS who finished ninth in the decathlon at the USA junior championships in Eugene last summer, won the 55 hurdles in a time of 8.16 (793 points), as well as the pole vault, clearing 13-9.25/4.20m (673), and finished the day by running 2:57.67 in the 1000 for 687 points.

Aaron Cunningham of Eastern was a double winner in the weight & shot, throwing 51-0.75 (15.56m) in the weight, and 50-2 (15.29m) in the shot.

The throws also provided the Eagles with a double winner, with Kaytlyn Coleman winning both the weight and shot, throwing 47-3.5 (14.41m) in the shot, and 59-11 (18.26m) in the weight.  

Coleman earned qualifying marks for the Big Sky indoor meet with her wins

Though not a qualifying event, Katie Mahoney set a school record in the 600 meter run, winning in a time of 1:39.83, breaking the previous school & facility record of 1:40.57 set by teammate Janessa Day last year.

Mahoney later teamed with Berenice Penaloza, Johanna Sherman and Paula Gil-Echevarria to win the 4 x 800m relay in 9:39.28.  The Eagle men’s squad of Logan Stahl, Steven Bachman, Stephen Bottoms, and Dallas Snider won the men’s 4 x 800 in 8:14.06.


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

Friday, December 4, 2015

Kimes sets EWU pentathlon school record in winning at Candy Cane VIII...

CHENEY—Eastern Washington’s Jozie Kimes (above/photo courtesy EWU Athletics) kicked off the 2016 indoor track & field season by setting a new school record in the pentathlon at the Candy Cane VIII, contested at the Jim Thorpe Fieldhouse on the campus of Eastern Washington University.

Kimes, who was tenth in the heptathlon at last year’s Big Sky championship meet, eclipsed her previous personal best of 3359 points set at last year’s Candy Cane meet, and also broke the EWU school record of 3360 set by Christie Kight in 2002.

Kimes started the day by winning the 55 hurdles in 8.60 (886 points), and the high jump with a clearance of 5-5.25/1.66m (806).  She finished second in the shot with a toss of 32-7/9.93m (525), the long jump with a leap of 16-9.75/5.12m (592), and the 800m in 2:28.05 (718).

The Eagles’ Kendra Hamm finished second with a final score of 3256 points, highlighted by winning the long jump with a leap of 17-0.5/5.19m, worth 612 points.

In the men’s heptathlon, Eastern’s Aaron Pullin is the first day leader with a score of 2812 points, winning three of the first four events—the 55 in 6.62 (851), long jump in 21-5.25/6.53m (704), and the shot put in 39-5/12.01m (607), and finished second in the high jump at 6-0.5/1.84m (661).

The heptathlon concludes Saturday beginning at 9am, while the field events in the regular portion of the meet starts an hour later.  Running events get underway at 12:30pm, featuring dual meet scoring between the Eagles and the University of Montana.


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

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