Saturday, January 2, 2016

Here we go--the 2015 Mercanator Awards...

After getting rested up over the holidays, it’s time to hand out the 2015 Mercanator Awards!

In case you new readers of the blog have not seen previous versions of the Mercanator, the Mercanator Awards are for the top performers and performances of the previous year, as chronicled by this blog.

As many of you long time readers have noted, I tend not to post much in the month of December, as I tend to focus on my family, many of whom don't see me much during the other eleven months of the year, as I'm either blowing off a family outing, not answering the phone, or ignoring texts/emails. In addition to my job (the blog is not my full time occupation), I've been caught up with that little thing called the NFL, as I also cover pro football on a free-lance basis.

This blog was started back in 2007 as an extension of the writing that I do as a columnist for Northwest Runner magazine, as a way to help chronicle the exploits of Washington's collegiate and professional track and field athletes.

I would be remiss if I didn't take the time to thank some of the folks who have contributed text and photos in 2015, including the sports information offIces at Washington State University, Gonzaga University, Eastern Washington, Central Washington, Western Washington, Saint Martin's, Seattle University, Seattle Pacific, and the University of Washington; photographers Kirby Lee (Image of Sport), Randy Miyazaki (, Howard Lao, and Michael Scott; the media relations departments at Brooks, Oiselle, Nike, and adidas; and the countless number of individuals who have either Facebooked, tweeted, Instagrammed, or emailed me with tips, news, complaints, etc.  It's the readers of this blog who help keep this baby going, and I thank you!

A special thanks also go out to the media relations staffs at the IAAF and USA Track & Field for their assistance throughout the life of this blog, as well as the USTFCCCA.

In 2015, the blog traveled to Boulder, Guiyang, Spokane/Cheney (three times), Los Angeles, Eugene twice, Beijing, Bellingham, Louisville, and San Antonio to cover events that included the USA outdoor track and cross country championships; the IAAF world cross country and track & field championships; the Pac-12 track & cross country championships; the Big Sky track championships; the WCC cross country championships; the NCAA track & cross country championships; the GNAC cross country championships; and The Bowerman Trophy presentation.

And now, the 2015 Mercanators!

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/Hurdles:  Tacoma native Marcus Chambers gets the nod over former Duck teammate and Rainier Beach HS grad Michael Berry.  Chambers ran 44.95 and made the finals of the USA outdoor championships. He also won the Pac-12 title in 45.21 and got second in the NCAA outdoor meet, and earned a silver medal in the 4 x 400 at the Pan Am Games

For his part, Berry might have gotten the nod over Chambers if not for a disqualification for a lane violation that negated a season best 44.81 in the USA semis.

Jeshua Anderson gets an honorable mention for running 48.95 in the 400 hurdles at the Pan Am Games, and finishing fifth in the USA finals.

Garrett Heath of the Brooks Beasts
gets the Washington state men's
athlete of the year award
(Paul Merca photo)
TOP PERFORMER—Men’s Middle Distances:  Four athletes were in contention for this award:  USA 800 meter champ Nick Symmonds; Cas Loxsom, who won the USA 600 meter title indoors and set the American record, helped Team USA win a gold medal in the 4 x 800 at the IAAF World Relays, and made Team USA with his third place finish in the 800 at outdoor nationals; Garrett Heath, who started off hot early by winning the Great Edinburgh Cross Country 4k title, ran a PR 13:16.31 over 5000 meters at Stanford; ran 3:34.13 for 1500 before the outdoor nationals, where he ended up fourth in the 5000m in a tactical race; and, the ageless wonder Bernard Lagat, who ran 13:14.97 for 5000m at the Nike Prefontaine Classic as a 40-year old, but had the misfortune to compete at the US nationals in Eugene banged up.

This was a tough one to call, but by the slightest margin, I gave it to Garrett Heath for the overall body of work during the season.

The fact there were four athletes even in contention for the award in the men’s middle distance category is a testament to Brooks’ commitment to the Beasts TC, as three of the four (Symmonds, Loxsom & Heath) came from that group.

TOP PERFORMER—Men’s Distances:  Easy one, as Bellingham native Jake Riley gets the nod. Riley’s highlights were a second place finish in the Great Edinburgh Cross Country 8k race, and a 27:59.37 10000m time at the Payton Jordan Invite at Stanford.

TOP PERFORMER—Men’s Vertical Jumps: Another easy one, as Washington alum Brad Walker was the only one who had anything of note. While it may not have been up to the standards he’s come to expect, Walker cleared a season best 18-9.25 (5.72m), and made yet another world championship team.

Washington’s Jax Thoirs gets an honorable mention for his fourth place finish at the NCAA indoor championships.

TOP PERFORMER—Men’s Multi-Events:  Washington alum Jeremy Taiwo easily gets this one, for winning the USA indoor title with a meet record score of 6232 points, and setting a personal best of 6344 at the UW Invitational.

Outdoors he continued his roll, scoring a personal best 8303 in the decathlon at Gotzis in late May, and took second at the USAs, scoring 8264 points. The roll ended in Beijing at the world championships when he had to drop out after seven events with a knee injury.

TOP PERFORMER—Women’s Middle Distances:  This was a good year for the middle distances among Washington athletes, with Phoebe Wright and McKayla Fricker knocking on the door of sub 2:00 in the 800; the youngster Alexa Efraimson running 2:01.11 and 4:03.39; steeplers Marisa Howard and Jamie Cheever both ducking under the IAAF standard of 9:45; and 2014 winner Katie Mackey’s range in 2015, running 2:01.20, 4:03.81, and 15:16.60 for 800, 1500 & 5000.

Katie Mackey’s range of marks, plus a win in the 3000 at the Stockholm Diamond League meet, a win in the DecaNations 1500, and a third in the 1500 at the London Diamond League meet gives her the nod.

TOP PERFORMER—Women’s Distances:  This one boiled down to two runners—Eastern Washington alum Mattie Suver, and Washington alum Lindsay Flanagan.  Suver finished second at the USA cross country championships, and 34th at the IAAF world cross country championships, while Flanagan was third at the Pan Am Games in the marathon, before being upgraded to silver after the disqualification of Peru’s Gladys Tejada for a PED.  Flanagan ran 2:33:12 at last year’s Houston Marathon.

Both raced at Stanford in the 10000 with Suver ducking under the IAAF standard of 32:15.00, as she ran 31:54.43, while Flanagan ran 32:22.15 in a separate section, which got her under the Olympic Trials standard of 32:25.

Mattie Suver gets the Mercanator for the women’s distances.

TOP PERFORMER—Women’s Vertical Jumps:  Washington junior pole vaulter Kristina Owsinski gets the award here after a solid performance that included her second MPSF indoor title, a victory in the Pac-12 title meet, and a fourth place finish at the NCAA championships in a school record 14-5.25 (4.40m), and in the process, earned a qualifying mark to July’s US Olympic Trials.

Kara Winger from Vancouver
gets the Washington state
women's athlete of the year
award (Paul Merca photo)
TOP PERFORMER—Women’s Throws:  How can you top the season that javelin queen Kara Winger had in 2015, as she threatened her own American record just after the Olympic Trials qualifying window opened, throwing 218-1 (66.47m) in Austin on May 2nd; winning yet another national title, and finally, making a world championship final, finishing eighth in Beijing.

My three best performances of 2015 witnessed in person all happened at the world championships in Beijing:  A) Ashton Eaton’s two day performance where he scored a world record 9045 points in the decathlon; B) Christian Taylor’s 59-9 (18.21m) triple jump in Beijing; and C) Mo Farah’s 5000/10000 distance double, winning in two different ways—with a fast pace in the 10000, and a slooow tactical race in the 5000.

The 2015 Washington state track & field athletes as selected by the editor of are Garrett Heath and Kara Winger…congratulations to both of you!

Incidentally, we have two weeks to go until the first indoor meet of 2016 in the state of Washington!

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