For the past several years, I have received a vote as a member of the media for the Bowerman Award, which is given to the top collegiate track & field athlete of the year. It is a privilege that I don’t take lightly, and I am thankful to the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) for giving me a vote.
I am fortunate to see many of America’s top collegians compete in person, either indoors at the Dempsey in Seattle, or at some of the major meets that I get to travel to during the year.
I got to see all six finalists compete in person at least once during the collegiate season.
My obligations with the NFL have forced me to miss this year’s presentation in Orlando, Florida today, but in the interest of disclosure, I will reveal who I voted for and why:
MEN—Jarrion Lawson, Arkansas
In my mind, this was an easy one to pick, as Lawson won the 100, 200, and long jump at the NCAA outdoor championship meet, becoming the first man to turn the trick since Jesse Owens of the Ohio State University did it in 1935-35. His 31.5 points at the NCAA outdoors (he was part of the Arkansas 4 x 1 relay team that took third) was the most scored by an individual in the modern era of the meet.
Lawson made the US Olympic team in the long jump, and finished fourth in the finals in Rio de Janeiro.
My second and third place votes went to Edward Cheserek of Oregon and Donovan Brazier of Texas A&M, in that order.
WOMEN—Keturah Orji, Georgia
In the collegiate ranks, 2016 was indeed the year of the field event among the women, with Raven Saunders of Ole Miss in the shot put and Keturah Orji of Georgia dominating their events.
Going into the NCAA outdoor meet, I struggled between Saunders and Orji, but the American record that Orji set of 47-8 (14.53m) in winning the NCAA title sealed the deal for me. It also helped that Orji finished the indoor season with a fourth place finish at the IAAF World Championships in Portland, despite not competing at the USA Indoors the week before (she won the NCAA indoor title that week, but got to compete at worlds as she was the only American with the standard).
Saunders’ marks in setting the indoor and outdoor collegiate records in the shot put were just as convincing, so she got my second place vote, ahead of Texas’ Courtney Okolo.
The Bowerman Voters consist of national and regional media personnel, track & field statisticians, NCAA collegiate administrators, past winners, and presidents of affiliated organizations. USTFCCCA members collectively receive one (1) vote, and fans collectively received one (1) vote. Lawson and Orji won the fan voting, which occurred in late June.
Media partner Flotrack will stream the Bowerman Award presentation, starting at 4pm pacific time.
To read more about the finalists, visit TheBowerman.org.
NOTE: Photos of Lawson and Orji by Kirby Lee/Image of Sport