Friday, January 6, 2017

And now...presenting the 2016 Mercanator Awards!

After the blog’s annual December semi-hiatus, the time has come to hand out the 2016 Mercanator Awards!

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 cover the NFL on a free-lance basis.

What started out as a lark back ten years ago, has evolved into the go-to place for track & field and running fans to track the progress of collegiate and pro athletes from the state of Washington. 

Before handing out the awards, I’d like to thank some of the folks who have contributed text and photos in 2016, 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 (trackandfieldphoto.com), Howard Lao (howlaophotography.com), 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 the blog who help keep this going, and your help is greatly appreciated.

In 2016, the blog travelled to Portland (twice), Tucson (four times), Pullman, Palo Alto, Eugene (three times), Sacramento, and Terre Haute to cover a variety of events, including the USA Indoors, the IAAF world indoors, the Willie Williams and Jim Click Invitationals, the Payton Jordan Invite, the UW/WSU dual, the NCAA outdoor, US Olympic Trials, Saint Martin’s Invitational, TrackTown Summer Series, the Pac-12 cross country championships, and the NCAA West Regional and National cross country championships.

And now, the 2016 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:  Former Renton native Devon Allen (left/photo by Paul Merca) gets the honors over a field that includes Rainier Beach HS grad Michael Berry, WSU alum Jeshua Anderson, and Bonney Lake HS grad Jordin Andrade.

Allen won both the Pac-12 and NCAA 110 titles, and followed it up by winning the US Olympic Trials and finished fifth in the Olympics, clearly ahead of the trio.  He was ranked #5 by Track & Field News in the world in his specialty.

Berry finished eighth at the US Olympic Trials in the 400, while Andrade, representing Cape Verde, reached the semi-finals in the 400 hurdles, and Anderson had a strong season leading up to the Olympic Trials in the 400 hurdles, but did not make the finals.

TOP PERFORMER—Men’s Middle Distances:  The athletes in contention for the award included last year’s event category winner, Garrett Heath of the Brooks Beasts; the University of Washington’s Izaic Yorks; Olympic 5000m finalist Hassan Mead, a former Puyallup resident; and, Washington State alum Bernard Lagat, who has been in contention for this award since the inception of the Mercanators.

Heath had a good start, winning the Great Edinburgh Cross Country title, beating repeat Olympic 5000/10000 champ Mo Farah, but could not follow it up during the outdoor season, only finishing 13th in the finals of the 5000 at the Olympic Trials.  Yorks won the MPSF mile title and the Pac-12 1500 crown, then was upset at the NCAA 1500m finals, but won the semis at the Olympic Trials 1500m before finishing 10th in the finals.

Bernard Lagat gets the nod, after winning the Olympic Trials 5000 with one of the most stirring stretch runs, fighting off Mead, then found a way to keep himself in contention in the finals of the 5000 at the Rio Olympics before finishing fifth.  He also earned a #7 world ranking from Track & Field News.

TOP PERFORMER—Men’s Distances:  Lagat also gets the honors here, based on his debut win at the Payton Jordan 10000 at Stanford, running 27:49.35. Jake Riley’s 15th place finish in the US Olympic marathon trials under hot conditions gets him an honorable mention.

TOP PERFORMER—Men’s Vertical Jumps:  It was a down year in the vertical jumps, as long time regular Brad Walker only vaulted at the Olympic Trials to apparently end his storied career, as he concentrated on his coaching duties at Washington State.

The University of Washington’s Jax Thoirs, who won the NCAA indoor pole vault title, and finished fifth outdoors, gets the nod by a slight edge over Tacoma native Dakarai Hightower, who cleared a personal best 7-5 (2.26m) and finished sixth in the high jump at the US Olympic Trials.

TOP PERFORMER—Men’s Horizontal Jumps:  University of Washington alum Norris Frederick gets the nod, after a ninth place finish in the long jump at the US Olympic Trials and a season best of 26-4.5 (8.04m).

TOP PERFORMER—Men’s Multi-Events:  Another former Husky, Jeremy Taiwo, earns the honors in the multis, after finishing fourth at the Götziz meet (8203), taking second at the Olympic Trials with a personal best (8425) and 11th at the Olympics (8300) to earn a #8 world ranking from Track & Field News.

TOP PERFORMER—Women’s Sprints:  Before she got injured at the NCAA regional meet, Federal Way HS grad Hannah Cunliffe was in the conversation as a legitimate US Olympic team member, after finishing second at the Mt. SAC Relays and dipping under 11 seconds (10.99), and winning the Pac-12 title. Nonetheless, she gets the nod here.

Cunliffe also ran 22.49 in the 200, and finished second indoors at the NCAAs in the 60 and third in the 200.

TOP PERFORMER—Women’s Middle Distances: Plenty of athletes to choose from in this category, from Phoebe Wright and Justine Fedronic in the 800; Alexa Efraimson in the 1500; Mel Lawrence in the steeple; and Katie Mackey in the 5000.

In a close call, Alexa Efraimson gets the nod over Katie Mackey, after finishing sixth at the Olympic Trials, and finishing fifth at the IAAF world U20 meet in Poland. Mackey was sixth in the 5000 at the Trials.

TOP PERFORMER—Women’s Distances:  University of Washington alum Lindsay Flanagan gets the honors here after finishing fourth in the Frankfurt Marathon and breaking 2:30 for the first time (2:29:28), after finishing 14th at the Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles.

TOP PERFORMER—Women’s Hurdles:  Washington State University assistant coach Angela Whyte gets the honors here, as the Canadian veteran finished fifth in the finals of the 60 hurdles at the IAAF world indoor championships, then made Canada’s Olympic team in the 100 hurdles, running a season best 12.85.

TOP PERFORMER—Women’s Vertical Jumps:  University of Washington alum Diamara Planell Cruz takes the honors here, after finishing third in the NCAA indoor pole vault, then qualifying for Puerto Rico’s Olympic team by clearing the Olympic standard of 14-9 (4.50m) at the Mt. SAC Relays.

TOP PERFORMER—Women’s Horizontal Jumps:  University Place resident Andrea Geubelle (above/photo by Paul Merca), who was finally healthy after a frustrating 2014 and 2015 campaign, gets the nod here, after jumping 46-5.25 (14.15m) in Chula Vista, her furthest since the 2013 season, and making the US Olympic team.

TOP PERFORMER—Women’s Throws:  Vancouver’s Kara Winger (above/photo by Howard Lao) gets the nod in this category. While she did make her third straight US Olympic team and missed the finals of the Olympics in the javelin by one place, Winger would probably be the first to admit that it was a down season for her, after her amazing 2015 campaign in which she threatened her own American record, and placed eighth in the javelin at the world championships.  Winger competed sparingly in 2016, after recovering from shoulder surgery, but was still good enough to rank #2 in the US according to Track & Field News.

The winners of the 2016 Mercanator Award for the best track & field athletes from Washington state as selected by the editor of paulmerca.blogspot.com are Devon Allen on the men’s side, and on the women’s side, a tie between Andrea Geubelle and Kara Winger…congratulations to the three of you!

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