Saturday, January 21, 2017

Cougar freshman Sam Brixey highlights WSU Open meet; Eagle vaulters & Fricker shine at Bronco Invite...

In Pullman, freshman Sam Brixey (above/photo courtesy WSU Sports Information) broke Jeshua Anderson’s Washington State University freshman class record in the 60-meter hurdles to highlight action at the WSU Open meet Saturday at the WSU Indoor Facility.

The native of Boise, Idaho ran 8.00 to eclipse Anderson’s record from 2008 of 8.01, as the Cougars racked up seven event victories at the meet.

Brixley’s mark is currently the third fastest time in the MPSF conference at this early stage of the season, as Marquis Morris of USC leads with a time of 7.81.

Ja’Maun Charles of the Cougars led a 1-2-3 finish in the men’s 60, winning in a time of 6.80, with teammates Zach Smith second in 6.95 and Ethan Gardner third in 7.01.

On the women’s side, Cougar senior Kristine Felix won the pole vault to take a share of the MPSF lead with a clearance of 13-1.5 (4.00m).

Another top mark from the meet was the effort of WSU senior Kiana Davis, who won the triple jump on Friday night with a leap of 41-0.5 (12.51m), which currently puts her second in the conference.

In Nampa, Idaho, pole vaulters Larry Still and Anandae Clark of Eastern Washington each emerged victorious in their events at the Boise State Bronco Invitational Saturday.

Still, the reigning Big Sky champion, won with a clearance of 16-2.75 (4.95m), which is the best mark in the Big Sky conference as of now.

Clark won her event with a best of 12-11.5 (3.95m), easily winning her event by 6 inches, and taking over the Big Sky lead in that event.

Seattle Pacific alum McKayla Fricker won the 600 meter run in 1:28.82, while former Husky Eleanor Fulton was third in 1:31.40.  Both went 1-2 in the 800, with Fricker winning in 2:10.19, and Fulton clocking 2:10.35 for second. 

Fricker and Fulton are members of the High Performance West group based in Portland.

NOTE:  The sports information offices of Washington State and Eastern Washington University contributed to this report. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Cougs host WSU Open, while Eagles head to Nampa for Bronco Invite...

Washington State's Regyn Gaffney
(photo courtesy WSU Athletics)
Washington State and Eastern Washington’s indoor track & field teams are in action this weekend, with the Cougars hosting the 15th annual WSU Open meet at their indoor facility on the WSU campus in Pullman Friday and Saturday, and the Eagles traveling to Boise for the Boise State Bronco Invitational at Jacksons Track in Nampa.

The Friday portion of the WSU Open will consist of competition in the discus, weight throws, triple jumps and the men’s pole vault, while the remainder of the meet will go on Saturday.

In addition to the host Cougars, athletes from Gonzaga, Central Washington, and Division III schools Puget Sound and Whitworth will have competitors at the meet.

Eastern Washington will send a majority of their squad to Nampa for the Bronco Invitational at Jacksons Track on Saturday.

According to Eagle women’s coach Marcia Mecklenburg, "The Bronco Invite will give us a chance to compete against Sacramento State and Portland State for the first time this year," said Mecklenburg. "Sac is always tough across all event areas and Portland State has some amazing sprinters. I am expecting our defending Big Sky champion Rebecca Tarbert (60m) to get tested.  Our vaulters should also have a little more ccompetition then they have had in the last couple of meets and it will be fun to see how they respond."

"At this time of the year, the focus is to continue improving marks, and take advantage of competition situations and learn from them," Mecklenburg said.

Here’s some more links to get you through the week:

Friend of the blog and former University of Washington hammer thrower Martin Bingisser, who lives in Switzerland, was back in the Seattle area over the Christmas holiday, and while he was in town, did an interview with Brooks Beasts coach Danny Mackey and his wife and UW alum Katie (left/photo by Paul Merca).

Danny and Katie discuss how they make the most of being married to her coach, what they are striving to improve upon, and the key factors in building a team.

Danny talks about his shortcomings as a coach and how he is trying to improve.  Chief among them is creating a culture of accountability.

NOTE:  The sports information offices of Washington State and Eastern Washington, along with HMMR Media contributed to this report.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Social media links from Phoebe Wright and Sarah Crouch...

Here are some social media links from a pair of runners with Washington ties to get you through the middle of the week:

University of Washington pharmacy school student Phoebe Wright (left/photo by Paul Merca), who finished sixth at the US Olympic Track & Field trials last July, is a guest on the House of Run podcast, where she reveals publicly that she had been dropped by Nike.

To put this in personal context, I just happened to run into Phoebe at the end of my run at the Redmond Watershed Preserve on New Year’s Day (a day in which I should’ve been on the couch watching NFL games on TV, but for whatever mysterious reason, felt motivated enough to drive 30 minutes away from home to run the trails at the Watershed Preserve after being out New Year’s Eve).

After exchanging pleasantries with her and her friends, I was showing her the brand new running shoes that I got from Nike in Beaverton a few days earlier, then asked her when she was opening up her 2017 season, when she said, “Not sure. Nike booted me (swinging her leg in a kicking motion).”

In my haste to find a restroom after running, I didn’t think much of her comment about being dropped, and it really didn’t sink in until after I started driving back home.

One of the harsh realities of professional track & field is that sponsors drop athletes, particularly at the end of an Olympic cycle. 

In this interview (which starts at about the 26 minute mark), she reveals how she was given the news about being dropped by Nike.

She goes on to say that “if I had an offer on the table that covered tuition and a part of my living expenses, I would break up my schooling to where I could fully focus on running and have the side gig of school.”

Wright, who is perhaps one of the most candid and personable athletes on the US circuit, goes into depth on how the business side of the sport works.

She does state in the interview that she plans to compete this season, but not until the outdoor season.

On the positive side, Western Washington alum Sarah Crouch revealed on her Instagram account that she had picked up a sponsorship deal with Chinese sportswear company 361°.

Crouch, who has moved her training base to Kentucky after a stint with the Reebok Zap Fitness group in North Carolina, finished fifth at the Chevron Houston Marathon on Sunday, running 2:38:37 on an uncomfortable day for marathoning.

After the race, she wrote a blog post, but not about her race.  Instead, she wrote about her sisters, Georgia and Shannon Porter, both of whom were NCAA Division II All-Americans last season, the latter at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

WEEKEND ROUNDUP: Coug sprinters & jumpers compete well in Boise; Eags sweep Vandals...

While Washington State University send a small group of athletes to compete at the UW Indoor Preview Saturday, the majority of the team headed east to compete at the Ed Jacoby Invitational hosted by Boise State on Friday and Saturday at the Jacksons Indoor Facility in Nampa, Idaho.

The Cougs came away with nine individual winners at the Ed Jacoby meet including Ja’Maun Charles and Regyn Gaffney, who were double winners on the day.

Charles won the men's 60m dash with a PR time of 6.76, and won the 200m dash in a time of 21.74. Gaffney won the women's 60m dash with a PR time of 7.60 seconds, and won the 200m dash with a time of 25.39, the same time as WSU’s Tierney Silliman.

Multi-event specialist Liz Harper (left/photo by Paul Merca) won the 60 hurdles (8.85), while Greer Alsop took the triple jump (40-11.75/12.49m), Kiana Davis won the triple jump (5-6/1.69m), and Katie Wardsworth the 20-pound weight throw (51-8.75/25.75m).

Josh Schulz had the Cougars’ final win by emerging victorious in the long jump with a leap of 22-7.25 (6.90m).

In Moscow, Idaho, the Eastern Washington men’s and women’s squads swept the University of Idaho teams at the Vandal Invitational, with the men winning by a 70-46 count, while the women won by two, 68-66.

The Eagles came away with 12 individual victories in the scored meet, with seven men taking home titles, and five women doing likewise.

Saint Martin’s University sent a 4 x 800 relay team to the meet, winning the race in a time of 9:58.74.

Eastern’s best mark of the day came from shot putter Aaron Cunningham, who won his event with a toss of 55-8.25 (16.97m).

NOTE:  The sports information offices of Washington State University and Eastern Washington University contributed to this report.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

US Olympians Centrowitz and Grace highlight UW Indoor Preview...

SEATTLE—Reigning world indoor and Olympic 1500 meter champion Matthew Centrowitz (left/photo by Paul Merca) put on a show by easily winning the men’s 3000 meter run to highlight competition at the UW Indoor Preview meet Saturday at the Dempsey Indoor.

With Ireland’s 2012 Olympian and 2011 world championship finalist Ciaran O’Lionaird doing the pacesetting for the first mile, Centrowitz looked relaxed and controlled as he won the 3000 meters in a time of 7:49.89 on the oversized track (Russia’s Vladamir Nikitin has run 7:48.13, but the Russian federation is still under IAAF suspension which is easily the fastest time in the world).

Nearly breaking the 8 minute mark in the 3000 was Gonzaga’s Troy Fraley, as he took second behind Centrowitz in a time of 8:00.54, ahead of US cross country champion Craig Lutz (8:01.19) and 3-time USA world championship steeplechaser Dan Huling (8:03.93).  Fraley’s mark is the second fastest time in NCAA Division I so far this season.

In a bit of an upset, 2016 US Olympian Kate Grace defeated reigning world indoor 1500 meter champion Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands and the Nike Oregon Project in the women’s 3000, running a facility record 8:47.26 to Hassan’s 8:50.36.

Finishing third was Bellarmine Prep grad Brie Felnagle, who is now training in the Sacramento area with Grace, as she ran 8:52.35, while Lauren Paquette in fourth (8:54.71) and Leah O’Connor in fifth (8:56.14) all broke 9 minutes in what easily was the fastest race in the world at that distance so far this season.

Federal Way native Hannah Cunliffe ran the fastest time in the world so far this season in the 60 meter dash, as the University of Oregon junior ran 7.19 to defeat Washington’s Kennadi Bouyer, who ran 7.29, the same time as Makenzie Dunmore of Oregon ran to with the first of the two-section final. Dunmore and Bouyer currently are tied for the fifth fastest time in the world so far this season.

Other highlights—

—Washington’s Colby Gilbert, who admittedly was disappointed with how his cross country season finished, opened his season by breaking 4 minutes in the mille for the second time in his career, running 3:58 96, finishing behind Oregon alum Eric Jenkins, who ran 3:58.68;

—In the women’s 600, NCAA 800 champ Raevyn Rogers of Oregon ran 1:26.97, just off her meet record and collegiate best 1:26.34 set last year. Olivia Baker of Stanford, who finished behind Rogers at the NCAA outdoor championships, was second in 1:28.22, just nosing out Olympia native Brooke Feldmeier of Oregon by 1/100th of a second; 

—The women’s 60 hurdles saw Oregon’s Sasha Wallace set a meet record 7.96, the fastest time in the world so far this season, and scare the 11-year old facility record of 7.93 set by Rainier Beach HS grad Ginnie (Powell) Crawford;

—After rupturing her Achilles tendon last year, 2015 Pac-12 champ Kristina Owsinski won the women’s pole vault with a clearance of 13-6.5 (4.13m) to defeat former Pac-12 champ Kristine Felix of Washington State (13-0.75/3.98m) and current Pac-12 champ Liz Quick of Washington (13-0.75/3.98m).  Owsinski only has outdoor eligibility left for the Huskies, so she competed unattached Saturday.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Dempsey opens the gates for the UW Indoor Preview featuring Olympic champ Matthew Centrowitz...

2016 Olympic 1500m gold medalist Matthew
Centrowitz will run the 3000m at the
UW Indoor Preview (Paul Merca photo)
This weekend marks the first full weekend of indoor track and field action for the state’s collegiate and professional athletes with three meets on the schedule.

The University of Washington opens the gates of the Dempsey Indoor facility Saturday for the UW Indoor Preview, with sIx of the state’s nine Division I and II schools represented, starting on the field at 9 am with three women’s field events—pole vault, long jump, and weight throw—and at 9:30 am on the track with the qualifying round of the women’s 60 hurdles.

Some of the key events to watch:

Women’s 1000 (11:10 am) This race features Washington’s Pac-12 and NCAA West regional cross country champ Amy-Eloise Neale dropping down in distance against defending UW Indoor Preview champ Rebecca Mehra of Stanford, Olympic Trials qualifiers Lauren Wallace and Dominique Jackson, and McKayla Fricker;

Men’s 1000 (11:25 am)  Oregon alum Eric Jenkins, whose late charge in the closing stages of the Olympic Trials 5000 almost gained him a spot on Team USA, goes against UW All-American Blake Nelson;

Women’s mile (11:40 am)  Olympic Trials 1500m and two-time world juniors finalist Alexa Efraimson from Camas goes against Nozumi Takamatsu of Japan, who won the 2014 Youth Olympics 3000, and was fourth in the 2014 world junior 3000m race in Eugene.  Throw in 2012 Canadian Olympian at 800m Jessica Smith, Canadian cross country champ Sasha Gollish and former NCAA D2 800m champ Lindsey Butterworth in for good measure, and sub 4:35 is a possibility this early;

Men’s mile (12:05 pm)  Jenkins is expected to come back from the 1000 to run the mile against Canadian Olympians Luc Bruchet and Charles Philibert-Phiboutot, 2012 Irish Olympian Ciaran O’Lionaird, and UW All-American Colby Gilbert. At least six athletes have seed times under 4 minutes.

Women’s 60 (12:30 pm)  Assuming they make it out of the prelims at 10:45 am, the final could potentially see a battle between Federal Way native Hannah Cunliffe of Oregon, the reigning Pac-12 sprint queen, against the Huskies’ Kennadi Bouyer, Oregon’s two US Olympians in Ariana Washington & Deajah Stevens, and San Diego State’s All-American Micha Auzenne;

Seeded Women’s Pole Vault (1 pm)  This features three of the last four Pac-12 champions in that event—Kristine Felix of Washington State, Kristina Owsinski of the UW (who is competing unattached), and reigning champ Liz Quick of the Huskies;

Women’s 600 (2 pm)  Last year’s race was a barnburner, with Stanford’s Olivia Baker taking it out hard, before being caught by Oregon’s Raevyn Rogers, with Rogers running a collegiate and facility best 1:26.34.  Those two finished 1-2 in the NCAA championship race at 800 in Eugene last June, and will be joined by Olympic Trials qualifiers Lauren Wallace and Dominique Jackson, along with Rogers’ Oregon teammate and Olympia native Brooke Feldmeier; 

Women’s 3000 (4:20 pm)  This race is loaded, and the possibility of a sub 8:55 race is real, with defending world indoor 1500m champ and 2015 world championships bronze medalist Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands the headliner.  The former Ethiopian national goes against a pair of US Olympians in Kim Conley and Kate Grace, though Flotrack reports that Conley will be the pacesetter.

Also in the field are Bellarmine Prep alum Brie Felnagle, who recently moved her training base to Sacramento from Seattle; Canadian cross country champ Sasha Gollish, along with Olympic Trials qualifiers Rochelle Kanuho, Leah O’Connor, and Lauren Paquette, not to mention 13-year old world age-group record holder Grace Ping;

Men’s 3000 (5 pm)  It’s not every day that a defending Olympic champion opens up the following season at the Dempsey—in fact, it’s only happened once in the Dempsey’s 15 years, and that was in 2005 when 2004 Olympic 100 hurdles champion Joanna Hayes ran the 60 hurdles at the UW Indoor Preview.

World indoor and Olympic 1500 meter champ Matthew Centrowitz of the Nike Oregon Project opens the 2017 season in the 3000 against 2012 Irish Olympian Ciaran O’Lionaird, Japanese Olympian Suguru Osako, and three-time world championships steeplechaser Dan Huling, with Gonzaga’s Troy Fraley, and former Texas All-American Craig Lutz thrown in the field, along with four NCAA Division II All Americans in David Ribich of Western Oregon, Marc-Antoine Rouleau of Simon Fraser, and the Alaska Anchorage duo of Dominik Notz and Edwin Kangogo.

Other notables to watch include WSU alum and 3-time NCAA 400 hurdles champ Jeshua Anderson (60 hurdles); UW alum Norris Frederick (high jump); Club Northwest’s Olympic Trials qualifier Levi Keller (pole vault); Shaq Walker of the Brooks Beasts (600); world youth champ Tara Davis (women's long jump); and, UW’s Casey Burns & Stanford’s Jaak Uudmae (triple jump).

Admission to the meet is $8.00. If you can’t make it, media partner Flotrack will stream live coverage of the UW Indoor Preview ($).


Washington State University will have a split squad competing this weekend, with sprinters, hurdlers, vertical jumpers, and throwers competing at the Ed Jacoby Invitational hosted by Boise State at the Jacksons Indoor Facility in Nampa, while its middle distance, distance, and horizontal jumpers will compete in Seattle.

Eastern Washington, Central Washington and Saint Martin’s will have athletes competing in Moscow at the Vandal Indoor Invitational Friday starting with field events at 9 am, and running events at noon.

NOTE:  The University of Washington, Washington State, Eastern Washington, Idaho, and Boise State sports information offices contributed to this report.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

TrackTown Summer Series returns in 2017 with two preliminary meets & New York final...

Katie Mackey (l) of the Brooks Beasts battled Oiselle's Kate Grace
in an exciting 1500m race at last summer's TrackTown Summer Series
(Paul Merca photo)
The TrackTown Summer Series, which made its debut last July at Eugene’s Hayward Field, returns to the national track & field calendar with two regional meets and a championship meet that will be contested on July 6th at New York’s Icahn Stadium, according to a press release posted by the Eugene-based TrackTown USA.

Similar to last year’s debut meet in Eugene, each of the three meets in the 2017 TrackTown Summer Series will focus on scored competition between the teams representing San Francisco, Portland, Philadelphia and New York City.

TrackTown USA president Vin Lananna announced the dates of the two preliminary meets will be June 29th at a yet-to-be determined venue in the Bay Area, and at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, Oregon (a suburb of Portland) on July 2nd.

Several athletes with Washington ties competed in last year’s meet, including Washington alums Katie Mackey and Baylee Mires of the Brooks Beasts and Mel Lawrence, Rainier Beach HS grad Michael Berry; Cas Loxsom & Riley Masters of the Brooks Beasts; Seattle’s Phoebe Wright and Seattle Pacific alums McKayla Fricker and Jessica Tebo.

The coaches, general managers, and team investors will be revealed at a future date.

NOTE:  TrackTown USA contributed to this report.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A quick glance of entries for Saturday's UW Indoor Preview reveals...

—In the women’s 60, a potential matchup between NCAA scorers Hannah Cunliffe (left/photo by Paul Merca) of Oregon, and the Huskies’ Kennadi Bouyer. Cunliffe, the Federal Way HS product, is coming off an injury suffered at the NCAA West Regionals last year that dashed any hopes of her making a run at an Olympic berth;

—The women’s 600 will see defending NCAA 800 champ Raevyn Rogers match up against Olympic Trials competitor Lauren Wallace, NCAA runner-up Olivia Baker of Stanford, and former Olympia prep standout Brooke Feldmeier; 

—Olympic Trials finalist Alexa Efraimson from Camas heads the field in the women’s mile against Nozomi Takamatsu of Japan, who won the 2014 Youth Olympics and was fourth in the 3000 at the 2014 IAAF world juniors in Eugene. Takamatsu is also entered in the 800; 

—The women’s 3000 has Olympians Kim Conley and Kate Grace entered, along with former Tacoma resident Brie Felnagle, who is now training with Conley and Grace in Sacramento;

—Three of the last four Pac-12 pole vault champions are entered, including Kristina Owsinski from UW (competing unattached); current champ Elizabeth Quick of UW, and Kristine Felix of WSU.

—Olympic Trials finalist and reigning Pac-12 discus champion Valarie Altman of Stanford is entered in the weight throw.

On the men’s side, Rio Olympic 1500 meter champion Matthew Centrowitz (left/photo by Paul Merca) is the headliner, as he’s entered in the 3000, where he’ll face Nike Oregon Project teammate Suguru Osako;

In the mile, Canadians Luc Bruchet and Charles Philibert-Phiboutot face off against Olympic Trials 5000m 4th-place finisher Eric Jenkins of the Nike Oregon Project, Ireland’s 2011 world championship finalist and 2012 Olympian Ciaran O’Lionard, and Colby Gilbert of the host Huskies; 

—Shaquille Walker, formerly of BYU and one of the newest members of the Seattle-based Brooks Beasts, is entered in the 600;

—Former Husky and Olympic Trials long jump finalist Norris Frederick is entered in the high jump, an event he hasn’t seriously competed in over the past few years.

—WSU alum and 2011 USA 400 hurdles champ Jeshua Anderson is entered in the men’s 60 hurdles.

As always, the list of accepted entries are tentative, as athletes are bound to scratch and/or switch events.  The University of Washington will post final entries and heats/flights sometime on Thursday.

A link to the meet time schedule is available here; the final time schedule will be posted on Thursday as well.

A preview of Saturday’s meet will be posted on either Thursday or Friday.

NOTE: The University of Washington contributed to this report.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Both Husky squads in the top 25 in the USTFCCCA pre-season computer rankings...

Sub-4 minute miler Colby Gilbert is one
of the Huskies' top returning athletes
(Paul Merca photo)
NEW ORLEANS—The USTFCCCA released its indoor pre-season national team rankings for Division I schools, and both University of Washington squads are among the country’s top 25 teams.

The Washington men’s team is ranked #25, while the women’s team is ranked #19 in the pre-season national computer team rankings, which is based on pre-season event rankings that include the top marks of recent NCAA indoor track & field seasons by returning athletes and the top marks of the 2017 season.  The rankings do not include marks from past outdoor seasons nor marks from incoming freshmen.

The closer an athlete is to the top of their event rankings, the more points they earn towards the team total..

The nation’s top five men’s teams are Florida, Oregon, LSU, Arkansas & Syracuse.

Other MPSF schools in the top 25 include USC (6), and Stanford (10).

On the women’s side, the top five teams in the pre-season rankings are Oregon, Arkansas, Georgia, USC, and Texas.

The only other school from the MPSF in the national top 25 is Stanford at #23.

The indoor season begins this Saturday, as the University of Washington hosts the UW Indoor Preview meet at the Dempsey Indoor, 

NOTE:  The USTFCCCA contributed to this report.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

It's early, but Dakarai Hightower puts American high jumpers on notice...

CRETE, Nebraska—It may only be the first Saturday of 2017, but Tacoma native and US Olympic Trials finalist Dakarai Hightower (above/photo courtesy Doane University Sports Information) put the American high jumpers on notice at the Ward Haylett Invitational, as he set a school record, jumping 7-4.25 (2.24m).

For a few hours at least, Hightower, who competed last year at Lane Community College in Eugene before moving on to Doane University, an NAIA school in Crete, Nebraska, held the overall collegiate lead, until freshman Clayton Brown of Florida topped the mark, jumping 7-4.5 (2.25m) at the Clemson Orange and Purple meet.

Hightower, who was ranked #7 in the country last year according to Track & Field News, opened with first attempt makes at 7-0.5 (2.15m) and 7-2.5 (2.20m), before clearing 7-4.25 (2.24m) on his third attempt.  He took three shots at tying his personal best of 7-5 (2.26m), which he set when he won the NWAAC community college title last spring.

Hightower’s mark is the best in NAIA, and the second best by a collegian so far this season. It’s also the second best in the world, not counting the two marks set by Ivan Ukhov (7-8.5/2.35m) and Dmitry Semenov (7-5.25/2.27m) of Russia, which is currently suspended by the IAAF as a result of doping sanctions against the Russian Federation.

According to a message from Hightower, he cleared the mark using a short approach.

Courtesy of Hightower's Instagram account, here's video of his 7-4.25 (2.24m) jump:

A video posted by Dakarai Hightower (@dhightower253) on

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

Garrett Heath's Great Edinburgh XCountry win streak snapped...

EDINBURGH, Scotland—Garrett Heath’s (above/photo by John Nepolitan, three-race winning streak at the Great Edinburgh XCountry challenge came to a screeching halt, as the member of the Seattle-based Brooks Beasts finished sixth over the 8k course at Holyrood Park Saturday.

While Heath could claim that he again finished in front of British hero, and double Olympic champion Mo Farah of the Nike Oregon Project, Heath was a ways away from collecting yet another victory.

In what was a repeat of last year’s thrilling stretch run in which Heath held off Farah for the win, Leonard Korir of Team USA caught Great Britain’s Callum Hawkins over the final few meters of the 8k distance to win in a time of 24:03 to Hawkins’ 24:04.

Heath was Team USA’s number four scorer in sixth, running 24:43, while Farah was one place behind in seventh, clocking 24:49.

Team USA had all six of its scorers place in the top eleven to win the three-team race between Team Europe and Great Britain.  Team USA had a low score of 37, with Europe taking second with 70 and Great Britain third with 70 (Europe’s fifth scorer was 16th; Great Britain’s was 17th).

The Americans’ win in the final men’s 8k race gave Team USA the overall win with 149 points to Team Europe’s 152 and Great Britain’s 208 (adding the team scores of the men’s and women’s senior and mens’ and women’s under-20 races).

NOTE:  USA Track & Field, and the Great Edinburgh XCountry challenge organizers contributed to this report.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Heath leads Team USA into Edinburgh for Saturday's Great Edinburgh XCountry challenge...

EDINBURGH, Scotland—The first big international test of the 2017 season gets underway Saturday morning at 5:15am Seattle time (1:15 pm local time) as Garrett Heath (above/photo courtesy BBC) of the Seattle based Brooks Beasts leads Team USA into battle at the Great Edinburgh XCountry challenge meet at fabled Holyrood Park.

Heath rolls into Edinburgh having won the last three versions of this race, and once again, the road to victory goes directly through Great Britain’s Mo Farah, the reigning world and Olympic champion at 5000 and 10000 meters, and member of the Beaverton-based Nike Oregon Project.

In last year’s race, Heath shot past Farah before the final hill with 400 meters to go, and took advantage of Farah’s slight slip on the hard right turn heading into the final downhill stretch, winning by two seconds over the 8k course in 25:29 to Farah’s 25:31.

Heath told members of the media at the pre-race presser, “I felt pretty good. And honestly it wasn’t until the last 50 metres that I thought I had much of a shot. I had a step on him but I kept waiting for him. I could hear the shouts of ‘go, Mo.’ You know what kind of kick he has and I kept waiting for it to arrive. So when I got to the end and won, I couldn’t believe it. It was just unreal.”

He told reporters, “I love being in Edinburgh. It feels a bit nostalgic for me, a bit like the kind of races I did in high school. You have to get stuck in. When I’m back in Minnesota, it’s -10°C and so it feels a bit warmer coming here. But I look forward it each time.”

Heath is the only athlete with Washington ties on the Team USA squad competing in Edinburgh, which features a junior women’s 4k race, a junior men’s 6k, a mixed 4 x 1k relay, and a women’s 6k. The mixed 4 x 1k relay will be added to this year’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Uganda in March. ($) will offer live streaming coverage of the Great Edinburgh XCountry challenge beginning at 5:15 am Seattle time.

NOTE:  USA Track & Field, and the Great Edinburgh XCountry challenge organizers contributed to this report.

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 (, 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 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 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!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Eatons elect to retire from track & field...

It was my intent to release the 2016 Mercanator Awards Wednesday for the top performers and performances of the previous year. The 2016 Mercanators will be announced on the blog later this week.

However, the somewhat surprising news (at least to the general public) that two-time Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton (left/photo by Paul Merca) along with his wife, Canadian heptathlete Brianne Theisen-Eaton, jointly announced their retirement from the sport earlier in the day, caught many people, including myself, in scramble mode.

Rather than rushing to post all the accolades the duo have achieved, I gave some thought throughout Wednesday about what they've meant to the sport from a personal perspective.

As someone who has been around the block a few times in the high level world of track and field, you sensed that there really wasn’t much left for him to accomplish.  After all, he’d set the world record twice in the decathlon, scoring 9039 points at the Olympic Trials in Eugene in 2012, then upping his own standard to 9045 in Beijing in 2015 to win his second world championship.

The same could be said of Brianne, who, while she didn’t quite get to the top of her specialty in the seven-event heptathlon, came pretty damn close, winning two sliver medals at the world championships, a bronze at the Rio Olympics, and an IAAF world indoor title in the pentathlon in Portland last March.

In announcing his retirement, the complete text of which you can read here, he said, ““It has been 10 years since [my first foray in the decathlon] and it’s my time to depart from athletics; to do something new…” 

Eaton wrote. “To my supporters and sponsors, the things I have achieved were achieved together with you. At times when I was doubtful, you believed. And if I was confident, it was also because you believed. Thank you for the love and support.”

Brianne (above/photo by Paul Merca) wrote, “I no longer have the passion for track and field or the heptathlon that I used to because I know I can’t advance any further in the sport; I’ve given it all I can, and I refuse to come back and half-ass it because I love and respect this event and sport too much. With that, I’ve decided to retire. It’s time to move on to my next passion, the next thing in the world I hope to make an impact in.”

I feel fortunate to have watched the couple go through the ranks during their time as undergrads at the University of Oregon. especially when the Ducks came up to Seattle to compete at the Dempsey Indoor. I always enjoyed following them around the floor of the Dempsey, whether they were competing in a multi-event, or in an individual field event. It was certainly a pleasure to conduct post-meet interviews with them over the public address system, even when they became the best athletes in their specialties.

Ashton Eaton sets the decathlon world record at the 2012
US Olympic Trials with a score of 9039 points (Paul Merca photo)
The most important thing that I got from being around them over the years was that even when they became the big names that they were in the sport, they were still just Bri and Ashton, two of the most humble and gracious people you could associate yourself with.

Ash & Bri, I know you two will be successful in whatever endeavors you decide to pursue. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Nick Symmonds of the Brooks Beasts announces that 2017 is his last season...

“I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man!”

While Jay-Z used that line from the remix of Kanye West’s song “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” nearly twelve years ago, that line could also be used to describe Nick Symmonds (left/photo by Paul Merca) of the Seattle based Brooks Beasts, who announced Tuesday that the 2017 season will be his final season competing at the national and international level.

The graduate of Willamette University in Oregon and former member of the Nike Oregon Track Club Elite won six US national titles at 800 meters, qualified for two US Olympic teams at that distance, and won a silver medal at the 2013 IAAF world championships in Moscow using his patented sit and kick strategy.

Upon the expiration of his Nike contract, he signed with Brooks in 2014 and moved up to the Seattle area from Eugene to train with Beasts coach Danny Mackey, and became a mentor to some of the younger members of the Brooks Beasts, including 2015 IAAF world championships team member Cas Loxsom.

Symmonds won the 2015 US nationals, but did not go to Beijing for the world championships, after getting into a dispute with USA Track & Field over a provision requiring him to wear Nike apparel at all team functions. He contended that the federation’s interpretation of “team functions” was broad, and not specific, and that the provision violated the terms of his personal contract with Brooks.

During his career, he’s auctioned off his shoulder as advertising space, started RunGum caffeinated gum for athletes, sponsored athletes competing at the 2015 USA national championships by providing racing kits with the RunGum logo, challenged USA Track & Field and the USOC in court last year asking that he and other athletes be allowed to run in logos beyond those of shoe and apparel manufacturers, and used social media to ask Paris Hilton for a date.

Because of his willingness to stand up for the rights of track and field athletes against the alphabet-soup athletic organizations and the major sponsors of the sport, he’s been accused of grandstanding and self-promotion. 

“Nick is nothing if not a fighter, and we know that when he is on that starting line, he can do amazing things. We believe that 2017 will be no exception,” said Brooks sports marketing manager Jesse Williams. 

“Brooks is excited to see what Nick will do in his final season both on and off the track.”

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