Track Shorts: Best of 2016

The sun is hanging low in the sky, the days are short and we are eating a lot of chocolate.  Yes it’s that time of the year.  Time for Track Shorts’ Year-in-Review.  Plenty to talk about in this Olympic year.  We have some repeat awards from last year plus new categories as circumstances dictate.

Best Use of Facial Hair

This is a close call between Garrett Heath’s scruffy celtic beard Garrett Heath Beard that served him well as he beat the unbeatable Mo Farah (again!) at the X-C Championships in Scotland and Jared Ward’s neatly trimmed but full mustache that he displayed in making the Olympic team and again in his tactically brilliant 5th place finish in Rio Jared Ward Mustache.  Jared got extra points from the judges for channeling Pre and that was the difference in winning this award.

Multi-eventer Most Likely to Specialize

An even tougher call between Curtis Beach with his 49.87 400H at the Houston edition of the American Track League and Heather Miller-Koch’s 2:06.82 800 in the OG heptathlon.  Curtis backed his up with a 1:48.17 800 at the Tracktown Series in Eugene but Heather’s performance came on the biggest stage.  The judges punted and Heather and Curtis will share the award.

Rookie of the Year

Chad Noelle (3:39 1500), Shannon Osika (4:30/4:12), and Johnny Gregorek (3:36 1500) caught the judges’ eyes but Craig Lutz with a big win in the US cross country championships and some good road work kept their attention.

Shout out to this moment #letsgohoka #timetofly #lutzgrind #theuncommonthread

A photo posted by Craig Lutz (@craig_lutz) on

What Sophomore Slump Award

This award goes to Sandi Morris. Olympic silver, American record, second in Diamond League, yeah, a pretty good showing.

Best Challenge to Eugene as Track Capitol of US

We need only travel a little ways up I-5 to Portland to find the winner.  “Rose City” hosted both the US Indoor nationals and the World Indoor Championships in the span of 10 days to wide acclaim.  Hey, Oregon, how about sharing the wealth with the rest of us?

Frequent Flyer Award

Jeff Porter.  He’s like Forrest Gump, showing up in every picture.  In May alone we have him in Jamaica, Guadeloupe, Denmark, Dakar, the Czech Republic and Eugene.  There were multiple appearances in Eugene, he was in Atlanta for the American Track League event and of course, he made it to Rio.  He was also in DC for the photo op with POTUS as a member of Team USA.

Clio Award AB Division (Best Appearance in an Ad)

Amanda Bingson, this throw’s for you:

Best Season Without Rio Appearance

Very stiff competition here.  Molly Ludlow and Amanda Eccleston went on tears right after the OTs.  Ryan Hill got a silver at the World Indoor Champs, a 13:15 5k and a 3:35 1500.  Kendra Chambers seemed to set a PR every time out.  Tara Welling was 4th overall in the road racing circuit.  Shout outs also to Heather Kampf (a slew of great road miles and a big 1500m PR) and Neely Gracey (some awesome marathons).  But, we’re going with Cassandra Tate for this one.  She ran consistently well in the Diamond League events and with the title on the line she came up with a season best to beat her main rivals and captured the Diamond League crown.

This Is My Beautiful House Award

No they’re not living in a fantasy world.  Sandi Morris did get silvers at both the Indoor Worlds and OG (despite breaking her wrist months before the competition), got the American record and was Grand Marshall in her hometown parade.  Tori Bowie celebrated her triple medal Olympic Game performances with TV commercials, modeling gigs and her own day in her hometown.  But Alexi Pappas topped it with PRs, a Greek national record, an OG appearance, the release of an award winning movie and a video shoot with Kevin Hart.

Best Under the Radar Performance in Rio

Jared Ward’s 5th in the marathon was a tactical gem.  Donn Cabral took 8th in the steeple.  But we’ll go with Amber Campbell for her 6th in an extremely competitive hammer throw final.  She needed a good throw on her third toss just to make the final eight, then used the extra throws to move up to 6th.

Maxwell Smart “Missed It By That Much” Award

Agent 86 shows up again in TS.  Ryan Hill’s late charge in the Indoor Worlds left him .18 short of gold.  Sandi Morris was close to gold in Rio.  As consolation, at least both of them got silvers.  For heartbreakingly close, Liz Podominick was just 2 inches short of third in the OT discus, and Ricky Babineaux and Queen Harrison each missed making the Rio team by less than a tenth of a second in hurdles events.   But the winner here has to be Amanda Eccleston, whose dive at the finish left her .03 seconds short of Brenda Martinez’s epic effort.

Related: .03 Seconds, by Amanda Eccleston

We Hardly Knew Thee Award

Actually we knew them well and will miss them dearly.  The list of retirees is long and includes DeeDee Trotter, Sanya Richards-Ross, Jeff Porter, Amy Acuff, Bridget Franek, Amanda Smock, Bianca Knight, Melinda Withrow and Jeff See.  Reports of Ashley Higginson’s retirement may have been exaggerated so we’re not sure whether to include her on the list.

Which Is Your Day Job Award

We have some impressive moonlighters out there.  Alexi Pappas is making movies.  SRR has got a fashion line in addition to a host of other activities.  Ashley Higginson is an attorney.  Kaitlin Goodman is pursuing a masters degree while doing freelance marketing and digital strategy for not-for-profits.  Heather Miller-Koch is an operating room nurse.  Sara Vaughn is a realtor and Mom of three girls. Maria Michta-Coffey has a PhD in Biomedical Sciences and is an adjunct professor in Microbiology.  We could go on but you get the picture.  Anybody who competes at this level and does anything else deserves an award.

Dr Emmett Brown We Don’t Need Roads Award

Camille Herron continued be a force in this genre, as witnessed by her win at the White River 50 Miler.  But we’re going with Joseph Gray this year.  He topped off an impressive year with a blow out win at the World Mountain Running Championships.  Just for fun, he competed with the “Flatlanders” in LA at the OT marathon.  And everybody who competes in this arena gets a Badass Award.

Renaissance Award (range of events)

This is probably a little biased towards the road runners and decathletes/heptathletes are ineligible.  We saw Tyler Pennel at 10 miles to marathon, Tyler Andrews at half marathon to 50k and Tara Welling at 10k to marathon. Riley Masters was active from 1500k to 10k.  But we’ll go with Sara Hall who competed successfully at distances from 5k to marathon.

Quote of the Year

Random guy to Amber Campbell: “You throw the tambourine, right? You a bad lady.”  We can only speculate as to what he meant but I’m guessing he thought Amber threw the discus rather than the hammer.

Unbreakable Award

Steve Winwood once sang that “spirit is something that no one destroys.”  All AB athletes inspire but this year three went the extra mile to prove Winwood’s point. Jamie Nieto was severely injured in a training accident and was paralyzed for a time. Manteo Mitchell got banged up in a very serious car accident.  And Gabe Grunewald bravely faced cancer for the third time in her young life.  Each is making a strong recovery, no doubt assisted by the inner drive that makes them world class athletes.

Of course there were many more athletes who deserved a shout out – humorous or otherwise – but the judges have full-time jobs so we got as many awards out of them as we could. Now, on to the 2017 season!

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