I have a window here where I can mention my votes for the Jesse Owens award (and my reasoning) without being tempted to make it look like I voted for the winners (we don’t know them yet), or trying to change your minds about how to vote (because voting is now closed).
As I mentioned, I voted twice, once online like everyone else, and once in the journalists poll. (I’m still tickled to be asked to participate in these things, and a little distressed that our pool of “journalists” is so small they need to include me in order to get enough voters.) I used my online vote as a “sentimental” vote for the ones I liked most, or identified with most; the official vote went to the athletes I thought had best earned the award as it is described with their competitive results in 2009.
So that latter vote went to Tyson Gay and Allyson Felix. Felix was a tough choice over Sanya Richards; both athletes were double World Champions, winning individual events and running a leg on the 4×400m relay. Felix, however, delivered her third consecutive 200m championship, a truly historic accomplishment considering she was facing down two-time Olympic champion Veronica Campbell-Brown. I might have considered Carmelita Jeter with those two had she won the World title as well as her undeniably fast late-season times, but Felix and Richards came through in the big show, and I still think that counts for a lot.
You’d think that would put me off Tyson Gay, particularly with Christian Cantwell and Trey Hardee on the nomination list, but I give Gay a tremendous amount of credit for attitude and American Records. Like Jeter, Gay ran phenomenal marks late in the season, but I really voted for Tyson because he never once used Usain Bolt as an excuse. He ran hurt, and still ran faster than anyone other than Bolt ever has. He faced off with the most dominant sprinter in history and gave the best he had to make the races real races and not walkovers for Bolt. I think that effort deserves to be rewarded.
On the website, I cast my women’s vote for Jenny Barringer. Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher are great athletes, and the runs they’ve had in the past three years have been tremendous, but I have a suspicion that Jenny Barringer is the second coming of Lynn Jennings. (Or, more likely, the first coming of Jenny Barringer; she may be completely without precedent.) Nominally a steeplechaser, she ran PRs from 1,500m to 5,000m (including becoming the first of three–THREE–American women sub-4 at the shorter distance this year), dismantled a series of quality fields in the NCAA track championships, and is probably going to dominate the NCAA cross country meet this fall in a way no American woman has since Flanagan… and Goucher. Get on the Barringer train now, because she’s acting like she’s just getting started.
I don’t actually remember how I used my online vote for men. It may have gone to Christian Cantwell, who took the shot put gold back for the USA in a thrilling competition in Berlin, but it may also have been Trey Hardee, who put together one of the most dominating decathlons I’ve seen from an American in Berlin, and made it look easy despite his relative inexperience. The story at the U.S. championships was that with Olympic champion Bryan Clay out, the U.S. team in Berlin would be weak, but coming out of Berlin it actually looks like the Hardee/Clay duel in 2011 may be more interesting than anything that happens in Daegu–unless, of course, they both arrive in Daegu healthy and can deliver the way they both did in the ‘08 and ‘09 global competitions.
So that’s how I voted. We’ll see in December if I voted with the majorities.
(I’m still interested in hearing thoughts on the Athlete of the Year balloting–assuming Usain Bolt gets one vote, who do the other two go to?)
Update, November 19: Gay won, Felix did not. Here’s the announcement.