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Fifty Athletes of the Year

Fifty Athletes of the Year

| On 29, Dec 2014

newHere’s one of our athletes of the year, but we have 49 more for you.

With the year winding down, it’s time to announce end-of-the-year awards. For the second year in a row, we’re doing it our way.

Here at the Daily Relay, we know that this is far too big a country to pick just one athlete of the year. This is the United States, after all. So I picked fifty athletes of the year, one for each state.

Athletes were assigned to states not by their current residence but by their hometown. “Hometown” can mean a lot of things, especially if someone moved around a lot in their early years, so state representation was determined by where they went to high school. This lead to some funny things; Bernard Lagat could not represent any state (since he went to high school in Kenya) and one state is represented by an athlete who competes for another country.

But wait! There’s more! You get a bonus ten athletes of the year, one for each Canadian province!

Let’s get to our athletes of the year…

1. Florida: Justin Gatlin
Woodham Pensacola, sprints
Gatlin was one of the more controversial figures in track and field this season due to the fact that he had a career year at age 32 and once served a lengthy doping ban, leading many to be highly suspicious of his accomplishments. I’m not going to get into that and I’ll just say that he went undefeated in the sprints and hid from no one. I rate him #1 because I think he’s the only American in contention for the Track and Field News Athlete of the Year award. Jenny Simpson (Oviedo) won the Diamond Race in the women’s 1500, which made Florida one of only two states that produced two Diamond Race champions this year.

2. Oregon: Galen Rupp
Portland, long distance
Rupp broke indoor and outdoor American Records in this year, capped by his 26:44.36 for 10,000 meters at the Prefontaine Classic.

3. California: Meb Keflezighi
San Diego, marathon
Meb’s surprising and dramatic win at the Boston Marathon was track and field’s only true crossover moment of the year. He followed that up with a 4th-place finish at the New York City Marathon, which means he is currently second on the 2014-2015 World Marathon Majors leader board.

4. New York: Molly Huddle
Elmira, long distance
Huddle had a long and productive year, setting PRs at distances from the mile to the half-marathon and in races stretching from March to November. She won eight races, including some big ones like the New York Mini 10k, and broke her own 5000 meter American Record.

5. Illinois: Dawn Harper-Nelson
East St. Louis, 100 hurdles
The race for Illinois’s athlete of the year was probably the most competitive in the whole country. Harper-Nelson won the Diamond Race and the USATF Championship, while Gia Lewis-Smallwood (Champaign, discus) broke both Sandra Perkovic’s win streak and the American Record, and Evan Jager (Algonquin, steeplechase) also broke the American Record.

6. Ohio: Tianna Bartoletta
Elyria, sprints/long jump
Bartoletta’s dual success on the track and in the field is fairly unusual. She swept the short sprint titles at the USATF Championships (60 meters indoors and 100 meters outdoors), then won the long jump Diamond Race. Erik Kynard (Toledo) won his second straight USATF high jump title.

7. Colorado: Emma Coburn
Crested Butte, steeplechase
Coburn became the first American to ever score Diamond League points in the women’s steeplechase and was in the hunt for the Diamond Race title all the way to the finale. She broke the American Record and holds six of the top seven marks on the all-time US list.

8. Georgia: Christian Taylor
Fayetteville, long/triple jumps
Taylor won the triple jump Diamond Race and scored points in the long jump too, which puts him ahead of Reese Hoffa (Augusta), who came back from early-season injury to claim the shot put Diamond Race.

9. Massachusetts: Shalane Flanagan
Marblehead, marathon
Flanagan went to #2 on the all-time US marathon list with her 2:21:13 in Berlin and broke the American Record for 15k in Jacksonville.

10. Arkansas: Michael Tinsley
Little Rock, 400 hurdles
Tinsley won the Diamond Race in the 400 hurdles. Fellow Arkansas native Jeff Henderson (Sherwood) was winning the biggest long jump competitions until his season ended early with injury.

The rest, in alphabetical order…

Alabama: Trey Hardee
Vestavia Hills, decathlon
Hardee returned to the top of the decathlon world with wins at the USATF Championships and the Hypo-Meeting in Gotzis, his first full decathlons since the 2012 Olympics.

Alaska: Jordan Clarke
Anchorage, shot put
Clarke took 4th at the USATF indoor championships and 6th at the outdoor championships.

Arizona: Will Claye
Phoenix, long/triple jump
Claye was the world’s #2 triple jumper and won the USATF outdoor title over Christian Taylor, the Diamond Race champion. Devon Allen (Phoenix) might have challenged Claye had his season lasted longer; the Oregon freshman swept the NCAA and USATF titles in the 110 hurdles but then shut it down to get ready for football.

Connecticut: Donn Cabral
Glastonbury, steeplechase
Cabral finished third at the USATF Championships in his main event, the steeplechase, but also took sixth in the flat 3000 in an unusually competitive USATF Indoor Championships.

Delaware: Marquis Dendy
Middletown, long/triple jumps
Dendy swept the long and triple jumps at the NCAA outdoor championships.

Hawaii: Pierce Murphy
Hanalei, long distance
Murphy was an integral part of Colorado’s national championship cross country team and took 35th at the NCAAs.

Idaho: Ryan Grinnell
Idaho Falls, triple jump
Nick Symmonds sat out the 2014 season, which opened up the Gem State’s athlete of the year award to Grinnell, who finished fifth at both the USATF indoor and outdoor championships.

Indiana: Felisha Johnson
Indianapolis, shot put
Johnson took second at the USATF indoor championships and third at the outdoor championships, and added a fourth in the indoor weight throw as well. She also made her way into the all-time US top ten in the shot.

Iowa: Lolo Jones
Des Moines, 100 hurdles
Jones spent the winter competing in bobsled but came back to the track and finished third at the USATF Championships in the 100 hurdles, arguably the nation’s deepest event for men or women. That gave her just enough to beat out A.G. Kruger (Sheldon), who finished second in the USATF hammer throw.

Kansas: Amy Hastings
Leavenworth, long distance
Hastings finished third in the 10,000 meters at the USATF outdoor championships and won the Peachtree 10k.

Kentucky: Tyson Gay
Lexington, sprints
Gay had a short, controversial, and mostly uninspiring 2014 season–but he still ranked #5 on the yearly list in the 100 meters with 9.93 seconds.

Louisiana: Cassandra Tate
Hammond, 400 hurdles
Tate finished third at the USATF Outdoor Championships and won a gold medal in the 4×400 relay at the World Indoor Championships.

Maine: Ben True
North Yarmouth, long distance
True went to #9 on the all-time US 5000 meter list with his 13:02.74 win at the Cardinal Invitational.

Maryland: Matthew Centrowitz
Annapolis, 1500 meters
“Centro” set PRs for the mile (3:50.53) and 5000 (13:20.06) but the lack of a Worlds or Olympics means he didn’t get much chance to show off his brilliant racing tactics.

Michigan: Tiffany Porter
Ypsilanti, 100 hurdles
Even though she competes for Great Britain on the international stage, Porter is still Michigan’s athlete of the year ror the second straight year.

Minnesota: Amanda Smock
Melrose, triple jump
Smock swept the USATF indoor and outdoor championships.

Mississippi: Tori Bowie
Brandon, sprints
Bowie started the season as a second-tier long jumper but switched to the sprints and had a breakout season with four wins on the Diamond League circuit.

Missouri: Michael Rodgers
St. Louis, sprints
Rodgers won the USATF outdoor 100 meter title (in the absence of Justin Gatlin) and won the Paris Diamond League meet.

Montana: Patrick Casey
Laurel, 1500 meters
The highlight of Casey’s season was a runner-up finish at the USATF Championships, losing by a mere 0.31 seconds.

Nebraska: LaQue Moen-Davis
Omaha, long/triple jumps
Moen-Davis finished second in the triple jump at the NCAA outdoor championships, and fourth in the triple and eighth in the long jump at the indoor championships.

Nevada: Amanda Bingson
Las Vegas, hammer throw
Bingson put up five of the eight longest throws in US history and finished sixth in the IAAF World Hammer Challenge.

New Hampshire: Andrea Walkonen/Eric Jenkins
Jaffrey, marathon
Walkonen was the tenth American at the Boston Marathon and 24th on the US list, an amazing feat considering that she was off her feet with ulcerative colitis for two months early in 2013.
LATE EDIT: We missed Eric Jenkins (Portsmouth, long distance), the Oregon star who scored a 4th in the NCAA outdoor 5000 meters and runner-up at the NCAA cross country.

New Jersey: Ajee Wilson
Neptune, 800 meters
Still just 20 years old, Wilson turned into a top pro this year. She swept the US indoor and outdoor championships, led national relay teams to wins at the Penn Relays (sprint medley) and IAAF World Relays (4×800, an American Record), and won two races on the Diamond League circuit.

New Mexico: Curtis Beach
Albuquerque, decathlon
Beach won the heptathlon at the NCAA indoor championships, which were held in his hometown.

North Carolina: Johnny Dutch
Clayton, 400 hurdles
Dutch won the USATF title this year, his first.

North Dakota: Laura Roesler
Fargo, 800 meters
Roesler finally realized the talent she showed as a high schooler, when she won 22 state championships. She won the Bowerman Award for her total domination of the collegiate season, and then finished second at the USATF Championships.

Oklahoma: Gil Roberts
Oklahoma City, 400 meters
The Texas Tech alum took advantage of a wide-open race when LaShawn Merritt skipped the nationals and won his first USATF title.

Pennsylvania: Chanelle Price
Easton, 800 meters
Price missed the outdoor season with injury but her surprise win at the World Indoor Championships was the first World or Olympic gold medal in this event for a US woman since Madeline Manning in 1968.

Rhode Island: Leigh Petranoff
Cranston, javelin
Petranoff took third at the USATF Championships.

South Carolina: Sandi Morris
Greenville, pole vault
Morris finished fourth at the NCAA Championships and then took second at the USATF Championships with a PR height.

South Dakota: Cody Snyder
Lake Andes, discus
While redshirting the outdoor season, Snyder finished 18th at the USATF Championships.

Tennessee: Sharika Nelvis
Memphis, 100 hurdles
Nelvis dominated the collegiate ranks, winning both the NCAA indoor and outdoor hurdle titles and going undefeated in hurdle races. No one-trick pony, she scored 38 points at the Sun Belt championship meet and qualified to the NCAA championships in the 100 as well as the hurdles. This was a tough choice over Andrew Bumbalough (Brentwood), who was second in the 5000 at the USATF Championships.

Texas: Leo Manzano
Marble Falls, 1500 meters
Manzano had one of his best seasons ever. He won the USATF title, went to #5 on the all-time US list, and had a winning record against rival Matthew Centrowitz.

Utah: Shalaya Kipp
Salt Lake City, steeplechase
Kipp’s 2014 season didn’t quite match up to her 2013 season—she was just fifth at the NCAA Championships and seventh at the USATF meet—but she was still the best of Utah.

Vermont: Jesse Chapman
East Thetford, decathlon
Chapman won the IC4A decathlon title for his UConn Huskies.

Virginia: LaShawn Merritt
Portsmouth, 400 meters
Merritt won the Diamond League with 26 points, one of the highest totals on the circuit. Both of the USA’s best quarter-milers come from Virginia; Francena McCorory (Hampton) won the USATF title and went to #5 on the all-time US list.

Washington: Kara Patterson
Vancouver, javelin
Patterson finally regained form after a 2012 knee injury and won the USATF title.

West Virginia: Clara Grandt
West Union, long distance
Grandt won the Pittsburgh Marathon and finished sixth at the Chicago Marathon.

Wisconsin: Erik Sowinski
Waukesha, 800 meters
Sowinski won his second straight USATF indoor title.

Wyoming: Amber Schultz
Mountain View, steeplechase/distance
Known at Amber Henry last year, she battled injury through the summer and fall but still managed to rank #30 in the US in the steeplechase.


You get a bonus ten athletes of the year, one for each Canadian province.

1. Ontario: Derek Drouin
Corunna, high jump
As always, the contest for Ontario’s athlete of the year was by far the deepest and toughest in the nation. Drouin broke his own Canadian Record and won gold at the Commonwealth Games. So did Sultana Frizell (Perth, hammer throw), but Drouin gets the nod by virtue of being more competitive on the world stage; his 2.40m clearance at the Drake Relays puts him at #7 on the all-time world list. Canadian Records were also set by Aaron Brown (Toronto, 200 meters) and Lanni Marchant (London, half marathon), and Damian Warner (London, decathlon) also won Commonwealth gold.

2. Saskatchewan: Brianne Theisen-Eaton
Humboldt, heptathlon
Theisen-Eaton finally got the Canadian Record, won Commonwealth gold, and added a silver medal at the World Indoor Championships (plus another Canadian Record). It was a difficult choice between Drouin and Theisen-Eaton for the top spot. Jessic Furlan (Regina, steeplechase) also broke a Canadian Record this year.

3. Alberta: Jim Steacy
Lethbridge, hammer throw
Canada’s fifth Commonwealth gold medalist was Steacy, a thirty-year-old veteran who has held the national record for nearly a decade.

The rest, in alphabetical order…

British Columbia: Cam Levins
Black Creek, long distance
This was very close between Levins, who won a Commonwealth Games bronze medal and very nearly won gold, and Liz Gleadle (Vancouver, javelin), who broke the Canadian Record but finished just sixth at the Commonwealth Games. Christabel Nettey (Surrey, long jump) won bronze at the Commonwealth Games and broke the national indoor record.

Manitoba: Nicole Sifuentes
Winnipeg, 1500 meters
Sifuentes broke the Canadian indoor record while winning bronze at the World Indoor Championships and came up a second short of a medal at the Commonwealth Games.

New Brunswick: Caleb Jones
Saint John, javelin
Jones won the Canadian Championship and moved into the all-time top ten on the national list.

Newfoundland: Jillian Forsey
Kippens, 5000 meters
As noted in the comments section, Forsey was 9th at the World Juniors and 7th on the yearly Canadian list.

Nova Scotia: Eric Gillis
Antigonish, marathon
Gillis set a PR of 2:11:21 at the Toronto Marathon, good for #7 on the all-time Canadian list.

Prince Edward Island: Jared Connaughton
Charlottetown, 200 meters
A perennial top Canadian sprinter, Connaughton announced his retirement this year and it will be about impossible to find a PEI representative in coming years.

Quebec: Julie Labonté
Sainte-Justine, shot put
Labonté had a down year by her own standards–a former NCAA champion, she didn’t score was just fourth this year–but made up for it with a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games.


  1. Outstanding article. I have a few comments on the Canadians.
    1) Agreed that Julie Labonte had a down year but she did score at NCAA’s, coming 4th.
    2) For Newfoundland, I’d suggest Jillian Forsey. She was 9th at World Juniors and 7th overall for all Canadian women for the year at 5000 meters.
    3) PEI appears to be missing, Jared Connaughton should get the nod.

  2. Jesse Squire

    Thank you and edits have been made. Athletics Canada’s national lists apparently do not include junior athletes in the senior rankings, which is how I missed Forsey.

  3. I don’t mean to downgrade Johnny Dutch’s fine efforts, but for North Carolina, perhaps
    Trentavis Friday might have an equal claim for representation (or was he ineligible for
    consideration as a high school competitor?).

  4. Jesse Squire

    Arguing about ultimately pointless comparisons between athletes is part and parcel of being a sports fan, so argue away. I didn’t restrict this by age but I compared teenagers and adults by the same metric: who was most competitive on a national and international level? I thought being a USATF champion meant a lot.


    I spy an Eric Jenkins snub in NH!

    • Jesse Squire

      Only by ignorance.

  6. Jim Barrineau

    Justin Gatlin’s hometown is Pensacola. Woodham was the name of his high school.

  7. David Willis

    Raven Saunders for SC as a high schooler. Broke Michelle Carter’s high school shot put records by 2 feet both indoors and out. 56’8.5″ is a ridiculous throw

  8. Robert

    Vermont: Elinor Purrier – 15th NCAA indoor mile, USA Jr Champion 3000m steeple, 9th IAAF World Jr. Steeplechase

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