Year-end polls, rankings, and lists are the gooey, butter-based holiday confections sports fans love to comfort themselves with in the off-season. Such stuff is what drives sports talk radio and TV, too, and what keeps newspaper columnists on life-support as their industry continues to dissolve.
In the sport of athletics Track & Field News is the king of the list-builders as its annual event and Athlete of the Year magazine issues actual determine shoe contracts and appearance fees. Today, Flotrack, the subscription-based on-line media company out of Austin, Texas, named the Bowerman Track Club’s Jerry Schumacher as its first FloTrack American Distance Coach of the Year, while awarding the former University of Wisconsin coach the $10,000 prize that attends the T-Mobile sponsored award.
“For the last decade, we’ve seen up close what a struggle it can be to compete at the highest level of track,” FloSports co-founder and COO Mark Floreani said in a company issued press release. “Many professional track coaches don’t have the sponsorships or deals in place where they can devote 100 percent of their time to their athletes. Our goal with this award is to help deserving coaches continue to pursue their passion and work with the top distance runners in the U.S.”
“I’m very appreciative, but it’s not just me,” Schumacher said in response. “The face of the coach of the year award is really the Bowerman Track Club organization and all of the coaches, staff, athletes, and personnel that make the whole thing go round. That’s really who wins this whole thing.”
There are many ways to grade a coach, and all seven finalists were worthy contenders. Some, like Schumacher and Nike Oregon Project‘s Al Salazar (who went a close 1-2 in the FloTrack poll) worked high-powered sponsored programs with many athletes under their care, while coaches like Drew Wartenburg of the NorCal Distance Project and Lee LaBadie of the University of Akron (coach of 800 meter bronze medalist Clayton Murphy) toiled in smaller fields.
Over the course of the 2016 campaign Coach Schumacher produced seven Olympians, four more than any other finalist nominated for the award. His athletes also ran to 21 top 10 U.S. marks across 11 different events with 18 of those performances ranking in the top five. Topping the Schumacher accomplishment list in 2016 was Evan Jager’s silver medal in the 3000 meter steeplechase at the Rio Olympics and Ryan Hill‘s silver medal in the 3000 meters at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland, Oregon.
I was a member of the media panel asked to weigh-in on the choice. My own selection went to Colorado’s Mark Wetmore and Heather Burroughs. As I wrote FloTrack explaining my choice, ”While many of the other nominees coached athletes to Olympic berths, and four others to Olympic medals, coaches Wetmore and Burroughs also coordinated and balanced a high level, podium-placing NCAA collegiate program (XC) in conjunction with their post-collegiate duties. This excellence across a disparate calendar is what elevates them in my eyes.”
Here’s how the voting from the 18-expert panel and the fans broke down.
Name (1st-place votes)
|Total Points||% of points|
Jerry Schumacher (9)
|2||Al Salazar (4)||105||19.7%|
|4||Dan Browne (2)||74||13.9%|
|7||Lee LaBadie (1)||46||8.6%|
Congrats to Coach Schumacher and his athletes, and well done to FloTrack for initiating the award.