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Kendricks-Duplantis-LaVillenie-Lausanne17.jpgSam Skinner, Mondo Duplantis, Renaud Lavillenie, photo by PhotoRun.net

December 24, 2017

Earlier this month, the focus was on the women and the selection of the premier female track & field athlete of 2017. Now it is time to turn attention to the men and - employing the same measurement metrics of progression of marks, head-to-head competition, and honors won - determine the male track & field athlete of the year. With many athletes registering outstanding, if not career, years, the undertaking is an understandably difficult one The undoubtedly subjective evaluation process renders the ultimate determination often unsatisfying as reasonable minds can easily - an quite often do - come to differing conclusion. But proceed we must!

To become a top 5 finalist an athlete's annual record must sparkle. A finalist must have authored a season that offers an overall luster devoid of tarnish - or at least no smudge of any material nature. Every year there are several skilled and achieving athletes who just miss achieving finalist status, yet are worthy of honorable mention. This year, those honorees, listed in alphabetical order, are:


Manangoi_ElijahFHR1-WorCH17.jpgElijiah Manangoi, photo by PhotoRun.net

Elijah Managoi. This Kenyan middle-distance specialist put together a terrific season, posting a world-leading clocking in the 1500 meters [3:28.80] and a mile time [3:49.08] that ranked #2 on the world list [Ronald Kwemoi / 3:49.04]. In London, Managoi breezed through the rounds and had the best finish [39.74 over the last 300m] to capture the 1500 meter world championship crown in a tactical final. A 3rd place finish in Zurich Diamond League 1500 meter final denied him more serious AOY consideration.



Consesius Kipruto, photo by PhotoRun.net

Conseslus Kipruto. The captain of this year's imposing Kenyan steeple corps won when it counted - and in different ways The reigning Olympic barrier champion won gold in the world championships, prevailing off a moderate pace to win in 8:14.12 3 weeks later he showed he can win in a faster-paced effort, grabbing the victory [8:04.73] in the Brussels' Diamond League final. His mid-season 8:04.63 was #2 on the world list [Evan Jager / 8:01.29].

Kipchoge_EluidFV-Sub2Hr17.jpgEliud Kipchoge, photo by PhotoRun.net

Elijah Kipchoge. The man a growing number are anointing as the greatest marathoner of all time assembled another sensational year. It is the plight of world class marathoners that they can showcase their considerable talents only twice, perhaps 3 times at the most, in the course of a year. The Kenyan star raced the 26 mile 385 yard distance on two occasions in 2017. In late September, Kipchoge turned back the always deep and talented Berlin field, crossing the line in 2:03.32 to post the fastest clocking of the year. In late spring he participated in Nike's Breaking2 event - a blend between a celebrity-laden paced assault on the iconic two-hour marathon barrier and a Nike infomercial. In the final kilometers, Kipchoge emerged from the carefully-monitored pace pack to cross first in 2:00:25, over 2 minutes faster than the current world record and roughly 170 meters behind 2 hour pace. While the event was not record eligible for many reasons, Kipchoge's stirring performance underscored his scary and as-of-yet untapped full potential.


Pawel Fadjek, photo by PhotoRun.net

Pavel Fajdek. Not unlike his countrywoman Anita Wlodarczyk - Fajdekdominated the world's best world hammer throw competitors. On the world list, Fajdek had 10 throws farther than any other athlete on the planet. The Pole won the world championship by over 5 feet with 3 of his 4 legal attempts better than the entire field. Like Wlodarczyk, Fajdek had no Diamond League crown, perhaps solely because the hammer is not a DL event.

As we move to the finalists for Athlete of the Year, it is clear each of the 5 had absolutely superlative years. For most of them, 2017 will likely be the year they can look back upon as the best year of their career. In ascending order the 5 finalists are:

Taylor_Christian1-Brussels17.jpgChristian Taylor, photo by PhotoRun.net


#5. Christian Taylor. The world's premier horizontal jumper may have come up short of achieving his self-proclaimed quest for the world record in 2017. But short of eclipsing Jonathan Edwards' global triple jump best of 18.29m/60'¼", the reigning Olympic champion did most everything else. His global leader of 18.11m/59'5" was the best of his 5 marks on the world's top ten list this year. At the world championships, Taylor once again out-dueled his former University of Florida teammate Will Claye by 2 inches in a thrilling final. Taylor elected not to compete in the Diamond League final - a DNS which precluded more intensive AOY consideration.

McLeod_OmarFV-PreC17.jpgOmar McLeod, photo by PhotoRun.net

#4. Omar McLeod. The Jamaican hurdle star was without peer in 2017. Blessed with a lightning start, terrific leg speed, and exquisite form, McLeod was virtually untouchable when he raced. The only man ever to run sub-10.00 for 100 meters and sub-13.00 for the 110 hurdles, the reigning Olympic champion turned back all would-be challengers in London, breezing through the early rounds and winning the world championship final with a clocking of 13.04. In posting the top 3 high hurdle times of 2017, McLeod raced a world-leading 12.90 - one of only 2 marks under 13.00 this year, both by the Jamaican. McLeod's Russian nemesis Sergey Shubenkov won the Diamond League 110 meter hurdle final when McLeod called it a season after London's global competition.

Barshim_MutazQ-WorC17.jpgMutaz Essa Barshim, photo by PhotoRun.net

 #3. Mustaz Barshim. Barshim captured all the honors that mattered in 2017. The slender high jumper was flawless in London's high jump final, competing cleanly with first-attempt clearances at all heights through his winning jump at 2.35m/7'8½". At the Zurich Diamond League final, Barshim won again, clearing 2.36m/7'8¾" to grab the DL trophy. Over the year, The Qatar native rang up 8 of the top 10 clearances of the year with a world best of 2.40m/7'10½".

Farah_MoFV1-PreC17.jpgMo Farah, photo by PhotoRun.net

#2. Mohammed Farah. While a growing number consider Sir Mo as perhaps the greatest distance racer of all time, it is not appropriate to consider his entire body of work when evaluating his 2017 accomplishments - which were nonetheless quite considerable. Farah survived a rough and tumble roller derby-like final circuit to complete his unprecedented 4-peat in the world championship 10,000 meter final in what proved to be the world-leading clocking of 26:49.51. But there would be no Mobot dance after the London 5000 meter final as Ethiopia's Muktar Edris prevailed over the two-time reigning Olympic champion at 5000 and 10,000 meters by unleashing a furious final kilometer to relegate Farah to the silver. Two weeks later in Zurich, Farah returned the favor as he emerged from a frenetic 4-man scramble down the final straightaway crossing the finish line first to nip Endris and others and capture the 5000 meter DL trophy in his final track competition. The sorrow that accompanies Farah's departure from the track is soothed by the anticipation of witnessing the gritty Brit do battle with Kipchoge and others on the roads and in the marathon.

Kendricks_Sam-Lausanne17.jpgSam Kendricks, photo by PhotoRun.net

 #1  Sam Kendricks. What a year Sam Kendricks had. The former Ole Miss star did it all: he had the best marks; he was undefeated in head-to-head competition, and he garnered every major honor. That is why Sam Kendricks - already honored by USATF as the Jesse Owens Athlete of the Year as America's top track & field athlete - is the most deserving to be honored as the 2017 global athlete of the year. Still only 25, the young vault star competed only once indoors - winning the USATF indoor crown in the rarified air of Albuquerque. But that victory proved to be simply an overture to the sparkling performances the young vault star would deliver outdoors. The 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves competed in 5 of the 7 Diamond League men's pole vault contests, winning them all, including the final where he turned back 7-time DL champion Renaud Lavillenie to become the only athlete other than the Frenchman to capture a Diamond League men's vault crown. Kendricks produced the top 3 vault marks of the year, including a winning clearance of 19'8¼"/6.00m to capture the USATF outdoor title and become only the 21st athlete [and just the 5th American] to join the elite 6 meter vault fraternity. And this year in his 17 competitions - while he cheered his adversaries, exhorting them onward, in nearly every vault attempt they took - Kendricks won every one. Short of setting a world vault record, it is hard to imagine how the USA's Sam Kendricks could have had a more dazzling year than he authored in 2017. In reflecting on the world champion's blemish-free season, Kendricks - to use baseball vernacular - threw a no-hitter. With 17 up and 17 down, some would say he pitched a perfect game.


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Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.


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