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Even without the Olympics, track and field in some form may still happen in 2020. But given how difficult containing the coronavirus has proven to be, that is not a guarantee even with several months before certain Diamond League meets are set to be contested. And now that the biggest event on the calendar has been postponed, many athletes may choose to throw in the towel on 2020 in order to preserve themselves for next year. As such, it is entirely possible we’ve seen the last of track and field this season.
If that’s the case, here are the award winners from the very abbreviated 2020 season:
MVP: Mondo Duplantis
The 20-year-old compiled a season worth of accolades in the span of a few weeks in February as he broke the pole vault world record twice and cleared 6.00m— something he had never done indoors before 2020— at all five of his competitions between Feb. 4 and Feb. 23. His 6.17m and 6.18m world record jumps in back-to-back weeks each eclipsed the outdoor record as well.
Other nominees: Yulimar Rojas, Christian Coleman, Konstanze Klosterhalfen
Most Improved: Jemma Reekie/Elle Purrier
I couldn’t pick between Reekie and Purrier as both women were similarly ascendent during indoors.
The 22-year-old Reekie transformed herself from a mediocre pro to a superstar by running a 1:57 800m and 4:17 mile this winter, both British records. Reekie’s PBs in those distances before 2020 were 2:01.45 and 4:27.00.
Purrier demolished the U.S. mile American record in running 4:16.85 at the Millrose Games, beating Reekie, Konstanze Klosterhalfen and Gabriela DeBues-Stafford in the process. Although she did make a world final last fall, I'm not sure anyone had the 25-year-old becoming the second-fastest indoor miler of all-time four months later.
Other nominees: Karissa Schweizer, Jake Riley
Comeback: Galen Rupp
Rupp’s status as the top marathoner in the U.S. was in peril when he dropped out of Chicago last October in his comeback from Achilles surgery a year prior, a setback compounded by his former coach, Alberto Salazar, receiving a four-year ban as well. But the 33-year-old rallied under the tutelage of Mike Smith, and on Feb. 29 he dominated the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials with a 42-second victory that proved the Galen Rupp of old was back.
Other nominees: Sally Kipyego, Ronnie Baker, Evan Jager
Top Newcomer: Molly Seidel
While not a rookie in the traditional sense, Molly Seidel bucked our conventional understanding of the marathon by qualifying for her first Olympic team in her marathon debut at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. In her first four years as a pro, the 25-year-old had struggled to recapture the magic of her national title-winning ways as a collegiate at Notre Dame, with an eating disorder curtailing some of her development. But Seidel began to show a knack for road-racing over the last few years, and with the help of occasional training partner Aliphine Tuliamuk, the 26.2 newbie had the confidence to break away from a talented pack with five miles to run in Atlanta.
Other nominees: Randolph Ross, Nick Harris, Terrance Laird
Coach Of The Year: Mike Smith
His Northern Arizona distance squad caught fire this winter with seven guys qualifying for NCAA indoors, and the Lumberjacks had a puncher’s chance to claim the national title before the meet was canceled last minute. Add in Galen Rupp’s commanding victory in Atlanta and Smith could do no wrong through the first few months of 2020.
Other nominees: Ben Rosario, Caryl Smith-Gilbert, Ben Thomas