It’s the first time in 12 years distance runners have swept the awards.
This year’s athletes of the year, as awarded by USA Track & Field, has a distance feel to it.
Meb Keflezighi, the 2014 Boston Marathon champion, was named 2014 USATF Jesse Owens Athlete of the Year. On the women’s side, Diamond League winner Jenny Simpson was named the 2014 USATF Jackie Joyner-Kersee Athlete of the Year.
Two distance runners winning is rare, with past winners often being sprinters like Allyson Felix, Tyson Gay, Justin Gatlin and others. But the accomplishments of Keflezighi and Simpson are hard to overlook. It’s the first time distance runners have swept the awards since 2002, when Deena [Drossin] Kastor and Khalid Khannouchi won.
Keflezighi became the first American to win the Boston Marathon in 31 years, and doing so on an emotional day one year after a bombing killed three spectators and injured dozens more. Keflezighi’s 2:08:37 finish was a personal best. He rounded out the year with a solid fourth-place showing at the New York City Marathon in November.
Simpson, meanwhile, was the Diamond League and USATF champion in the 1,500 meters. Her personal and season’s best time of 3:57.22 made her the third-fastest woman in the world at 1,500 meters this year.
The award winners were selected in a balloting of members of the U.S. track and field media, and a fan vote was held on social media that comprised 10 percent of the vote. Other men’s finalists included Justin Gatlin, Evan Jager, Christo Landry, Galen Rupp and Christian Taylor. Finalists for the women’s award were Tori Bowie, Emma Coburn, Allyson Felix, Dawn Harper-Nelson, Molly Huddle, Gia Lewis-Smallwood and Francena McCorory.
Keflezighi and Simpson will be honored on Dec. 4 at the Jesse Owens Awards and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Anaheim, Calif. The event is held in conjunction with USATF’s Annual Meeting.