Tuesday, October 20, 2009


(Photo: Steve Sander at Young Life Triathlon)
"I saw your review of Most Improved and of Triathlete of the Year -- how is it that Steve Sander makes the Most Improved list, over Triathlete of the Year? He WON the overall of the TRI Minnesota Series. Wouldn't that put him in the running--or at least 'considered'?

"Palmer, Payne- most improved? Improved from what? Kicking butt in 08 (or more years for Palmer) to kicking butt by a bigger margin in 09?" - Mario Minelli
Mario, thank you for the opportunity to explain the rationale used by the MMA Selection Committee to determine award nominees.
First of all, Steve's name was discussed when the committee was determining TOY nominees. So were Patrick's, Matthew's and Dan Cohen's.
Steve's name was dropped from the discussion when his head-to-head performances with each of the eventual nominees, plus Patrick, Matthew and Dan, were reviewed. He did not win any of the head-to-head battles. Also, the margins which separated him from these rivals was often significant.
Next, those who did receive nominations excelled in events with greater perceived field quality. A few years back Lynette Bacon won all seven of the multis that we were aware of her having entered, still she did not earn a spot on Team MN, i.e. those perceived to be the 10 most accomplished male and female multisport athletes in the state that year. Why? She did not face any of the state's top women, like Cathy Yndestad, Julie Hull, Marlo McGaver et al. How then did we measure her performances? What we did is make a list of the 2nd placing girls in each of the races that Lynette won. We then compared their times and places to those recorded by the top finishers at our state's most competitive events.
The results were interesting.
Only one of the runners-up--Jen Lenarz--had cracked the Top 10 in a Midwest Multisport Series event that year. Jen had actually finished 7th twice and an 8th on another occasion in MMS events and the time differential between her and the winners in each case was several minutes.
The point we wish to make here is that the Committee truly scrutinizes the performances; we take this process very seriously. Lynette is a talented triathlete and so is Steve, but wins alone do not determine whether one is worthy of a TOY nomination. Field quality, head-to-head battles and relative splits are all taken into consideration.
Mario, we have a question for you. Who would you bump from the TOY list to make room for Steve? Devon? Kevin? Brian? Sam ? Jon?
That's a hard one, isn't it?
There is soooooooo much talent in Minnesota that limiting the nominations to just 4 or 5 will invariably leave a deserving athlete or two behind. Steve is an emerging talent and we haven't seen his best racing yet. There should be lots of nominations coming his way in the years to come.
Now for the "Most Improved" issue. Devon Palmer won ONE race in 2008, the Liberty Half, and he was helped by the fact that Dan Arlandson, Dan Cohen and John Shelp all made mileage-adding wrong turns on the bike course. His runner-up efforts at Manitou and Lake Waconia were actually his best performances of the year. In 2009, he won FOUR big races--Manitou (CR), Life Time Fitness Elite, Heart of the Lakes and Turtleman--and placed 3rd overall at AG Nationals. He's gone from being ranked 7th on Team Minnesota to being a contender for 2nd (Top Amateur) behind perennial #1 David Thompson.
That's major improvement, Mario.
Now for Matthew Payne's "MI" nomination. In 2009, Matt won one race (Graniteman) and finished 2nd in one other (Lakes Country). He had no other podium finishes. This year, he won three races--Chain of Lakes, Albert Lea and Buffalo Olympic--and reached the podium in five other races. And his lowest finish was a 7th at Life Time Fitness Elite; last year he failed to crack the overall Top 10 in four races.
Matt was good last year, but not quite good enough for a spot on Team Minnesota. He'll definitely make the team this year.
Steve Sander sent us this response:
"Just saw that I seem to be at the center of a little controversy. If I may point out that I had a few races in 2005 but was deployed to Iraq in 06 and 07 so last year was essentially my rookie year for being a competitive triathlete. Although I was an All American I believe I didn't get a lot of recognition because I was just out of the lead pack. However, if you look at Buffalo 08, Mankato 08 and Waconia 08 Matt and I were very close if not evenly matched. Matt just did more high profile races to include winning the Tri MN Series last year. At the beginning of the season Matt blew me out of the water. By the end of the season I was starting to catch up. Devon on the other hand was fast last year and super fast this year. In my opinion Devon has easily demonstrated that he has improved greatly this year and could if not should win Athlete of the year. Then there is Patrick. Besides the fact that if you take a picture of him while running it is guaranteed to be fuzzy he has improved as an all around triathlete with much improved swim and especially bike splits. I'm glad I'm not voting on this one.

"I have only to blame myself for not being considered for Athlete of the year. At best I could hope for an honorable mention but I didn't compete in the races I needed to so I could show how I compare against the "Big Dogs". That coupled with a few beginner mistakes I made in the big races I did compete in. I am honored and ecstatic that I am even being considered for most improved against guys like Matt, Devon and Patrick. If I don't make those same mistakes next year I will have a better shot at being considered for larger awards but for now I will bask in the honor of both a great season and being noticed enough to be in a controversy. " SS