Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
No Bowerman in 2020: Razorbacks' Izzo was considered strong candidate
Arkansas' Katie Izzo competes in the women's distance medley relay during the Razorback Invitational on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas women’s track and field coach Lance Harter has had two finalists for The Bowerman trophy in the past nine years.
Had the covid-19 pandemic not upended the Razorbacks’ 2020 indoor and outdoor seasons, Harter thought Arkansas distance runner Katie Izzo had a good chance to become his third finalist for the award that recognizes the nation’s best overall athlete in the sport.
There will be no Bowerman presented this year, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association announced Thursday. Sam Seemes, CEO of the USTFCCCA, said in a statement it was “prudent to forgo our normal procedures” used to determine a winner of the award, which takes into consideration performances indoors and outdoors.
The NCAA indoor season was canceled a day prior to the scheduled start of the national meet. The outdoor season never began.
“This decision did not come easily,” Seemes said. “The presentation of The Bowerman has become a marquee event, and I’m disappointed we are unable to celebrate the outstanding, world-class student-athletes that made a mark on the collegiate track & field landscape this year.”
The Bowerman watch list is updated several times each year based on performance. Izzo was one of 10 females on the watch list prior to the NCAA indoor meet that was scheduled to begin March 13 in Albuquerque, N.M.
The winners of the Bowerman — there is also a male recipient — are selected from three finalists who are determined following the conclusion of the outdoor season. Arkansas’ Jarrion Lawson won the male award at the USTFCCCA convention in December 2016.
Past finalists from Arkansas’ women’s program were pole vaulter Tina Sutej in 2011 and sprinter Janeek Brown last year.
Izzo’s candidacy was bolstered when she won in the 3,000 meters and 5,000 meters at the SEC Championships in February.
“Heaven only knows what she would have done at the national meet because she was ready to run and would have been in two events for sure,” Harter said. “She had been very formidable…in the (3,000 or the 5,000). She was very confident and anxious to get an opportunity to race.
“We’ve had a few nominees for that (Bowerman) and she was as good a candidate as any of those. It’s unfortunate the number of opportunities for all these athletes that have been neutralized because of this pandemic.”
Izzo said she was looking forward to the NCAA indoor meet where she felt she had a good shot to win in the 5,000. Her early-season time of 15:13.09 in the event was the nation’s best by 1.6 seconds and broke the school record by more than 33 seconds.
Her time of 15:48.34 set the SEC meet record by five seconds in the 5,000, and her 3,000 time of 9:09.02 was the second-fastest time ever recorded at the conference meet.
“The whole experience was such a blessing and really beyond my wildest dreams,” Izzo said.
Izzo’s time running cross country in the fall of 2019 was a precursor for her indoor success. She was the individual champion at the SEC cross country meet and finished a team-best third at the NCAA meet where the Razorbacks won their first cross country team championship.
A year earlier at Cal Poly, Izzo finished 82nd at the NCAA cross country meet in her first year back from a broken leg. The injury sidelined her for nearly two years.
“She’s been a complete surprise to everyone involved, including herself,” Harter said. “The desire and the talent was always there. It was just a matter of putting all the pieces of the puzzle together. We were starting to get the complete picture very clear. She’s such a special kid that you want everything possible for her.”
Izzo will be eligible to run indoors and outdoors in 2021, and could have an additional season of outdoor eligibility available due to the cancellation of the 2020 season.
“It was just an honor to be nominated in the first place,” Izzo said. “Hopefully I can be nominated again next year but I definitely understand not having the (award) given no outdoor season.”
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