After several weeks of voting among track fans and members of the media, Jerry Schumacher has been selected as the FloTrack American Distance Coach of the Year.
Schumacher will be awarded $10,000 for his work with the members of the Bowerman Track Club during the 2016 season. In the voting process, Schumacher emerged ahead of coaches Alberto Salazar, Mark Wetmore and Heather Burroughs, Dan Browne, Ray Treacy, Drew Wartenburg, and Lee LaBadie with a lead in the fan vote and media panel.
"I'm very appreciative, but it's not just me. The face of the coach of the year award is really the Bowerman Track Club organization and all of the coaches, staff, athletes and personnel that make the whole thing go round. That's really who wins this whole thing," Schumacher told FloTrack.
"Getting out of bed to do your job is not a tough thing when you get to work with the kind of people that we work with," he said.
In the past year, Schumacher has guided seven United States Olympians across five events with top 11 finishes in each of their respective event.
"I've known Jerry for 25 years--as a teammate, coach, and best friend, and can tell you there isn't another coach out there more dedicated to his athletes' success than Jerry," Bowerman assistant coach Pascal Dobert said.
Highlighted by Evan Jager's Olympic silver medal in the men's steeplechase, Schumacher's group continued its legacy as one of the most successful clubs in the country. Jager earned the United States' first Olympic medal in the event since 1984, and he accomplished the feat one year after setting the American record.
"He always has the long term vision for his athletes and never sacrifices the long term goal," Jager said. "He always gives athletes the best chance possible for success."
Schumacher guided a powerhouse group of six American women to earn top finishes in their respective events. Shalane Flanagan and Amy Cragg led a deep field in the marathon with sixth and ninth-place finishes, respectively. The two teamed up with Desi Linden in Rio to become the first trio of Americans (male or female) in the last 40 years to all place within the top 10 at the Olympics.
"As an athlete, it is easy to look up to Jerry as a coach, leader, mentor and friend. He is the whole package," Flanagan said. "He is likeable. He is an excellent person with high moral standards. He is knowledgeable. His combination is rare and to be valued. He has cultivated a passionate and spirited environment in Portland which focuses on personal excellence, community and team.
"Jerry's passion and enthusiasm has infected everyone around him, and we are grateful to call him our coach at Bowerman Track Club," she said.
This year, Schumacher coached several recent college graduates to their first Olympic appearances. Colleen Quigley and Courtney Frerichs represented Team USA in the steeplechase and earned eighth- and 11th-place finishes, and Shelby Houlihan raced to an 11th-place finish in the 5K.
Quigley joined the club in the summer of 2015 and has suffered from injury, but she credits Schumacher with giving her the confidence she needed to make her comeback and ultimately earn a spot on her first Olympic team.
"When Jerry tells you that he thinks you can make the team, you know that you have a serious shot at making the team," Quigley said. "I took a lot of confidence from that and a lot of hope in the fact that he had confidence in me. It's just great to have him on my side."
Schumacher was instrumental in guiding Emily Infeld's return from injury to become one of the top distance runners in the world. One year after claiming a bronze medal in the 10K at the world championships, Infeld competed in the Games, where she took 11th in the 10K. She set a personal best of 31:26 in the same race in which Ethiopia's Almaz Ayana shattered the world record.
During the 2016 indoor season, Schumacher coached Ryan Hill to new heights as he earned his first global medal at the World Indoor Championships in March. Hill used his signature kick in the 3000m to surge from fifth to second place in the final 150 meters to earn silver and become the fourth American man in history to medal in the event. Schumacher has guided Hill steadily toward the top of the world ranks as seen from Hill's seventh-place finish in the 5K at the 2015 world championships and 10th-place finish in the 5K at the 2013 world championships. A
long with race results, members of the media also took notice of the culture that Schumacher has developed with the Portland-based group.
"What I observe with the Bowerman Track Club includes not only stellar performances at the national and world-class levels, but in the past year I also see a shift in the culture of the group to one that is embracing, developing, and fostering future world-beaters--specifically the next generation of U.S. women medalists in the sport," Runner's World's Erin Strout said.
To determine the award winner, ballots were distributed to a panel of 18 members of the media from major sports publications around the world. A fan ballot was also collected for a total of 19 electors. Schumacher earned 109 points to win the first-ever FloTrack American Distance Coach of the Year Award. The Bowerman Track Club coach beat Nike Oregon Project's Alberto Salazar by only four points. The Colorado coaching duo of Mark Wetmore and Heather Burroughs followed in third with 96 points. Schumacher led all coaches with nine first-place votes.
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