Not many college sports fans are aware that they have a vote in determining the winner of the prestigious Heisman Trophy, presented annually to football’s top player.
The same holds true for The Bowerman award, which is the Heisman equivalent in college track & field – and that’s something the University of Arizona wants to change because that school has a couple of athletes up for the award.
And that’s an incredibly rare occurrence, that one school would have a female and a male athlete among the six finalists for the most coveted trophy in collegiate track & field.
Actually, there are a lot of similarities between the Heisman and The Bowerman. Voting for the Heisman is spread among the media, former winners of the award, and one final vote is counted through public balloting. The Bowerman also depends on the media and past winners, as well as statisticians and college administrators. Online voting for the fans was added in 2009 and those results will account for one full vote in the overall balloting process.
In both cases, the results are tabulated by independent accounting firms and kept secret until a presenting ceremony that will be held in December.
Finalists for The Bowerman include three men and three women. Brigetta Barrett will represent Arizona among the women and Lawi Lalang is the men’s finalist.
Barrett, who just wrapped up a record-setting career at UofA, swept both the indoor and outdoor NCAA Division I high-jump titles for the third consecutive season – the first woman in collegiate history to win three straight in both – and is generally regarded as the most successful female high jumper in collegiate history.
She set the outdoor collegiate record and the all-time dual-meet record and this season went unbeaten against collegians in 10 event finals between the indoor and outdoor seasons. Barrett also owns the most high jump titles in collegiate history with six, and closed out her college career by winning her last 25 collegiate competitions.
LaLang will be a senior distance runner this year on the track, but is considered a junior in cross country. Last year he won four NCAA Division I individual titles – becoming one of only two runners to accomplish the feat – two indoors and two outdoors. The native of Kenya has set two indoor championship records and four all-time collegiate top-10 indoor marks.
He swept both the mile and 3,000 meters at the indoor championships and took both the 5,000- and 10.000-meter events at the outdoor championships.
The only performances that are considered in the balloting for The Bowerman are those that took place from the beginning of the indoor season through the end of the outdoor NCAA D-1 Championships.
Barrett is facing off against Brianna Rollins, a hurdler from Clemson, and Kori Carter from Stanford, who also competes in the hurdles. Lalang is up against Julian Wruk, a discus thrower from UCLA, and high jumper Derek Drouin from Indiana.
Over the five years since The Bowerman debuted, there have been four finalists from the Pac-12 Conference, but none have won the award. With four finalists this year alone, the odds should be ripe for a break-through.
And UofA has at least an outside chance at being the first school to win in both categories. If you want to be one of the 25,000 or so voters that go online each year to help their candidates, the website is at TheBowerman.org.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)