The LetsRun.com Awards: Who Were The Biggest Winners Of The Winter Season? + How Important Is It To Be A NCAA Star If You Want To Be An Olympian?

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The Week That Was In Running

by LetsRun.com
March 15, 2017

After a short break, the Week That Was is back. If you missed our coverage of USAs or NCAAs, you can catch up at the following links: 2017 USA Indoor coverage, 2017 NCAA Indoor coverage. Also, if you ever miss a day at LetsRun.com, we want to remind you that you can always go back and see an old front page (all the way back to 2005) via our archive link.

Past editions of the Week That Was can be found here. Questions or comments? Please email us or post them in our running fan forum.

With all of the big meets over the last few weeks, we haven’t had time to do a Week That Was. Instead of providing lots of insight on USAs, Europeans, NCAAs, etc. in one column that would take us 10,000 words, we figured it would be better to hand out some end-of-the-indoor-season awards. Who were the biggest winners and losers of the 2016-2017 indoor campaign? Actually, scratch that, we don’t want to get angry calls from athletes or their agents for pointing out facts about who had bad indoor campaigns. So we’ll do it Academy Award style – we’ll only hand out awards to the winners.

Talk about the WTW on our fan forum / messageboard: MB: WTW 3/15/2017 – Who Were The Biggest Winners Of The Winter Season? + How Important Is It To Be A NCAA Star?

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The Biggest Winners of the Indoor Season

We need a photo of Kincaid from this year. This is from the Olympic Trials last year

We need a photo of Kincaid from this year. This is from the Olympic Trials last year

US Male: Woody Kincaid – At the start of the indoor season, most fans’ views of Kincaid (if they even knew who he was and had an opinion of him) were probably something along the lines of, “That guy got a contract with the Bowerman Track Club? How did he do that?”

Afterall, Kincaid was far from a big star in college. He was never an All-American in cross country. On the track, while he steadily got faster (13:27 pb), he only made it to NCAAs twice and only scored once (5th as a redshirt junior in the 5000 in 2015, 9th in 2016). Now as a pro, he’s the US runner-up, having outkicked the World Indoor silver medallist, Ryan Hill, for second in the 2-mile. And a 13:12 5000 guy thanks to the huge PB he ran in Boston the week before USAs.

He looks like a guy who has got a shot to make a World Championship team in the years to come. We asked coach Jerry Schumacher on Tuesday on a conference call what made him think Kincaid would be a good fit for hit team. Here’s what Schumacher said:

Watching some of Woody’s races, I liked how he competed, I liked how he finished races. He had a nice finish, which I thought was good. I went back and I looked at his high school running and he definitely showed some potential there. And then talking with his coaches, particularly Rob Conner at Portland, he didn’t get a chance to even do that much work with him. Woody had quite a few injuries in college. But the work that he was able to put in — and I know Rob’s training very well — and Rob really felt like he had some upside and still quite a bit of room to grow. And that was appealing to me with someone who I thought could finish races really well.

And then coming in and sitting down with Woody and talking with him and letting him know this is what we want to do and if you’re not interested or [this] isn’t what you want to do, just make sure you know there’s other programs you can go to. This is what we are going to do. And if this is something you’re interested in, then I think you have what it takes. But if you’re going to be miserable in our program, go somewhere else. And he seemed pretty sold on this is what he wanted to do. And I liked that.

(Jerry cut out for a few seconds here)

…I think good things happened for him. And it doesn’t hurt when you have a bunch of older veteran athletes who have been around the globe at major championships and winning medals that are there tutoring him and mentoring him every step of the way. And I think that goes a long way and I think Woody’s really been able to benefit from a lot of those things.

For more info on Kincaid, check out Ken Goe’s feature on him from last year.

Lipsey Winning USAs this Year

Lipsey Winning USAs this Year

US Female: Charlene Lipsey Coming into the year, she was a 25-year-old 800-meter runner who had stagnated at 2:00.50-2:01 range (she ran 2:00.91 in 2014, 2:00.60 in 2015 and 2:00.65 in 2016) for the last three years.

Now she’s a US Champion (1000m) and the #2 performer ever for the US indoors at 800 (1:58.64) as she PR’d by more than two seconds at Millrose. In that race, she knocked 2.01 seconds off her pb – which is more than 2.5 times what she’d improved in total over the last four years (.80).

International Female: Laura Muir Great Britain – Considering that Muir was already incredibly good entering the indoor season — after all she was already the British record holder at 1500 thanks to her 3:55.22 in Paris last year (a time that only Genzebe Dibaba and Eastern European and Chinese women have ever beaten) — the fact that she is our biggest international female winner of the indoor season is truly remarkable.

But Muir’s indoor season was truly remarkable and it made the world appreciate both a) how talented she is and b) how fearlessly she runs. If she ever wins a global gold, particularly at 1500, she’ll be everything Steve Prefontaine ever dreamed of. During the 2016-17 indoor campaign, Muir set four British records — 2:31.93 at 1k (also a European record), 4:02.39 at 1500, 8:26.41 at 3k (also a European record) and 14:49.12 for 5k — and won two European titles. Plus she produced one of the best videos of 2017.

Kerr via @Lobo_track

Kerr via @Lobo_track

International Male: Josh Kerr Great Britain – Given the fact that he was the European junior champion in 2015 at 1500, Kerr entered New Mexico last year as a big recruit, but being a big recruit doesn’t necessarily mean all that much – there are plenty of big recruits that don’t pan out (anyone remember Adam Cotton, the 2011 European junior champ who ran 3:41 in HS but never even made NCAAs for Harvard/New Mexico?). By making the NCAA 1500 final and placing 10th as a freshman outdoors, Kerr showed that, at a minimum, he was going to have a pretty good college career. But over the weekend, Kerr, still a freshman (he redshirted the 2016 indoor season), not only won NCAAs in the mile, he dominated it – crushing Edward Cheserek by more than two seconds and everyone else by nearly three seconds.

Now Kerr looks like he might be Britain’s best mile hope in a over a decade. (Mo Farah is the only Brit to have broken 3:33 since 2004). Though Charlie Grice — who was ninth at Worlds in 2015 and an Olympic finalist last year — might have something to say about that.

Junior Male: Mondo Duplantis (Louisiana/Sweden) – Normally we focus on mid-d and distance running but Duplantis is INSANELY good. Before this season, no American high schooler had ever vaulted 18 feet indoors. Duplantis, who was born and raised in the US but competes for Sweden internationally, has now vaulted over 19 feet – 19 feet, 1 inch (5.82m) – a feat that he accomplished at the Armory at the New Balance Indoor Nationals. And he’s only in 11th grade and is just 17 years old (DOB is November 10, 1999). You can see a slow-mo video of the vault below and it certainly appears to us that he’s far from maxed out.

Now, if you are an astute reader, you may wonder why he went for 5.82 and not just 19 feet. Well, in addition to breaking 19 feet, Mondo also wanted to break the PR of his dad, Greg Duplantis, who did 5.80 meters during his career for the US. 5.80m also happened to be the world U20 record – so he got to kill two birds with one stone. Daddy Duplantis was pretty darn good in his own right. In 1981, he set the 17-11 3/4 HS national record. As a pro, he once won the Pre Classic.

Speaking of videos of Mondo, if you’ve got a few minutes, please check this one out. His family has made a video showing Mondo’s progression from 2006-2016. Mondo has been setting world records since age 7. Hell, he’s been breaking poles since age 7 (see it around the 45-second mark below). There’s also another one where Duplantis clears 5.50m 10 times in 28 minutes.

He’s also used to pressure. At age 10, between 5,000 and 10,000 people showed up at a street meet where he went for a world record.

Now many of you may be wondering, why is a kid who was born and raised in Louisiana competing for Sweden? Well Mondo’s mother, Helena, is Swedish (she met Greg when she was a heptathlete on the LSU track team). So he’s got a tie to Sweden and it may be more lucrative to vault for them.

Dyestat’s great feature on Mondo says, “The level of support from the Swedish athletics governing body, plus the prospect of more lucrative earnings, were calculated into the decision to compete internationally for Sweden instead of the U.S.”

Mondo now says he’s turning his attention to medalling at Worlds – for the pros in London in August.

Konstanze Klosterhalfen Winning European Under 20XC

Konstanze Klosterhalfen Winning European Under 20XC

Junior Female: Konstanze Klosterhalfen (Germany) – The woman who in the past has been referred to as Germany’s Mary Cain may not be happy with that nickname as she’s faster now than Cain ever was. This winter, Klosterhalfen, ran a big 1500 pb of 4:04.45 (Cain’s is 4:04.62) and her pbs at 3000 and 5000 are way better than Cain’s (8:46 vs 8:58 and 15:16 vs 15:45). In addition to running the 1500 pb, Klosterhalfen also won the silver in the 1500 at Euro Indoors.

Wait a minute, upon further review, we realize that Klosterhalfen isn’t technically the winner of this category. Much like the actual Academy Awards, we handed out the award and then realized she didn’t win. In this case, while Klosterhalfen started the year at age 19, she didn’t win simply because she’s no longer technically eligible for junior competition as she turned 20 on February 18.

Since we’re going with the Academy Awards theme, why don’t we hand out a few more awards:

Best Director: Derek Thompson – There are a lot of good coaches out there but most of them are full-time and have huge financial backing from either a shoe company or college athletic department. Thompson is different – he works a mail carrier for the United States Postal Service. But Thompson knows a thing or two about delivering as he certainly delivered some great performances this winter: both Ajee Wilson and Charlene Lipsey won US titles. Along the way, Wilson also broke Nicole Teter‘s 800-meter indoor record. Thompson also coaches 5,000m runner Marielle Hall.

The Guy Who Helped Botch the Oscars Was a Star Javelin Thrower

Speaking of the Academy Awards, did you know that Brian Cullinan – the guy who handed the wrong envelope to Warren Beatty – was a star javelin thrower for Cornell back in the late 1970s/early 1980s? Cullinan is still the school record holder (old javelin, so it’s unlikely to ever be broken) as he threw 250’2 in 1982. But maybe even then there were signs he’d crack under pressure. As a freshman, he threw about 235 feet in the javelin but didn’t even score at the Heps championships when 216’11” scored.

Best Foreign Event/Most Improved: Tokyo Marathon

This winter our view of the Tokyo Marathon changed in much the same way it did for Woody Kincaid. In years past, when discussions of Tokyo came up we always thought, “Why is that an Abbott World Marathon Major?” Now after both course records were been obliterated, we no longer think it’s totally unworthy of being a major.

More: Wilson Kipsang Enters All-Time Great Status with 2:03:58 Japanese All-Comers Record at Tokyo Marathon
*Kenyan Sarah Chepchirchir Announces Herself As a Marathon Star, Wins 2017 Tokyo Marathon in 2:19:47; American Sara Hall Runs Big PR of 2:28:26

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How Important Is It To Be A NCAA Star If You Want To Be A Big-Time Pro? Very

Every time we cover a NCAA championship, we’re struck by the amount of incredible young talent and how it regenerates year after year — Donavan Brazier and Clayton Murphy turn pro, so up step Josh Kerr and Emmanuel Korir. It got us to wondering how important a NCAA title is to professional success. So we took a look at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team in the distance events and broke down how many of them won an NCAA title. The results:

Did The 2016 US Olympians Win an NCAA Title in College?

Men’s 800
Clayton Murphy (yes), Boris Berian (yes — Division II), Charles Jock (yes)

Men’s 1500
Matthew Centrowitz (yes), Robby Andrews (yes), Ben Blankenship (no)

Men’s 3000 steeplechase
Evan Jager (no — turned pro after freshman year), Hillary Bor (no), Donn Cabral (yes)

Men’s 5000
Bernard Lagat (yes), Hassan Mead (no), Paul Chelimo (no)

Men’s 10,000
Galen Rupp (yes), Shadrack Kipchirchir (no), Leonard Korir (yes)

Men’s marathon
Galen Rupp (yes), Meb Keflezighi (yes), Jared Ward (no)

Women’s 800
Kate Grace (no), Ajee Wilson (N/A — turned pro out of HS), Chrishuna Williams (no)

Women’s 1500
Jenny Simpson (yes), Shannon Rowbury (yes), Brenda Martinez (no)

Women’s 3000 steeplechase
Emma Coburn (yes), Courtney Frerichs (yes), Colleen Quigley (yes)

Women’s 5000
Shelby Houlihan (yes), Kim Conley (no), Abbey D’Agostino (yes)

Women’s 10,000
Molly Huddle (no), Emily Infeld (yes), Marielle Hall (yes)

Women’s marathon
Amy Cragg (yes), Desi Linden (no), Shalane Flanagan (yes)

If you’re counting at home, that’s 21/34 Olympians, or 61.8%, who won an NCAA title (we didn’t count Wilson as she didn’t go to college, and we only counted Rupp once, so it’s 34 Olympians, not 36). We dug through the athletes who didn’t win an NCAA title and looked for their highest finish at NCAAs. Those results are below.

Best NCAA Finish For Those That Never Won an NCAA Title
Ben Blankenship: 2nd
Hillary Bor: 2nd
Paul Chelimo: 2nd
Shadrack Kipchirchir: 2nd
Brenda Martinez: 2nd
Molly Huddle: 2nd
Hassan Mead: 4th
Jared Ward: 4th
Chrishuna Williams: 4th
Kate Grace: 5th
Evan Jager: 8th
Desi Linden: 10th
Kim Conley: 80th (XC; Conley never made NCAAs on the track)

So in all, 27/34 Olympians (79.4%) finished either first or second at NCAAs while in college (and in our book it should be viewed as 28/34 as Jager would have had he not gone pro). And only 3/34 (8.8%) never finished in the top five. So if you weren’t a total stud in college, you’ve still got a chance at making the Olympics particularly if you are a woman– but it’s not very big.

That’s 2016. What about 2012? Once again, there was a strong correlation between college success and making the Olympic team as 26/35 (74.3%) Olympians were NCAA champions (with Rupp, once again, qualifying in two events). Only 4/35 (11.4%) never finished in the top five: Jager, Linden and Conley (who all made the team again in 2016) plus Trials 5k champ Julie Culley.

Did The 2012 US Olympians Win an NCAA Title in College?

Men’s 800
Nick Symmonds (yes — Division III), Khadevis Robinson (yes), Duane Solomon (no)

Men’s 1500
Leo Manzano (yes), Matthew Centrowitz (yes), Andrew Wheating (yes)

Men’s 3000 steeple
Evan Jager (no — turned pro after freshman year), Donn Cabral (yes), Kyle Alcorn (yes)

Men’s 5,000
Galen Rupp (yes), Bernard Lagat (yes), Lopez Lomong (yes)

Men’s 10,000
Galen Rupp (yes), Matt Tegenkamp (no), Dathan Ritzenhein (yes)

Men’s marathon
Meb Keflezighi (yes), Ryan Hall (yes), Abdi Abdirahman (no)

Women’s 800
Alysia Montaño (yes), Geena Gall (yes), Alice Schmidt (yes)

Women’s 1500
Morgan Uceny (no), Shannon Rowbury (yes), Jenny Simpson (yes)

Women’s 3000 steeplechase
Emma Coburn (yes), Bridget Franek (yes), Shalaya Kipp (yes)

Women’s 5000
Julie Culley (no), Molly Huddle (no), Kim Conley (no)

Women’s 10,000
Amy Cragg (yes), Lisa Uhl (yes), Janet Cherobon-Bawcom (yes — Division II)

Women’s marathon
Shalane Flanagan (yes), Desi Linden (no), Kara Goucher (yes)

Best NCAA Finish For Those That Never Won an NCAA Title
Abdi Abdirahman: 2nd
Molly Huddle: 2nd
Duane Solomon: 3rd
Matt Tegenkamp: 3rd
Morgan Uceny: 4th
Evan Jager: 8th
Desi Linden: 10th
Julie Culley: 12th
Kim Conley: 80th (XC; Conley never made NCAAs on the track)

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Stat of The Week I

3rd – finishing place at SEC meet – although some might say fifth as they were in a three-way tie for third – for the Texas A&M men, who won the NCAA team title two weeks later. If that shocks you, realize that the SEC is really good. The sixth place team at SECs – Georgia – ended up fourth at NCAAs with 35.5 points. And last year outdoors, the Florida men were only sixth at SECs but won it all at NCAAs the next month in Eugene.

2017 SEC Indoor results
1Arkansas98
2Alabama93
3Florida76
3Ole Miss76
3Texas A&M76
6Georgia67
7Kentucky44
8LSU42
9Auburn40
10Tennessee23.5
11South Carolina17.5
12Miss State5
13Missouri3

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Stat of The Week II

90% – percent of the top 10 men’s finishers at the US 15k championships – the Gate River Run – that weren’t born in the United States.

 1. Leonard Korir, 30, Colorado Springs, CO   43:22  $12,000 + 5,000^
 2. Shadrack Kipchirchir, 28, Colo Sprigs, CO 43:23    5,000
 3. Sam Chelanga, 32, Colorado Springs, CO    43:28    3,000
 4. Stanley Kebenei, 27, Colorado Springs, CO 43:29    2,000
 5. Paul Chelimo, 26, Colorado Springs, CO    43:46    1,000
 6. Kirubel Erassa, 23, Grayson, GA           43:55      900
7. Jonathan Grey, 29, Louisville, CO         43:59      800
 8. Abbabiya Simbassa, 23, Minnetonka, MN     44:04      700
 9. Hillary Bor, 27, Colorado Springs, CO     44:22      600
10. Kiya Dandena, 27, Flagstaff, AZ           44:36      500

Bold = Born abroad.

20% – percent of the top 10 women’s finishers at Gate River that weren’t born in the US.

1. Jordan Hasay, 25, Beaverton, OR           49:28  $12,000
2. Emily Infeld, 26, Portland, OR            49:42 PB 5,000
3. Neely Gracey, 26, Superior, CO            49:47    3,000
4. Laura Thweatt, 28, Superior, CO           49:54    2,000
5. Natosha Rogers, 25, Littleton, CO         50:02    1,000
6. Aliphine Tuliamuk, 27, Santa Fe, NM       50:11      900
7. Kaitlin Goodman, 30, Providence, RI       50:53      800
8. Elvin Kibet, 27, Colo Springs, CO (KEN)   51:01      —
9. Liz Costello, 29, Brighton, MA            51:06      700
10. Kim Conley, 30, Sacramento, CA            51:30      600

Related: Sports Gene By David Epstein *Buy Here

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Most Underappreciated Result Of The Last Month

With its $15,000 first-place purse, the World’s Best 10k in San Juan, Puerto Rico is annually one of the hardest road races to win on the planet. An American – male or female – had never won the race until this year when Sam Chelanga got the win on February 26.

 Top 5 Men
1. Sam Chelanga, USA          28:19  $15,000
2. Phillip Langat, KEN        28:21    7,500
3. Stephen Sambu, KEN         28:34    6,000
4. Thomas Longosiwa, KEN      28:37    5,000
5. Belay Tilahun, ETH         28:42    3,500
 Top 5 Women
1. Mary Wacera, KEN           31:41  $15,000
2. Mamitu Daska, ETH          31:59    7,500
3. Gelete Burka, ETH          32:01    6,000
4. Magdalyne Masai, KEN       32:06    5,000
5. Aliphine Tuliamuk, USA     32:11    3,500

More: Sam Chelanga (28:19) And Mary Wacera (31:41) Win Over Deep Fields At World’s Best 10K

While we’re talking about underappreciated races, we don’t think we ever put up a link to the results of the 2017 Publix Gasparilla Half Marathon at the end of February. Christo Landry (63:08) and Stephanie Bruce (72:53) picked up $8,000 for winning while 41-year-old Meb Keflezighi got ready for his final Boston by finishing third in 63:30 ($2,000).

At the ConocoPhillips Rodeo 10k Run on March 4, 44-year-old Kevin Castille of Lafayette, Louisiana, set an age-44 world record by running 29:04 for the win.

And at last weekend’s Zurich Marató de Barcelona (Barcelona Marathon), the rabbit, Kenya’s Jonah Kipkemoi Chesum, decided he’d stay in the race and ended up winning in 2:08:57 (his debut). Making the feat all the more impressive is he is also a Paralympian in the T46 category.

More: Strategy pays off for Gasparilla Distance Classic half-marathon champ Christo Landry *Results
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Chesum, the Paralympic athlete who has won by surprise the Barcelona Marathon

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Brie Oakley Continues To Shine

At the NXN meet in December, the biggest takeaway for us was the total domination by Brie Oakley, who won by 28 seconds. Her domination of the HS ranks has continued on into the indoor season as at the New Balance Nationals last week she set meet records in the 2-mile (9:56.06) and 5000 (15:55.75). The latter mark is a US record and she’s now the first US HSer under 16:00 indoors. She won the 2-mile by 16+ seconds and the 5k by 52+ seconds.

Oakley at New Balance Nationals

Oakley at New Balance Nationals

It’s interesting to note that the 5000 national record has been broken at the meet in each of the last seven years.

Girls HS 5000 Record Progression
2011, Waverly Neer, 16:35.15
2012, Erin Finn, 16:19.69
2013, Wesley Frazier, 16:18.01
2014, Tessa Barrett, 16:11.85
2015, Anna Rohrer, 16:10.79
2016, Weini Kelati, 16:08.83
2017, Brie Oakley, 15:55.75

The boys’ 5000 winner wasn’t nearly as dominant but he’s got a great backstory: At 4 Years Old Ben Varghese Had 75% Of His Leg Cut Off In A Lawnmower Accident And Had To Have It Reattached; Now He’s A National 5000m Champion The senior from India ran a big breakthrough of 14:47 to win his first national title.

More: NBN Results

MB: Remember the name Brie Oakley. You’ll be hearing a lot about her.

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Quotes of the Week (That Weren’t Quote of the day)

#1 Mondo Duplantis’ Dad – A Man Who Was A 19 Foot Vaulter Himself – Is Mystified as To How His Son Is So Good

“It’s amazing. We’re working on stuff and I haven’t quite figured out exactly what he’s doing. He’s doing things (with technique) that I don’t think have ever been done before. He’s not jumping the way I jumped, for sure….”

“He can go a foot higher just on what I call maturity height. He’s getting bigger, faster, stronger just by being alive. You get that for free, without doing anything.”

Greg Duplantis talking to Dyestat about his son, Mondo, who has a 19-1 pb (the world record is 20-2.5).

#2 Sometimes When You Miss Your Splits In A Workout, It Means You’ve Had A Heart Attack

“I can’t help but marvel how the simple math on my watch set everything in motion. A runner like me shouldn’t just go from an 83-second lap to an 89. Something was wrong!

“Whenever I recounted this anecdote to my cardiologists, they were fascinated that an athlete could gauge things so precisely and recognize when something was out of whack. They almost never see that degree of exercise sensitivity in their other patients. It made me glad to be the type of runner who knows himself, has a plan, and times his workouts.”

-50-year-old Christopher Gould talking to Runner’s World about how he realized he had a heart attack thanks to the fact that the last lap of his 1200, which was supposed to be run in 81, was only an 89.

#3 Feyisa Lilesa Says Risking It All Was The Right Choice

“I needed to do this. I thought of it this way: When a soldier enlists, you know the risk, but because you swore to defend the country or the law, you don’t think about the consequences.”

-Lilesa talking in a great NY Times feature on his political protest and his new life in America. The article reveals that some in Ethiopia are angered that Kenenisa Bekele, who like Lilesa is a member of the Oromo tribe, hasn’t taken a bigger stand.

#4 Free Coaching Advice From Geoffrey Kamworor

“Work hard, but not (hard) every day.”

-Kamworor talking to Wired Magazine about the importance of recovery and taking it easy on your easy day – aka the LetsRun.com training philosophy.

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Recommended Reads

To see our favorite reads from other weeks, go here.

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Quotes Of The Day And Last Week’s Home Pages

To see the actual quotes of the day from last week or last week’s home page or any home page, go to our archive page.

Past editions of The Week That Was can be found here. Questions or comments? Please email us or post them in our running fan forum.

Talk about the WTW on our fan forum / messageboard: MB: WTW 3/15/2017 – Who Were The Biggest Winners Of The Winter Season? + How Important Is It To Be A NCAA Star?