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Matt's Picks...

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Matt and Damon have been busy discussing nominees and winners for this year's unofficial Minnesota Multisport Honors. To do this, they have evaluated the resumes of dozens of Minnesota's top multisport athletes. Athletes are considered on the basis of their overall race resume, not who is perceived to be better than who. By doing this, MTN aims to applaud well-deserving nominees and winners, and to show that Minnesota multisport athletes have some of the highest standards in the entire country. 

Earlier this week, Damon posted his unofficial picks for Minnesota Athletes of the Year. Here are Matt's picks for the winners in each category:

Triathlete of the Year
Preston Youngdahl and Heather Lendway - To Matt, these two are the clear favorites for this honor, although Preston did face a significant challenge from AJ Manning who, like Youngdahl, posted incredible results and times this season.

Performance of the Year
AJ Manning's Course Record at Green Lake Olympic and Heather Lendway's Course Record at Maple Grove Olympic - Like Damon noted, Heather's Maple Grove effort was perhaps the best amateur female Olympic distance performance to ever take...

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Damon's Picks...

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The MMH Committee did not convene this season, thus there are no official Minnesota Multisport Honorees. Still, two members of that committee, Matt and Damon, studied the 2022 resumes of Minnesota triathletes and came up with their respective nominees and winners.

Today's post features Damon's picks, which are based on an athlete having at least three impressive performance  last season.  Matt's picks will post on Sunday.

Damon's unofficial Minnesota Athletes of the Year:

- TRIATHLETE OF THE YEAR - PRESTON YOUNGDAHL (photo) and HEATHER LENDWAY

Male Nominees: Aj Manning, Andy Zabel

Female Nominee: Maggie Swanson

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Cami or Elena?

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Though there was no shortage of viable female Most Improved candidates last season, both Matt and Damon agree that  the MI honor should go to either ELENA HENGEL or CAMI ECKHOFF.  Matt chose to favor Eckhoff, so Damon was tasked with arguing on behalf of Hengel.

ELENA HENGEL, 25, Wayzata - At first glance Elena's 2021 resume looked like it deserved to be considered for a Rookie of the Year nomination. A second look told a different story. Though she podiumed in two races--2nd at Maple Grove Sprint and 3rd at Turtleman Sprint--her times were not competitive from a historical perspective. At Maple Grove, her time was 1:16:39, a result than wouldn't have cracked the Top 10 this year, or in most prior years.

At Turtleman, her time would have been eight minutes slower than this year's winning time. Still, it was her first year, and she had shown "promise."

She certainly delivered on that promise in 2022. Her first race produced a win in a fast 1:06:10 at Buffalo Sprint, the 4th best in the seven-year history of the current course. She follwed that with a 3rd place finish at Lake Minnetonka, where she was ten minutes faster than her 18th place finish there in 2021....

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AJ, Preston, Heather & Maggie...

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Who do Matt and Damon believe is the 2022 Male Triathlete of the Year? They are still discussing this, and agree that there are two especially strong candidates, but neither are ready to name the TOY yet. Here, in alpha order, are the two athletes and their 2022 resumes under consideration:

- AJ MANNING, 34, Fargo (photo) - AJ had a spectacular season, winning three (Amateur title at Buffalo Olympic, Course Record at HyVee Sprint, and CR at Green Lake Olympic) of the five regional races he entered. His 14th overall place at Olympic Nationals (2:00:16) also helps his case. He set two course records, one of which is a slam-dunk POY nominee, and in his two confrontations with fellow TOY frontrunner Preston Youngdahl, he is 1 - 1.

- PRESTON YOUNGDAHL, 32, Plymouth - On Minnesota soil, Preston won four of the five races he entered, and placed 2nd in the other. His course record at Clearwater Olympic and amateur title at Maple Grove Olympic are POY nomination-worthy. He also lowered his personal half-iron best, posting a 4:12 (6th place overall) at Ironman 70.3 Madison...

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Andrew or Stuart?

 

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Matt and Damon agree the STUART GILDEA and ANDREW KERSHAW are the two strongest candidates for 2022 Male Most Improved, though Damon is not convinced that PRESTON YOUNGDAHL shouldn't be included here. Like AJ MANNING and ANDY ZABEL, Youngdahl brought an elite resume into the season, whereas Gildea and Kershaw made the leap from being "solid" performers to elite ones. Damon argues that while Youngdahl was a consistent winner at sprint and Olympic distance during his years in Louisiana, his 70.3 efforts were "medium dazzlle" by comparison. Since his return to Minnesota, his Sprint and Olympic winning continued, and Damon would argue that he had gotten faster since coming north, but his PR at 70.3 improved by 12-minutes.

Still, Youngdahl's 2022 performances, though elevated, did not surprise anyone, whereas Gildea's and Kershaw's did. So, Matt was tasked with arguing on Gildea's behalf for MI, and Damon will give reasons for favoring Kershaw.

KERSHAW - Damon believes that if a 2022 Team Minnesota were to be announced, Gildea would rank above Kershaw. But because Stuart, an Iowan who didn't relocate to Minnesota until 2021, had earlier results (2019) that portended his rise to elite status, whereas Kershaw's had a steeper climb to a claim a place among our region's elite amateurs....

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