Christina's World...


By Jerry Anonymous

I'm a random member of the MMA Selection Committee. You don't know me. You can refer to me by my alias: Jerry Anonymous.

Selecting MMA nominees and winners is a democratic process, thus committee members don't always get what they want. And though I'm fine with the eventual selections, even those that were not my first choice, there was one category that I was especially vocal about, yet totally unable to get a majority of the other Selectors to agree on.

That category was female TRIATHLETE OF THE YEAR.

For the first time in the 19-year history of the MMAs, THREE athletes were in contention for the award.  Typically, there is a obvious choice, e.g. Heather Lendway (2014, 2013), Ruther Brennan Morrey (2012), Suzie Fox (2015), Claire Bootsma (2011), Cathy Yndestad (2010, 2009, 2008, 2007), Becky Youngberg (2004), Marlo Crosby (2006), Jan Guenther (1999, 2000, 2001). Twice (2005 and 2002) the choice was between two athletes....



So, it was cool that there was so much competition this year, with Gaby Bunten taking the award ahead of Kortney Haag and Christina Roberts.

Please understand, I am very happy for Gaby Bunten. When I was asked to break the voting tie between her and Kort, I chose Gaby. 

But I believed then, and still do, that Christina Roberts should have been named female TOY.

Let's compare resumes:


An excellent scorecard, featuring three wins in six starts, a Top 5 overall at Nationals and three efforts that were POY-nomination worthy. The cancellation of the swim, where Gaby excels, resulted in a 7th at Racine, and her effort at 70.3 Worlds was not competitive. For me, Gaby had four truly outstanding performances in 2017.



A very interesting resume. Three wins in five starts. In my opinion, the wins--Liberty Half, Graniteman Clearwater and Graniteman Big Lake--were "solid," i.e. very good, but did not rank with Haag's best work. Her 2nds at Chisago, wherein she bonked yet still went 4:39, and Maple Grove Olympic, where she lost to one of America's future pros (Maeghan Easler), were, in my opinion, her best races. Here 5:05 at 70.3 Worlds was not a competitve effort. It was 20 minutes behind the amateur winner (and eleven minutes behind decorated Minnesotan Cathy Yndestad). Even if she was pleased with her performance, to me, it was not a resume enhancer.





Roberts raced in 10 multis, excelling in eight of them, six of which she won. The other two efforts--5ths at Apple and Austin 70.3 --were solid, i.e. they didn't hurt her resume. So, from a volume and victory standpoint, she appeared to outperform her TOY competion. 

Next, two of her wins--Superior Man and Heart of the Lakes--were POY-nomination-worthy. Her SM win, where she turned in the fastest 70.3 time by a Minnesota woman (4:37:04) in 2017, did receive a nomination. Of her other victories--Lake Minnetonka, Timberman, Lake Geneva Escape and YWCA Women's Tri, her YWCA effort was probably the most impressive. She handily beat several of our state's fastest amateur women.

So, she won at sprint distance, Olympic and half IM, demonstrating more versatility than her TOY challengers.


I was unable to convince my fellow Selectors that Roberts deserved the award. Somehow, her volume, versatility and the fact that she won as many races as Gaby and Kort combined wasn't convincing enough. Nor was the fact that one of her efforts received a POY nomination.

What was I missing? Why were Gaby and Kort more viable?

One argument was that Christina did not consistently face top competition. Hmmm. Let's see if that is true.

- 2nd @ Buffalo (She beat Suzie Fox, Maggie Weiss, Sheena Dauer and Liv Williamsen)

- 1st @ Lake Minnetonka (She beat Maggie Weiss, Olivia Bagnall, Liv Williamsen, Andrea Myers, Kristina Swenson)

- 3rd @ Lake Waconia (Beaten by Nicole Heininger and Diane Hankee. She beat Suzie Fox.)

- 1st @ Timberman (She beat Andrea Myers by 5:22 and Tiffany Kari by 9:57.)

- 1st @ Heart of the Lakes (She beat Diane Hankee, Maggie Weiss, Kelly Trom, Andrea Myers, Erin Farrens, Lisa Lendway, Kristina Swensen)

- 1st amateur @ YWCA Women's Triathlon (She beat Suzie Fox, Diane Hankee, Lisa Lendway)

- 1st @ Superior Man (Went 4:37:04 beating runner-up by 27:33!)

- 1st @ Lake Geneva Escape (Won by 5:36.)

By my assessment, Christina did face formidable competition, and when she didn't she won by huge margins. This suggests that she didn't phone in her performances. I would argue here that of the three TOY finalists Kortney faced the least formidable fields.

But this is where I disagree with the Selectors who interpret the "Field Quality" rule differently than I do. To them, the fact that they perceived Kortney as beating more top Minnesota women at 70.3 Worlds than did Gaby or Christina at any of their races, gave her huge points, so much so, that two of the Selectors believed that she deserved the TOY.

I argued that Minnesota athletes were not competitive at 70.3 Worlds, thus their performances were not resume enhancing. In other words, I felt it was wrong to elevate an athlete on the basis of a medium-dazzle performace. Yes, Kort had a faster time than Gaby, Dani V., Diane, Erin, Nicole and Angela, but none of those women were competitive in their AGs, much less overall. More saliently, it appeared that none of those women raced up to their potential. (Yes, it was a very challenging course, but Dani and Kort, especially, are two of the very best amateur 70.3 racers in the US. NOTE: Dani had a foot injury.)

Let me reiterate, I am totally good with Gaby winning the TOY, but I strongly believe that athletes should not be elevated over others based on non-resume-enhancing performances. 

To me, Christina Roberts was the clear choice for female Triathlete of the Year.  I invite other Committee members to post comments on their MMA selections.


I'll conclude by commenting on the painting at the top of the page. It's called Christina's World and it was painted by Andrew Wyeth in 1948. I own a print. 






0 #2 Steve Sander 2017-12-20 15:33
Mitch- You are correct in your assessment of the top 3 woman. All were deserving but one had to be chosen. I think what set Gaby apart was that she sought not only the local best but the National level competition. As for measuring against historical performances this is a tough subject. Due to conditions such as swim lengths heat, humidity, wind etc. it makes that difficult to measure. But is it done? Very carefully. And it also depends on the category. It plays a much larger role in Performance of the Year. Head to heads play a huge role in Athlete of the Year and while Christina didn't shy away from tough races the top tier woman just happened to not be there.
0 #1 Mitchell Clayton 2017-12-13 23:51
To me, the top three women on Team MN were almost interchangeable . Speed, volume, and versatility could be used to favor one over the other, and that makes the argument for one athlete over another very difficult. But, from what I understand (which may be incorrect), athletes are evaluated against not only their competition from that season, but also against historical performances. With this being said, Gaby's performances resembled Heather/Cathy/R uth-esque efforts the most. Again, depending on the perspectives that selectors value the most, this can or could not be a contributing factor to their votes. Either way, all the Team MN athletes (especially the top 3) rocked it this year, as always. Thoughts?

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