Sunday, September 26, 2021
Sept. 26, 2021

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10-year anniversary of Columbian prep athlete of the week brings new wrinkles to the process

High schools: Tim Martinez

By , Columbian Assistant Sports Editor

This fall, The Columbian prep athlete of the week feature celebrates its 10th anniversary.

And over the course of the past decade, this feature has grown into one of the more popular reader-interaction activities on

Over the course of a normal school year, the athlete-of-the-week vote draws more than 60,000 for high school athletes, averaging about 1,400 votes on each ballot.

And for many years, I would receive an email or voice mail from an exciting parent that went something like this.

“My kid just won athlete of the week. So exciting. What happens next?”

And for many years, the answer to that question was “Not much.” We’d put the winner’s picture in the paper, share the win out over social media channels, and that was about it.

Two years ago, we came up with the idea to create a certificate that acknowledges the athlete’s win, and then we’d go out to practice to present that certificate to the winner. Typically, we’d record a fun video of the presentation and share that on social media.

That made the win a little more special.

Unfortunately, the pandemic last school year led us to pull back on that idea. But we’re bringing it back this fall.

Also this fall, we’re adding something else. Thanks to our new sponsor, Northwest Personal Training, each winner will also receive a gift certificate to go along with the athlete-of-the-week award. Columbian staffers will again present both in-person when at all possible.

The voting ballot also will change slightly this fall, as some of you have already noticed.

To get to the ballot, you’ll need to click the link inside the story on that announces the nominees. From there, you can vote for your athlete of choice. To cast the vote, you will need to enter an email address and answer some brief demographic questions like your zip code and gender. There is also an opportunity to subscribe to our weekly prep sports newsletter, if you haven’t done so already.

I tried to make the process as easy as possible. But this information will help us get an idea about where votes are being cast, and will help to ensure that the ballot is not being manipulated in any way.

Once you’ve registered to cast your vote the first time, every subsequent vote will be a much easier process.

The good news with this new ballot is that we are allowing every voter to cast one vote daily. So that could amount to as many as three votes per email address as balloting is open for three days.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the athlete-of-the-week vote.

Why are there separate ballots for football player of the week and fall sports prep athlete of the week?

Football is very popular. And our football-player-of-the-week vote regularly outperformed the vote for athletes in all other fall sports. If we combined these two into one vote, the concern is that a football player would win it every week. So we keep them separate.

When are the votes open?

Typically, the football player of the week vote opens on Monday and closes at 7 p.m. Wednesday, and the fall prep athlete of the week vote opens Tuesday and closes at 7 p.m. Thursday. This week, because of the Labor Day holiday, the football vote opened Tuesday and will close Thursday. The first fall prep athlete of the week vote will start next week.

How are athletes nominated?

Typically, I make the selections for the five nominees. But I am open to suggestions for nominees from the coaches and fans. But suggestions need to be in by Sunday night for football and Monday night for prep athlete. Otherwise, it is likely too late, and I’ve already come up with five choices. You can send those suggestions by email, direct message on Twitter or put a comment to our Facebook page. Don’t call and leave a voicemail. I will likely not hear it until too late. All nominations are based on what the athlete did in the previous week.

Why are there just five nominees when there are eight fall sports other than football?

Five always seemed like a reasonable number to put on a ballot. More than that gets a bit cumbersome. Also, it provides me with some flexibility when making nominations. There are other stipulations at play when coming up with nominees. For instance, we don’t nominate more than one student from any school in any vote. We do this so that the vote doesn’t get split. We also limit nominees to one per sport each week. Also, some weeks the number events held in some sports can be limited. With all of those factors at play, limiting the number of nominees to five provides some flexibility.

I hope this answers all your questions about our very popular vote. And if you haven’t cast your vote in this week’s ballot, vote away.