A Delightful Evening

David Yon, January 18, 2009

Once a year they gather.    The goal is to recognize those who have given and achieved a lot, but usually everyone who attends comes away with a nice warm feeling and feels like a winner.   That was certainly the case Saturday night at the American Legion Hall at the GWTC Annual Awards Ceremony.   The Awards Committee, consisting of Jeanne O’Kon, Jackie McDaniel, Hobson Fulmer, Mary Jean Yon and chair Lisa Unger, did a great job producing the evening and selecting the annual award winners.   Bill McGuire, as usual, did a superb job directing the ceremony and delivering his special insight and knowledge of club history.   The program moved along crisply as the goal was to present a complete picture about each award winner in three minutes or less. 

The night began when Jeff Bryan recognized the great work of Gordon Cherr in resurrecting one of the club’s most important races – the Pine Run.  Two years ago this race unknowingly bid farewell to the only home it had ever had – International Paper’s Southland’s Experimental Forest just outside of Bainbridge.  The Pine Reborn at Tall Timbers Research Station was everything we could have hoped for and Jeff’s presentation did a great job telling the story why Gordon Cherr was Race Director of the Year.

No one has a better handle on history than Charlie Yates and so when he told the straight story on the outstanding effort of the Kiwanis Club, filled with memories of Jere Moore, you knew the story was not only right, but important.  Ten members had their hands completely full parking thousands of cars at SouthWood for Turkey Trot this year – something they have done since the days Turkey Trot was at the fairgrounds.  They more than earned the Community Award for 2008.

Often you hear “old timers” say we need new blood in the club.  Well, there is a lot of it out there and it is doing good things.  Judy Alexander made that point when she presented the Bill Lott Volunteer of the Year award to Fritz Stoppelbein.  Fresh out of college and ready for a career in law enforcement, Fritz made plenty of time to help out at GWTC races and local high school cross country and track meets.  It is great to see him take such an active role in the family.

Could there be a better person to present the Cleveland-Caldwell Advancement of Sport Award than Rex Cleveland?  And could there have been a better choice for 2008 than Mike Schneider who gave so much to so many other runners, especially kids.  No child was ever too slow for Mike to take an interest in, including driving all over the city to pick them up and bring them to a race.  We are all saddened to lose him this past year, but happy to have his memory with us forever.  And it was very special to have Susan Cornwell there to accept the award on Mike’s behalf.  Susan of course was the one who introduced Mike to most of those kids. 

Stephanie Liles has been one of the club’s outstanding athletes for several years now.  So this year’s Triathlete of the Year Award, presented by Bonnie Wright, could have been a Runner of the Year Award too.  But, as Bonnie so clearly laid out, Stephanie had an outstanding year in the water, on the bike and on the roads.  

Of course Gary Droze knows how to captivate an audience and make sure it knows exactly how impressive an award winner’s achievements are.  Lisa Johnson overcame some very difficult obstacles and showed amazing courage to dominate the women’s racing scene this year and earn the Female Runner of the Year.  Not so long ago it seemed heat was an enemy she could not overcome as dehydration and or heat stroke ended several races early for her.  But she found a plan to overcome it all and knocked out lots of PR’s and victories during 2008.  

The good vibes hit a high when the Reverend George Palmer took the stage to preach the gospel of one of GWTC most prized members, Gary Griffin, and announce he was the 2008 Male Runner of the Year.  Gary’s outstanding Ultra performances, great as they were, were overshadowed by his wonderful contributions to GWTC and to so many other people in his life.

And I had the wonderful privilege of telling the crowd just how special our 2009 inductee into the GWTC Hall of Fame is.  Of course anyone who has worked with her, knew that already.   There are few who have had a greater or better impact on GWTC than Peg Griffin even if it is all done so quietly. 

Annual awards were only part of the night of course as it is also the night to recognize the accomplishments of the Grand Prix Competitors.   Tripp Southerland and Stephanie Liles were the men and women’s winners.  They both put together great seasons – even though Stephanie had to overcome some injuries at the end of hers.  There were lots more winners and competitors and you can find them all here