It Worked Again – GWTC’s Special Night
 

David Yon, January 16, 2010

It is the hardest working committee in Gulf Winds Track Club. Once a year their hard work produces a very special night for GWTC. The Awards Committee, chaired by Jeanne O’Kon, and comprised of Lisa Unger, Nancy Stedman, Bill Lott and GWTC president, Judy Alexander, hosts the annual awards. The list of deserving candidates is always long, so picking winners is not easy. Nominations are received from any GWTC member willing to put together a nomination. The committee then works through these nominations, occasionally adds some of its own favorites and does the research to come up with  terrific selections.

This year’s event had a new home, The Retreat at Bradley’s Pond, and despite rainy conditions it drew a big crowd. And it still felt like home with GWTC’s Mr. All-Things Bill McGuire serving as moderator again. It is a night when Gulf Winds Track Club seeks to “honor those who, besides achieving outstanding times in the past year at various distances in local, regional, and national events, have served as models for all of us in their competitive spirit, their continuing devotion to the sport, and their support and encouragement of their fellow runners, both individually and as members of Gulf Winds.” It is never hard to find deserving candidates.

The night began with Tom Perkins presenting the Community Award to the Godby Air Force Junior ROTC with special recognition to Senior Master Sergeant  Steve Sullivan who is retiring after 17 years of outstanding service. He has been a fixture at our races and we hope, retirement notwithstanding, to continue seeing him at our races. Jeff Nielsen, the winner of the Race Director of the Year was way overdue for recognition for the excellent work he has done with the Steve Prefontaine 5K. David Yon had the privilege of presenting that award. The Bill Lott Volunteer of the Year Award went to Susan Stetson who has been a remarkable behind-the-scenes supporter of the club. Robert Morris had the honor of making this presentation.

The GWTC Triathlon Club has been growing rapidly and its members performed above and beyond this past year. So for the first time a Male and Female Tri of the Year were recognized. Bob MacDonald presented the award to the Male Triathlete of the Year winner, Grady Smith, who consistently placed in the top few spots in his age group and just got better and better as the year progressed. Lisa Cox stepped to the podium to recognize the Female Triathlete of the Year winner, Shannon Coates, who earned a trip to Kona by winning her age group at Ironman Florida.

On the running side, the Male Runner of the Year was Tony Guillen. Felton Wright had the honor of making the presentation and he reminded us just how remarkable Tony’s year was as he did not just score PRs, but demolished his best times. The top woman was Kelsey Scheitlin who, in addition to winning the Female Runner of the Year, also won the Grand Prix title. Her presentation was done by her friend Amanda Hudson.

The Cleveland-Caldwell Advancement of the Sport Award is one of GWTC’s most treasured awards. This year’s winner is one of the club’s most treasured members. Gary Griffin gave the presentation describing example after example of how the winner, George Palmer, has reached out as a mentor and friend to so many in the club. And of course the award everyone waits for each year is the induction into the Hall of Fame for a very special member. This year’s inductee has an amazing resume, having won every major GWTC race (well, not the Ultra or the Marathon) several times and led the club through one of its best years of socials when she served as social director. Karl Hempel gave us a great insight into Sarah Docter-Williams, GWTC’s newest Hall of Famer.

There we also some special awards. Gary Droze recognized the Youth “Runner” of the Year by reminding us what great performances the Harris Brothers, Caleb (8), Chase (11) and Kyle (14) gave us this year. Mary Jean Yon reminded us what a treasure we have in Fred Deckert, not to mention a very talented photographer, when she gave him an Appreciation Award. Bob Braman, Pat Plocek and Brian Corbin were recognized by Herb Wills for their work together to make the Apalachee Regional Park become a great cross country venue with a Distinguished Service Award. The night concluded with the Grand Prix awards.

The GWTC Annual Awards meeting is always a special night that reminds you how lucky we are to have such a special organization in our town filled with so many committed people.