2002 Race Directors of the YearPresented by Mary Jean Yon to Jeanne O'Kon and Tom Perkins
It seems only fair to assume that every track club has one big race that it hopes and assumes is the big “money maker” for the club. For many years, that race has been the Springtime 10K for the Gulf Winds Track Club (GWTC). Long renowned as the race that many Tallahasseeans would choose as their only road race of the year that they would dare to venture out their front door to run…this race was a sure fire money maker for the club…or so we hoped. With every big race comes big pressure(s) and big headaches for the lucky person(s) who chooses to be the race director for any given year.
Our Race Director(s) of the Year for 2002 knew better than to jump in and take on this much responsibility too quickly. Instead they spent three years successfully directing the One Mile fun run that accompanies Springtime and through their expert direction ensured that this shorter version of Tallahassee fun averaged 154 participants per year during their reign. Bolstered by their success, Tom Perkins and Jeanne O’Kon stepped up in 2000 and took the baton from Paul Hiers taking charge of everything that makes up the Springtime legacy; the 10K, the one mile and all the headaches that go with a big race! You could actually see the relief on Paul’s face for months afterwards!
Is this the most challenging of the GWTC races to direct? Well, almost! Does the service that Tom & Jeanne give us as directors for this race qualify them for the Race Director of the Year award? Absolutely! But you know…it doesn’t stop there! The Springtime 10K race is only the beginning of why we should be honoring Tom & Jeanne for this special award. Have you ever heard of the Run For The Cookies? Who else do you know that could come up with the clever idea of corralling a bunch of girl scouts to sponsor a race and enticing countless runners out to participate simply with a promise of feeding them cookies? And we’re not just talking about age group awards here. You get to pick a box of your favorite kind of cookie just for registering! I don’t know about you…but I’m there! Since Tom & Jeanne came up with this ingenious idea, the Run For The Cookies 5K has grown steadily from 85 runners when it debuted in 1994 to an impressive 248 runners at last year’s race and an all-time high number of 294 participants in 2000! And the really impressive fact here is that Tom & Jeanne have directed this race for each of the 10 years that it’s been in existence. And by the way, we now know that this is where these two honed their skills at directing those one mile fun runs since each of these ten years has also featured this distance alternative. Amazing to think how a thing as simple as a sweet tooth can motivate so many! And think what all those other girl scout troops around the state must wonder as they review the sales figures turned in by the Girl Scouts of the Big Bend!
And dare we limit our praise for this amazing couple to those races that bear their names as co-race directors? They don’t stop at that point…why should we? It’s hard to find a Gulf Winds race these days where one or both members of this dynamic dual is not pitching in making some other race director’s day go just a little bit smoother by helping out. Did you know that Jeanne is an absolute pro at handling registration and results? From Women’s Distance Festival to the Summer Track Series and all the way up to the craziness of Turkey Trot…she’s there. Calm, cool and collected; she’s a pro to the end. And how about Tom? No volunteer job is too much or too small for him. I suspect his favorite assignment is scooting around at Fall Fest in those cute little John Deere carts but he’s also been spotted working a variety of finish lines and snatching up traffic cones during post-race cleanup.
When you look at the energy expended by these two, you almost have to wonder if they’re not constantly sizing up the vast selection of races available to see what they might want to take on next. And one thing’s for sure, given their track record it’s a sure bet that any race that comes under their purview will be better for it. Please join me in congratulating Tom Perkins and Jeanne O’Kon as the GWTC Race Directors of the Year!