A Night for Smiles

David Yon, January 12, 2020

It was indeed a night for smiles and a chance to say thank you to a lot of people for their hard work on behalf of the Gulf Winds Track Club and the Tallahassee running community.  There is so much effort and knowledge that goes into a year of planning, preparing and implementing running events that, even though it is not possible to recognize all the deserving people, it is fun to recognize some of the top contributors at the Annual GWTC Awards Ceremony.

It is also an evening to recognize those who have raced well in the club’s Grand Prix competition. More than 487 people competed in 19 races in 2019 with 110 people qualifying for an award. There was also a Kid’s Grand Prix which consists of eight races.

I thought it was particularly apropos, with the 2020 Tallahassee Marathon, Half Marathon and Relay Race, just around the corner (February 2), that Sheryl Rosen was named Race Director of the Year for the outstanding job she did directing those races in 2018 and 2019.

Imagine the planning it takes to get nearly 1000 runners around the half marathon course (13.1 miles) and another 150 or so around the marathon course. 2018 was Sheryl’s first year directing any race. She was, however, actively involved in the race before that, serving as the volunteer coordinator for several years before she became race director. 

Speaking of volunteers, the marathon is still looking for volunteers.  If you have time and are willing, you help will be very much appreciated.  You can sign up or just see where help is needed at https://signup.com/go/gGDeFns.  If you have questions, Shelly Herman is the new volunteer coordinator.  You can email her at:  tlhmarathonvolunteers@gmail.com.

Like many organizations, GWTC’s most treasured award is induction into the Hall of Fame.  This year’s inductee was Jeanne O’Kon, only the 41st person to receive the honor. Mary Jean Yon, one of those 40, presented this year’s inductee, Jeanne O’Kon, to the crowd.  Mary Jean began her presentation by pointing out that of the 40 inductees, only 11 are women (28%). This point was certainly relevant to the inductee as Jeanne has worked hard over many years to ensure the accomplishments of women and girls are not overlooked or underappreciated. 

After pausing long enough to see who really appreciated those stats, Mary Jean went on to make the case for Jeanne’s selection:

“Anybody here like cookies? Girl Scout cookies? Next month the 27th running of the Run For the Cookies 5K will take place on February 8th and I am going to hazard a guess that our award winner has been there for all 27 years letting the Girl Scout Council of the Big Bend think they were the race directors when we all know otherwise.

Every summer she plays an integral role in putting on the Summer Track Series and helping to introduce area youth to running. Other races this award winner has played a strong leadership role in include: Miller Landing Madness, the Palace Saloon, Hops & Half Shells, Woodstock at SouthWood and probably many more than I can list here.

And she’s not afraid to pitch in and help [behind the scenes] too. Just ask Hall of Fame member, Peg Griffin, who summed it up like this, “She is a leader and her style is to lead by example. She does not ask anyone to do anything she is not willing to do, or has not already done, herself.” My best memories of this award recipient are how much she contributes to the Tallahassee Turkey Trot. Over the span of 15 years, this award recipient has assisted in data entry for Turkey Trot registration and has experienced everything from being cooped up in the smoke-filled motor home of the so-called professionals we used to pay to do our chip timing to hanging out with Peg in all sorts of venues and weather conditions to make sure every runner gets entered into the Turkey Trot data base.”

Remember the Grand Prix competition mentioned above?  Ann Centner left no doubt who the best female runner was in 2019.  She scored an amazing 300 points winning every Grand Prix race she ran.  Lou Maxwell, Brittany Barnes, Katie Sharron and Laura McDermott filled out the list of top five women for 2019. On the male side, Ryan Truchelut scored 214 points. Charlie Kline, Charlie Johnson, Hong-Guo Yu and Tristan Lanasa finished out the list of top five men.

The Annual Awards presented January 12, 2020 were:

  • The Volunteer of the Year – Charlie Johnson (presented by Felton Wright)
  • Female Runner of the Year – Lourena Maxwell (presented by Mike Boll)
  • Male Runner of the Year – Bill McNulty (presented by Paul Guyas)
  • Cleveland-Caldwell Award – Fred Deckert (presented by Judy Alexander)
  • Community Award – Momo’s (presented by Tim Unger)
  • Race Director – Sheryl Rosen (presented by David Yon)
  • Triathletes, Male and Female, of the Year – Robert Palmer (presented by Bill Dillon ) and Tina Bahmer (presented by Kory Skrob)
  • Hall of Fame – Jeanne O’Kon  (presented by Mary Jean Yon)

Community Award presented by Tim Unger

In September 1999 a hole-in-the-wall restaurant opened just off the campus of FSU on Tennessee Street with a half dozen or so employees and an original, made-from-scratch recipe for a New York style feast. The restaurant flourished & continues to fill the bellies of college students and all Tallahassee residents as well. Gulf Winds Track Club has a special history with this establishment that goes back to their opening near FSU.  

This Tallahassee institution has been sponsoring Gulf Winds Track Club team events since that humble Tennessee St. business opened.  Some of our teams have celebrated at this business longer than the Gulf Winds Track Club Tri club has been around!  For sure, our 2019 Community Award winner has been helping our club as a sponsor of events going back to the last century. I can’t think of a time the club hasn’t been able to count on this business to help us out.

After 20 years of working together we faced some challenges because the restaurant outlived its original owner.

When charismatic owner Donny Dye passed away unexpectedly in 2014 we all wondered what would become of the wonderful traditions many of the Gulf Winds Track Club team following had created here. New owner Mary Beth Demont picked up right where Donny left off and heartily supported our team events 110% for the three years she owned and managed the restaurants. John McIntire bought the restaurants late in 2018 and has embraced the history of the relationship that Gulf Winds Track Club has enjoyed as well. I am here to thank each and every one of the owners and their families for helping to grow the Gulf Winds Track Club team competitions in our Tallahassee events to becoming some of the most competitive team events in the entire southeast. And definitely with the BEST PRIZE!

We have all enjoyed the delicious “slices as big as your head” for twenty years and counting. As our uber competitive racing team captains will tell you.  “NOTHING beats a Momo’s team party!”

Here’s to another 20 years of great times at our favorite restaurant in Tallahassee…

Please join me in congratulating Gulf Wind Track Club’s 2019, now our club’s 37th Community Award winner Momo’s!

Bill Lott Volunteer Award presented by Felton Wright

I am honored to make this presentation as I am reminded that my mother was the first recipient of this award. Volunteers are the heart and soul of what keeps Gulf Winds going.  Without them, the club does not survive.

The 2019 Volunteer of the year is a little annoying. This individual is always smiling and approaching race directors about what help they may need, before they are asked.  This individual has asked me repeatedly during the last year if I know if a certain race director needs help, and who to contact.

This year’s winner was one of the volunteer coordinators for the Turkey Trot. Being a holiday race, that is quite a job and time commitment.  This individual has been a member of the Turkey Trot Volunteer Committee for the past three years.  I quote the race director “The responsibilities of that committee are enormous and no matter how much one prepares, race day is always challenging with the number of things that must happen in a flawless manner in order to ensure a smooth and successful race. It’s always great to have a person like this individual help out.“

This year’s Bill Lott Volunteer Award winner may not be recognized by the club at large for his volunteer efforts, he is certainly recognized in the club for many other things.

He was:

2016 runner of the year.  We don’t count this because this award is not based on how fast you are.

Director of the St Marks Duathlon. We don’t count this because this is not a tri club award.

In addition to what I have already mentioned, what we do count are the volunteer things that go unnoticed. 

Yesterday after running Bowlegs, he was out at Bradley’s picking up trash along the road for the upcoming 30k on the other side of town.  (it wasn’t even a work release date.)

Two years ago, this year’s award winner was performing all of his pre-race duties for Turkey Trot, but he also had plans to run the 15k.   Again quoting the race director” When the starting bell sounded, the award winner ran off with the lead pack…no big surprise…but he did manage to surprise everyone when he came up the GWTC one mile- split clock.  Volunteers were standing around but alas…nobody had started the clock. So, the volunteer of the year did a quick time-out, ran over to the clock, started it, flashed a smile at the volunteers and rejoined the race. He ended up finishing second in a time of 52:25.

Please join me in congratulating Charlie Johnson as our 2019 Bill Lott Volunteer of the year.

Race Director presented by David Yon

The phone rang and Erik’s voice asked if I would be willing to give the presentation for the 2019 Race Director of the Year.  Willing?  “I am thrilled to be asked and yes I want to do it.

With no experience directing a race, this person stepped up to take on one of the most complicated and highest profile races in Tallahassee. She was willing to take on this job in large part because for many years she had worked hard to make sure volunteers were in the correct place and water tables were taken care of by good leaders.

Of course, every race director really wishes they had a remote control for the weather.  I don’t know of anyone who does, not even this terrific director, so when bad weather hit her race, she just made the most of it and wisely guided the race through the process. Processes like “David get your butt back out on the course and remark the tunnels. The rain has washed the chalk away.” 

This will be her third year as the director for the Tallahassee Marathon. In the first year the GWTC board tried to assure her by surrounding her with a committee. Many times, she’d be sitting there quietly while her committee would argue about this or that. She was the one who would say enough is enough, let’s decided and then implement.

She’s dealt with different routes, police closing some of the busiest streets in Tallahassee, and afore mentioned weather.  She has worked to find the right mix of hills, scenery goodies for runners to keep the marathon growing. 

This race director has been a long-time runner in the club. I recall watching her run for Marianna High School, especially in the state end of year meets.  And, she’s often winning the races she competes in including nine Turkey Trot 15K wins and two Springtime 10K titles.  She is s a past recipient of the GWTC Runner of the Year Award.

The race is the Tallahassee Marathon and the 2020 version is coming soon, so get registered if you haven’t already. I proudly present to you the GWTC Race Director of the Year – Sheryl Rosen.

Cleveland-Caldwell Advancement of the Sport presented by Judy Alexander

The Cleveland-Caldwell Advancement of the Sport award is given in recognition of those who make significant contributions to the advancement of running, through research, education or some other area of expertise.

This award winner, who also happened to be inducted into the GWTC Hall of Fame, has advanced the sport in many ways, including the following:

Making runners happy and encouraged by taking and sharing their running photos

Collecting and providing shoes to kids and adults who didn’t have proper footwear during the Summer Track Series (and standing on a ladder to take the aforementioned photos)

Co-directing the Tallahassee Ultra Distance Classic with another valued member of our club

Co-directing the Couples Caper, a fun Valentine’s Day couples relay

Producing the Fleet Foot, month after grueling month, for over 15 years

I spoke with this member’s daughter, and she said she sat with this award winner once while the Fleet Foot was being prepared. She was mind-boggled by all the pieces and parts that had to fit together and work in harmony before our newsletter could be published. This newsletter editor just turned 90 years old.

It is absolutely my honor and my pleasure to present the 2019 Cleveland-Caldwell Advancement of the Sport Award to Mr. Fred Deckert.

Female Runner of the Year presented by Mike Boll

Back in the winter of 2018, I was mountain biking at night at the Alford Greenway.  Every so often, I would see an active, athletic woman out running while I was riding, so I started talking to her. At the time, I thought she was someone I would like to get to know better.  I don’t know what she thought of this stranger talking to her, but I did run into her a few other times at Alford and the Miccosukee Greenway.  Eventually I ended up seeing her at one of the Trail Series races and asked her if she would like to go for a bike ride with me.  She agreed, and one thing led to another, and we’ve now been together for a little over a year and a half.

In that year and a half, I have learned that staying active and fit is very important to the 2019 FROTY.  She has always been very active.  She had been a gym rat for many years.  She also liked riding mountain bikes.  Her primary activity though is running.  Once we started hanging out, she got herself a road bike and she upgraded her mountain bike.

Running was still her number one goal, and 2019 was a year of many firsts for the 2019 FROTY.  She has had a great year of running this year.

She ran her first Marathon at the Tallahassee Ultra in 2018. This run was really a confidence builder for her for running the Tallahassee Marathon and other races she had planned.

She was the first-place Master’s female at the Swamp Forest Half Marathon (and second female overall).

She was the first-place female in the 30K this past year after a tough competition with the second place female finisher.

She ran the Tallahassee Marathon.  This was her second Marathon and was only 2 moths after her first, and she easily broke the 4-hour marathon time. 

She was then first place in her age group at the Cookie Run, the Flash, the Hops And Half Shells race, and the Catfish Crawl.

While at the Rose City run, where she again placed first in her age group for the second year in a row, she stopped into a local bike shop in Thomasville and found a new gravel bike she liked.  We have now been riding clay road rides in addition to the road and mountain bike riding we’ve been doing.  This is another first for the FROTY.

She completed her first 50K this year at the Tick Tock Ultra in Lakeland, FL.  She ran the Tallahassee Ultra 50K this year too.  She is now dedicating her time to run more longer distance races with a goal of a 50 miler this year.  I think with all of her accomplishments, she is very deserving of the Female runner of the year.

I introduce to you the 2019 FROTY, Lourena Maxwell.

Male Runner of the Year presented by Paul Guyas

If you’re like me, the GWTC annual awards banquet is a guessing game and you’ve already been playing along. Maybe over the last few months, few weeks, days, speculating on who may win what. During the drive to Goodwood, I finalize my guesses and maybe make a few friendly wagers. Upon arrival, the game begins – looking for clues …  here’s one: he enjoys cycling.

The first order of business on any good detective’s list? go to the bar and get a drink … he enjoyed football, basketball, and baseball as a youth.

OK, Now we’re ready to investigate. No, wait. Food. I’ve gotta go see what the GP committee and social chair have hooked up for us …. 5k PR 17:04.

OK, Now. wine in one hand, a plate full of low-carb food in the other. Let’s not spill anything as we find a seat, grab the brochure, and get to fact finding … he went to high school in Orlando.

So ,you get your brochure, you look at the major awards hunting for hints. Who are the past winners? … half marathon PR 1:25:49

You look at the presenters and try to connect the dots. Who knows who? Who trains together? friend, coach, student, mentor. In my case, it won’t help … An aspiring philanthropist who has tripped over armadillos while running in the dark.

Actually, I don’t know this runner very well at all but I made this nomination because what he did this year was particularly noticeable to me. What I’m saying is that I got a good look at the soles of his shoes because he was always in front of me … speaking of shoes, his favorite shoes: Asics cumulus, Altra Golden spike, and if my eye is as keen as I think it is, I also noticed my own favorite the Altra Vanish-R’s

Going back in the archives, you’ll find our winner with age group finishes of 21, 17, 27, 19. More recently things have changed …. for this former member of Gainesville’s FL track club.

In the last 7 years: winning the AG 4 times and finishing 2, 3, 5, … mile PR 5:01

He has finished first AG in every GP race he ran this year.  But I’m not here to tell the story of age-group competition, but overall competition. Going back, the winner had some OA finishes in the 35-40 range. But that’s the past. This year, we witnessed greatness…. he finished the last 7 miles of his first marathon barefoot.

This year, GWTC had something occur that is without precedent. Finishing the OA GP competition in 16th place which I believe is a Club record for an athlete in his 60’s, Ladies and gentlemen the GWTC 2019 MROY getting stronger with age, Bill McNulty.

Female Triathlete of the Year presented by Kory Skrob

Our female triathlete of the year began her triathlon season at Red Hills with a penalty. That’s right.

But that’s not why we are giving her the award.

She completed 10 Grand Prix triathlons which is more than anyone else in our club, man or woman.  And she is fast, earning podium finishes including a Master’s win at Sprint on the Flint, 1st place AG at Ft. Rucker Triathlon, 2nd place AG at Georgia Veterans Triathlon and 3rd place AG at the Callaway Olympic Triathlon and Red Hills.

Plus, she competed in two Ironman 70.3’s at Florida Gulf Coast and Augusta. 

These results are all the more impressive when you realize she had injuries this spring into the fall that prevented her from running.

She has served on the Gulf Winds Tri board the last three years, is the new Vice President for 2020, publisher for the Gulf Winds Triathletes newsletter, our holiday party planner and social media specialist.

And, triathlon is just her hobby. 

More importantly, she’s the wife of Steve and mom to Allison, Olivia, Madeline and triplet boys, Jack, Ben and Luke.  Yes, that’s 6 children!

And, when she’s looking for a little extra exercise, she wakes up at 3:30 am to go teach Boot Camp classes beginning at 5:00 am. All this she fits in while managing her real estate holdings spread across several states. 

Although she’s only lived in Tallahassee a few years, she’s brought positive energy, joy and friendship to everyone she meets. 

She is one of the kindest, funnest, and friendliest people I know.

I am honored to announce your Gulfwinds Triathletes, female triathlete of the year, my friend, Tina Bahmer.

Male Triathlete of the Year presented by Bill Dillon

Our winner this evening is a man who has been a fixture in Tallahassee triathlon circles for many years.  As a competitor, he is usually not the fastest racer outside of his division but he is always working hard and competing.  Our winner is certainly not a person that shies away from a challenge but rather tackles them head on. He has finished multiple Ironman and Half-Ironman races.  He is a multiple time finisher of the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon.  This race requires participants to jump off a boat into 55 degree water with strong currents and swim 1.5 miles to shore….hoping all the way that you don’t have an encounter with the sharks, seals or sea lions who reside on the course.  After a half mile run to their bikes, athletes then begin an 18 mile ride with about 1500 feet of climbing (which our winner once did standing the whole way with a broken seat post); after the bike the course finishes, athletes must complete a hilly 8 mile run including the dreaded 200 foot sand ladder climb. Each year it seems that there at least a couple of Tallahassee athletes who decide to take on this challenge and our winner helps them by providing tips and pointers, but more importantly calms their nerves so that they know they can complete the race.

During this last year, our winner, decided to tackle Ironman Lake Placid, one of the more difficult Ironman races outside of Kona.  Although he had already done this race several years before, he decided to do it again, along with a group of other Tallahassee athletes, to raise money for the RonStrong Foundation, named in honor of former club member Ron Nieto who passed away from cancer in 2018,  with the funds ultimately being used for the benefit of the TMH Cancer Center.

Aside from being a great athlete and all-around great guy, our winner is a man who also values his faith and his family. He is active in his church and he is the proud father of recent college graduate and new college freshman.  He has a wonderful wife who is his biggest fan and who graciously puts up with all of these crazy races.

Going into 2020, in collaboration with Team Fox, our winner will be working to raise funds for Parkinson’s research.  This new collaboration takes on a bit of a more personal challenge but one that our winner, his family and friends will tackle with dedication and perseverance.

Without further ado, I am proud to present the Gulfwinds Male Triathlete of the Year to my friend Robert Palmer.

GWTC Hall of Fame presented by Mary Jean Yon

Here’s a little factoid you may not have known. Did you know that of the 40 members of the GWTC Hall of Fame, that only 28% of those members are women? True!

So that leads us to an immediate gender reveal for our award winner. And no…that’s not why our award winner was selected but rather it relates to the very big footprint she has made in our community on behalf of GWTC. Trust me…it won’t take long to figure this one out!

Anybody here like cookies? Girl Scout cookies? Next month the 27th running of the Run For the Cookies 5K will take place on February 8th and I am going to hazard a guess that our award winner has been there for all 27 years letting the Girl Scout Council of the Big Bend think they were the race directors when we all know otherwise.

Every summer she plays an integral role in putting on the Summer Track Series and helping to introduce area youth to running. Other races this award winner has played a strong leadership role in include: Miller Landing Madness, the Palace Saloon, Hops & Half Shells, Woodstock at SouthWood and probably many more than I can list here.

And she’s not afraid to pitch in and help too. Just ask Hall of Fame member, Peg Griffin, who summed it up like this, “She is a leader and her style is to lead by example. She does not ask anyone to do anything she is not willing to do, or has not already done, herself.” My best memories of this award recipient are how much she contributes to the Tallahassee Turkey Trot. Over the span of 15 years, this award recipient has assisted in data entry for Turkey Trot registration and has experienced everything from being cooped up in the smoke-filled motor home of the so-called professionals we used to pay to do our chip timing to hanging out with Peg in all sorts of venues and weather conditions to make sure every runner gets entered into the Turkey Trot data base. Here’s another quote from Peg: “She is always willing to assist and gives 100% to any effort she undertakes. There are no shortcuts. There is a right way to do something and a wrong way to do something and she always chooses the right way.”

Our award winner also chaired the GWTC Awards Committee for many years and helped shape that process to ensure the integrity of the system.

So, that is a small slice of what this award recipient does within the club. Let’s pause for a moment and consider how she promotes the club to the community at large. Her involvement at Tallahassee Community College over the years, whether it was the many years she taught there or her post-retirement involvement. opened many opportunities to connect with GWTC. She was inducted into the TCC Hall of Fame in 2018 and many of the reasons cited for that honor mirror much of what has paved the way for her to enter the GWTC Hall of Fame.

Please join me in congratulating Jeanne O’Kon as the newest member of the GWTC Hall of Fame.

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