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 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.

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

I thought it was particularly apropos that Sheryl Rosen was named the 2019 Race Director of the Year for her outstanding effort directing the Tallahassee Marathon, Half Marathon and Relay Races.  I say that because the 2020 Marathon is just around the corner – as in February 2.

If you can, just 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. Last year was Sheryl’s second year of directing the Tallahassee Marathon. While 2018 was her first year directing the race, she was actively involved before that including serving as the volunteer coordinator for several years before she became race director.

Speaking of which, the marathon is still looking for volunteers.  If you have time and are willing, your 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.

Of course, like many organizations, GWTC’s most treasured award is induction into its Hall of Fame.  This year’s inductee is only the 41st person to receive that honor. And Mary Jean Yon, one of those 40, presented this year’s inductee, Jeanne O’Kon, to the crowd.  MJ began by pointing out that of the 40 inductees, only 11 are women (28%). This point was certainly worth making 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:

Recipients of the GWTC Hall of Fame award are those individuals that have brought respect to the club through their contributions, activities, and running and have also had a positive impact upon the development of the club. You knew that already, right? But 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.

One example of that, is her involvement with the annual TCC Women’s History Month awards which celebrate the accomplishments of women in the community. Our inductee is always determined to have at least one of the winners of those awards have a GWTC connection. There are many of us in the club that have been fortunate enough to receive one of these awards over the years and feel that connection with circles outside of the main GWTC core.

Between that and her work with Girls on the Run and other excellent causes…this year’s inductee into the GWTC Hall of Fame makes us all look good.

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

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.

It is enough to make a smile break out on one’s face.



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