A Night to Smile

David Yon, January 10, 2022

​There should always be a reason to smile, even if we have to look around a bit to find it. The Gulf Winds Track Club (GWTC) Annual Awards Ceremony provided plenty of reasons to smile on Sunday, January 9, 2022, when the club held its Annual Awards Presentation at the Goodwood Museum and Gardens.  The ceremony provides a great opportunity to recognize the skills and hard work of members of GWTC and major contributors to GWTC and the running and triathlete community.  Awards were also presented for performances in the Grand Prix competition.  Bill McGuire served as master of ceremonies.

While COVID, Omicron style, reduced the size of the crowd somewhat and kept participants further apart than normal, it had little impact on the quality of the presentations or the quality of the award winners.

The top award of the night, induction into the GWTC Hall of Fame went to Chika Okoro. Judy Alexander had the honor of presenting the award.  She started by noting that members of the Hall of Fame should be “Individuals who have brought respect to the Gulf Winds Track Club through their contributions, activities, and running accomplishments, and who have played a major role in shaping the ideals of the club.” She went on to describe why Chika deserved the award.

GWTC Hall of Fame Induction – 2021
Chika Okoro
presented by Judy Alexander

This runner is described by their friends as friendly, humble, genuine, inclusive, loving, kind, dependable, positive, energetic, supportive, inspirational, phenomenal, welcoming, a dynamo. This runner has been running for nearly 20 years, has done about eight marathons, more than 2 dozen half marathons & a whole host of other races of various distances. But if you were to ask how many times this runner has come through as a volunteer in a clinch and helped with anything and everything club related, the answer would be in the hundreds of times. I can’t even imagine how many people are regular runners and walkers now because of the encouragement and leadership provided by this club member…  This club member has served on the Board, received the Cleveland Caldwell Advancement of the Sport Award, and won a national award through Road Runners Club of America for gathering and championing beginner runners. And they do all these things with a big warm smile, quietly and without fanfare. They usually deflect praise to someone who may – or may not – have assisted them. The Gulf Winds Track Club is a bigger, better, and more well-respected organization because of this runner’s constantly positive ambassadorship.

Cleveland-Caldwell Advancement of the Sport Award – 2021
Chris Stanley
presented by David Yon

I had the honor of presenting the Cleveland Caldwell Advancement of the Sport Award to Chris Stanley.  This award goes to someone who has made significant educational and practice-oriented contributions to the sport of track and field and running this past year. Chris’ wife Lauren (who nominated him) wrote that Chris “served as the Lead Sport Psychologist for U.S. Track and Field during the Tokyo Olympics. This position required his psychological, psycho-educational, and emotional support of the  U.S. Track and Field athletes during the Tokyo Olympics. This position required his psychological, psycho-educational, and emotional support of the athletes before, during, and after their time in Japan.” I would imagine his task was more than difficult just dealing with the stop-starting of COVID – 19.  Additionally, he has a book scheduled to be released in 2022 that provides insight for coaches working with athletes who have hidden disabilities. He identifies numerous ‘hidden’ disabilities (e.g. ADHD) and other sensory/muscular conditions, how they manifest in sport, and provides insight for coaches working with these athletes. He is a member of USATF and the Association of Applied Sport Psychology. Beyond his work with elite athletes, Chris participates in coaching conferences (North American, Central American, and Caribbean Athletics Association) providing lectures on mental skills training for track and field coaches. Additionally, he was a guest on the High-Performance Mindset with Dr. Kamphoff; a podcast for athletes of all abilities. In his spare time, he supports local athletes with pro bono Sport Psychology services, volunteers with youth running activities, and is an active participant in GWTC events. His passion for running is evident in all he does.

GWTC Community Award – 2021
Church at SouthWood
presented by Mary Jean Yon

This story starts before 2011 when a fellow by the name of Don McLaughlin would run the Turkey Trot 5K and couldn’t help but notice the long lines of runners waiting in line at water stations.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone hand runners a bottle of water upon finishing the race?” he mused.

And thus a wonderful program began! Don just so happened to be the Pastor at Life Basics Church at that time. He still is…but the name has changed to the Church at SouthWood.

The last time Don ran the 5K at Turkey Trot was in 2010. In 2011, Don and his team at the church implemented his vision of hydrating runners. That year, a total of 2,500 customized water bottles were waiting for the Turkey Trot participants near the finish line.

The number of water bottles has steadily increased over the last ten years with a peak of 5,500 bottles ordered in 2014. Each year the bottle features the Turkey Trot logo and matches the color of the shirts as much as possible. It is also important to note that these reusable bottles also help towards the goal of avoiding single use plastics and helping Turkey Trot be a little more green and environmentally friendly.

Never has a request been made to help purchase these water bottles or rent the U-Haul needed to stage everything. Quite the opposite…Don and the members of the Church at SouthWood not only absorb those expenses, they are also a major financial supporter of Turkey Trot.

Don and his team share a sense of community with Turkey Trot and with their high level of commitment and a belief in doing the best you can do…we are proud to award them the GWTC 2021 Community Award.

​Bill Lott Volunteer of the Year Award
Presented by Bill Hillison

Thank you for the honor of presenting the GWTC Bill Lott Volunteer of the Year Award. This will be an audience participation event with you helping me identify this year’s recipient. I ask everyone in the room to raise their hand and keep it up until I tell you to lower it.

Keep your hand up if you volunteered for the GWTC in any capacity in 2021, otherwise put it down. I see that almost everyone still has a hand up. That is great as GWTC is solely a volunteer organization and could not continue without member participation. Also, it means that you are still in contention for the award!

Keep your hand up if you volunteered at any GWTC races in 2021, otherwise put it down. Again, many still have a hand up, including our recipient.

Keep your hand up if you also volunteered for Tri Club events in 2021, otherwise put it down. We lost most of our audience, but a few still have a hand up.

Keep your hand up if you timed or helped time GWTC races in 2021, otherwise put it down. We lost almost everyone but our recipient, and, of course, Bill Lott!

Now the clincher. Keep your hand up if you are the editor of The Fleet Foot, otherwise put it down. There is only one hand still up!

We have identified this year’s recipient of the GWTC Bill Lott Volunteer of the Year Award, my good friend, Robert Skrob.

There were so many deserving winners it is impossible to give them all attention they deserve but I can list them at least.  Over the next few days, a more complete list and copies of the presentations will appear in this article.  The following is a list of the other annual awards and the winners.  It is enough to make you smile.

  • Female Triathlete of the Year – Melanie Leitman presented by Bill Dillon
  • Male Triathlete of the Year – Daniel Cook presented by Tina Bahmer
  • Female Runner of the Year – Tsige Tadesse presented by Korey Skrob
  • Male Runner of the Year – Ryan Truchelut presented by Lisa Unger
  • Race Directors of the Year – Bill and Kelli Dillon

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