27th Annual Huntsville Track Club Awards

12/27/2010 - 08:50

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After a pleasant drive up Monte Sano Mountain, we entered the magnificent old stone Monte Sano State Park Lodge banquet room to the beautiful, soothing music of Shirley Hardy playing the harp. After a short period of socializing while all arrived, the more than 100 members and guests attending the 27th Annual Huntsville (AL) Track Club Awards Banquet were treated to a superb spaghetti dinner gratis of the HTC. The music and food had set the mood for a wonderful evening of award presentations.

The HTC considers our members, and especially those who volunteer, to be the club’s greatest asset. As a result the club makes a special effort each year to honor those who contribute to the club’s success.

The Outstanding HTC High School Cross Country Runners of the Year were Jacob Fuller and Alaina Norman. These two awards go to the top HTC finisher in the Metro Cross Country Meet, and this year both were the overall male and female Metro Champions.

Each year the HTC presents several awards to organizations or individuals who support club events. The HTC Service Award went to the local Domino’s Pizza franchise owner, Tony Osani, who also happens to be an HTC member and triathlete. Domino’s provides 4500 individual pizzas for the club’s Memorial Day Cotton Row Run as well as the volunteers to distribute them to all the finishers. Domino’s also provides product to a number of other smaller club races and race committee meetings.

The Holiday Inn Downtown received the HTC Appreciation Award. Beginning in 1991, the hotel has served as race headquarters for a full weekend of Rocket City Marathon activities with the start and finish being located just outside the hotel. They also provide runner lodging discounts for other club races. Director of Sales, Patricia Hurston, accepted.

In 1986, the HTC presented its first Media Award to honor the outstanding newspaper coverage of club events to Chris Welch of the Huntsville Times sports department. For a number of years Welch has been editor of the entertainment section and during that time he has become an avid runner and member of the HTC. Two years ago the Times offered Welch an opportunity to cover running in the “Get Healthy” section, he jumped at the opportunity. “Huntsville has never had better coverage of our sport and promotion of its benefit to fitness than that afforded by The Huntsville Times through Welch’s coverage,” Jim Oaks stated, in presenting once again the HTC Media Award to Chris Welch.

The HTC Outstanding Male and Female Performance Awards went to Josh Whitehead and Kathy Youngren. In presenting the award to Whitehead, Craig Armstrong stated, “In 2009, his first year of serious road racing after many years of bicycle racing, he entered 43 running races, where he won 29 of them and placed in the top three in all the others except three.” He was second at the Rocket City Marathon running 2:34:23 in his first marathon. In that short period he has achieved personal best of 15:23 for the 5K, 31:55 for the 10K and 1:09:53 for the half marathon.

After completing the 135 mile Badwater Ultramarathon from Death Valley to Mount Whitney in 2009 as the only Alabamian to ever run the event, Kathy Youngren had a 2010 year that will be hard to match. Several highlights are: Second overall behind her husband Rob in the Antarctica Marathon in 3:58:59 and the only woman to ever break four hours on the continent; First female at the Strolling Jim 41 miler and at the Scenic City Trail Marathon; and in South Dakota she finished second overall and first female in the Lean Horse 50-miler. Those and many others were topped off with the 2010 Spartathlon, which is a 153-mile race from Athens to Sparta in Greece in which less than a third of the starters finish. Award presenter, Joey Butler stated, “Kathy made us all proud by going over there and finishing the race as the fifth female in a time of 33:35:06 and the only American of the five entered to finish the race.” Youngren has served as the HTC Treasurer for eight years and her volunteerism matches her greatness as an ultra runner.

There are two RRCA national awards for which the HTC President nominates a club member each year. The HTC nominee for the RRCA Rod Steele Outstanding Volunteer in the Nation Award this year was Dink Taylor. In 1995, Dink Taylor, an avid ultra marathoner and trail runner founded the Mountain Mist 50K Trail Run and has directed what has become the South’s premier ultra trail race for all of its 16 years. For 14 years he also directed the low key Recover from the Holidays 50K, another race he founded. For the last 6 years Dink and his wife Suzanne have directed the Rocket City Marathon and for the last four years the Cotton Row Run, both Running Journal Grand Prix races. They are involved in all club races and also serve on the HTC Executive Board.

The HTC nominee for the RRCA Browning Ross Spirit of the RRCA Award this year was Jim Oaks. He has served on the Rocket City Marathon Committee for 30 years and the Cotton Row Run Committee 22 years and as the CRR director for five years. Oaks’ is the HTC computer race registration and finish timing guru handling the finish line for most club races and tens of other local races and always has official results posted on the website the day of the race. He is currently HTC VP-Programs. He was selected as one of the all time top 25 volunteers of the club at the HTC’s 25th anniversary celebration in 1996 and has not slowed down a bit. He is a two time master’s winner of the HTC Grand Prix with a marathon personal best of 2:33:49 at the age of 45 -- a state age record. In addition the RRCA recognized him as the Rod Steele Outstanding Club Volunteer in 1999. Jim Oaks has served on the RRCA Hall of Fame Selection Committee starting in 1986 and has served as the committee chairman twice, 1990 thru 1992 and 1997 to present.

The HTC Dedication Award was presented to Steve and Jennifer Carter. They are the current directors of the HTC Summer Cross Country Runs which occur every Tuesday night during the three summer months. In presenting the award, Dink Taylor stated, “They are not just at the Summer Runs; it is not unusual to find Steve on the lead bike at a race or out helping mark the Mountain Mist Trail Run or working a finish line.”

The HTC Admiration Award was presented to Eric Charette. He is a good runner, coach and writer, and is the past VP-Races/Equipment. In presenting the award Eric Fritz stated, “When Eric took over the job of handling the equipment, it was in quite a sad state. It was literally the result of over 25 years of what can only be referred to as “collecting stuff”. This was not an easy task but he took it on and organized it with surgical precision.” He often takes on a leading role when a need arises and recently took over as race director for the Recover from the Holidays 50K.

The Tom Bolt (President’s) Award was presented to Brent Smith. This award is named in honor of the founding President of the Huntsville Track Club who served as President for the first four terms of office (eight years). In making the award David Purinton stated, “This year’s winner had been giving back to the club very soon after becoming a member in 1979. In the same year our winner ran his first marathon, the Rocket City Marathon, he became a fixture in the cadre of HTC volunteers.” In 1995 he joined the marathon committee taking on the coordination of several major tasks. Brent Smith has also volunteered for key jobs with Cotton Row and for many years he has helped with the timing and scoring at countless other HTC events.

Huntsville 2.jpgThe Norman Harris Achievement Award was presented to George DeWitt. It was with this award in 1984 that the club, under then President Norm Harris, began the annual recognition of club members for their contributions to the success of the Huntsville Track Club and in 2002 this award was renamed in his honor. In presenting the award Harold Tinsley stated, “Most of you probably know the winner of this year’s award winner as an outstanding master’s runner or as the race director of the HTC’s triathlon, but his contributions to the HTC go far beyond that.” After moving to the Huntsville area in 2005, DeWitt joined the HTC in 2006 and became the Huntsville Sprint Triathlon director the next year. The triathlon is one of the more logistically difficult HTC events. This would be the first event for DeWitt to direct, so it was a major undertaking in that he had no previous experience and the previous triathlon director was leaving town. Under DeWitt’s guidance the triathlon flourished. He frequently volunteers for other club races before and after the event in which he will also run. One race director stated, “He is a phenomenal worker and has been such an asset to our Track Club.” Oct. 7, 2009, was DeWitt’s 51st birthday. The next morning when he woke up he could not see and everything was swirling around. In the emergency room tests showed he was having a stroke and they also found a small hole in his heart. He was in intensive care for several days and was not released from the hospital until Oct. 16. Recovery was slow and it was the next April before he was back to running his normal hills and 70 miles per week training and again winning races and setting state records. Although DeWitt has only been running in Huntsville five years, and one of those was erased by his illness, he has still set 30 state age records from the 2-mile to the marathon. From age 47 to 50 he ran the following times in the Rocket City Marathon: 2:41:12, 2:38:34, 2:38:27 and 2:39:16; and was the overall master’s winner at Rocket City in 2005 and 2006.

HTC race directors bring their race shirt and those at the meeting vote for the Best HTC T-shirt Award. McKay Hollow Madness Half Marathon Trail Run was this year’s winner. Gift certificates were also presented to the top 10 percent for the 26th Annual Huntsville Track Club Grand Prix males and females in the open, masters, and grand masters categories.

Complete award presentations are available online at the club’s website:

Top Photo: 2010 Huntsville Track Club Award Winners (left to right) Jim Oaks, Dink Taylor, George DeWitt, Josh Whitehead, Patricia Hurston, Steve Carter, Eric Charette, Kathy Youngren, Chris Welch, Alaina Norman, Jacob Fuller, Tony Osani. Not shown: Brent Smith.

Bottom Photo: 2010 Huntsville Track Club Grand Prix Award Winners (left to right) Kathy Youngren, Robert Whitaker, Whitney Hollingsworth, Joe Francica, Melissa Wood, David Purinton, Josh Whitehead, Eric Charette.

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