ST. LOUIS – USA Track & Field Chairman and President Stephanie Hightower, United States Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun and USATF Interim CEO Mike McNees highlighted Thursday at the Hyatt Regency in downtown St. Louis as the 33rd edition of the USA Track & Field Annual Meeting officially kicked off with the Opening General Session.
Hightower welcomed approximately 1,000 volunteers, officials, athletes, coaches and administrators who chart the future of the sport before introducing Blackmun. McNees concluded the evening by delivering his State of the Sport address.
Blackmun thanked the sport of track and field for its continued success then discussed the importance of the positive relationship between USA Track & Field and the USOC.
“It’s really an honor for me and the USOC to be here,” Blackmun told a ballroom full of attendees to the Annual Meeting. “We are grateful for everything that you do. Some of our greater Olympic moments have come from track and field and we feel like we have a great relationship with track and field and we only want it to be better. “
In her opening, Hightower quickly thanked all of those in attendance of the Annual Meeting which runs through Sunday. Emphasizing the importance of all branches of USATF including long distance running, youth, masters, and mountain trail running, along with junior and elite athletes, Hightower talked about a bright future for the sport for 2012.
“We are excited to have your continued commitment to this great sport,” Hightower said. “As we build momentum to next year’s Olympic Games, we hope to carry out our goals of being the world’s No. 1 team.”
McNees concluded the evening by delivering his State of the Sport address in two parts. McNees spoke to the two portions of USA Track & Field’s mission of driving competitive excellence and popular engagement in the sport. He attempted to answer the question of how the organization is doing.
“Why are we here and what are we doing,” McNees said. “Personally, I owe a sincere thank you to all of the USATF members. What is the state of our sport? It’s healthy and it’s strong and it is getting better. I have no doubt not far down the road I can stand here and say the state of the sport is spectacular.”
Specifically, McNees mentioned the competitive excellence was proven with Team USA’s performance at the recent IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Daegu, South Korea, where Team USA won a total of 25 medals. He also made mention of the 59 medals won at the Pan American Junior Championships, 16 medals won at the Pan American Championships, 495 medals won at the World Masters Championships and 16 medals won at the World Youth Championships.
To prove the strength of popular engagement, McNees said in the past year USA Track & Field hosted 57 national championship meets and issued over 6,000 individual event sanctions. Total page views and unique views of the organization’s website increased eight percent and merchandise sales were up 13 percent in the last 12 months. Social media has also increased to include 80,000 facebook fans and close to 20,000 followers on Twitter. Television viewership also increased 28 percent.
The evening was initially kicked off with the singing of the National Anthem by retired Navy Petty Officer First Class and national recording artist Generald Wilson. A native of St. Louis, Wilson recently sang “God Bless America” during Game 6 of the World Series.
Hightower announces Presidential Awards
As part of her remarks and as is done each year, Hightower announced this year’s Presidential Awards given annually to honor those with significant contributions to the sport and organization. The awards included:
Nancy Hobbs for her involvement of growing the sport of mountain running throughout the country. Hobbs’ involvement has included being chairperson of USATF Mountain Ultra Trail Running and being a member of the Executive Committee of women’s Long Distance Running.
Yvonne Grimes for her work on and off the track, which has included raising $40,000 to help the family of an athlete suffering from brain cancer and starting a non-profit organization to supply running gear to athletes who struggle to afford it.
David Katz for his work on the IAAF Technical Committee and working to measure courses both on the track and on the roads.
Cliff McKenzie for time spent as President of the Arizona association and being head coach of the World Youth Championships team.
After a career as an athlete that included an Olympic gold and silver medal and a pair of World Championships gold medals, Jon Drummond for his work as President of the Athletes Advisory Council.
The late Scott Davis who will always known for his voice in covering track and field and for beating cancer twice was also recognized.
For continued information surrounding the USATF Annual Meeting, continue to check www.usatf.org.
USA Track & Field