INDIANAPOLIS - Christine Kennedy (Los Gatos, Calif.) has been named the 2011 Masters Athlete of the Year by USA Track and Field’s Masters Committee. Kennedy will be honored on Saturday, December 3, at the Jesse Owens Awards and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in St. Louis, Mo. The event is held in conjunction with USA Track & Field’s Annual Meeting.
Kennedy, 56, owned the roads in 2011 by winning the USA Masters 5 km, 10 km, and 15 km championships this year. Kennedy also won two events at the 2011 World Masters Athletics Championships. In a span of nine days, Kennedy won both the 5,000m and the marathon. Her marathon finish of 3:00:48 was good enough to finish as the third-place female overall and win gold in her age-group.
Kennedy’s highest age-graded performance of the year came from the Boston Marathon where she finished in 2:56:17. Kenedy won her age-group with time to spare; she finished nearly 12 minutes faster than the second woman in her age-group.
“I feel that USA Track & Field has done an amazing job of bringing masters competitions to the high level that they are today,” Kennedy said. “And I just wanted to be a part of that. The championships have given me a great inspiration to continue to race the best that I can.”
Kennedy started running while an Irish citizen at the age of 27. Kennedy was inspired after watching the Dublin Marathon and she decided that she too would go run a marathon and someday win one. When she told her husband and family, they first thought she was joking and laughed at her idea.
“I was so hurt by that [their laughter] I decided to start training, and it took me five years to win the Dublin Marathon, and I haven’t looked back since,” Kennedy said.
“The committee really was very proud to name her athlete of the year in a unanimous decision,” said Don Lein, Chair of the Masters Long Distance Running Committee. “She is a phenomenal athlete. We were impressed with not only what she had done this year, but her record over the years has been outstanding.”
Now a U.S. citizen, Kennedy finds special meaning in being named the Masters Athlete of the Year.
“I was shocked,” she said. “To receive an award like this is unbelievable. Being a U.S. citizen now and running for the U.S. at the Masters World Championships in the 5,000, all I could think of was that I would love to be on the podium and hear the national anthem. I feel I’ve been adopted by the U.S. and given a second chance to race again. It’s a chance of a lifetime and I’ve been very luck to race and continue to put out the best performances that I can.”
The Masters Athlete of the Year award was established in 2004 to recognize the outstanding performances by 40-and-over athletes. A list of previous winners can be found here.