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Opening Session kicks off USATF Annual Meeting


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – USA Track & Field members gathered at the Daytona Beach Hilton Thursday as the Opening Session kicked off the organization’s 2012 annual meeting. The State of the Sport address from USATF Chief Executive Officer Max Siegel, recognition of dozens of 2012 Team USA Olympians and an athlete panel featuring London Olympic gold medalists Allyson Felix, Aries Merritt and Ashton Eaton highlighted the evening’s events.

USATF President Stephanie Hightower opened the evening with remarks before announcing her annual President’s Awards. Hightower then turned the stage to Siegel, who reflected on the recent success of Team USA at the London Olympic Games and talked of goals for the future of USA Track & Field.

“When I arrived in Daytona Beach it was my fourth annual meeting, but my first as CEO,” said Siegel, who was appointed as CEO in April of this year. “In my four years of involvement I have seen the sport from many sides and I can say the state of our sport is very strong, but we need to get stronger. Our athletes at the Olympic Games were remarkable. We had so many firsts and bests in London that it would take me 20 minutes to list them all. What all this means is USATF did more than ever to be sure athletes had everything they need.”

Siegel examined numbers from the past year and laid out nine “Smart Goals” that will be the focus as USA Track & Field continues to move forward.

Siegel summarized statistics from the Olympic Games that included Team USA winning a total of 29 medals, which was a 26 percent increse over 2008 and the second-highest total in the modern era. The team scoring in London for plaes first through eighth for Team USA was 304 points, which was a 47 percent increase from 2008. Of the medalists in London, 87 percent had received USATF support through the organization's tier system, which provided monetary, sports science and other support to athletes based on their world rankings.

Siegel continued in going over specifics for each one of the "Smart Goals." Each are summarized below:
1) To increase membership in 2013 by 20 percent with no decrease from 2011 in net income.
2) To generate $1 million in new revenue each year for the next five years.
3) To identify ways to make exisiting opportunities more efficient resulting in financial savings between one and three percent.
4) To identify partners to engage in efforts for direct event promotion. In these partnerships, we share risk, control commercial rights and share profits.
5) To enhance popular engagement through a 15 percent gate increase for events over comparable events from 2011. Then increasing TV ratings by 20 percent and social media by 50 percent.
6) To develop a comprehensive event strategy that includes, rather than segments off, youth, long distance running, masters and administrative events.
7) To establish goals for operating reserves with a five-year goal to have nine months of operating reserves.
8 and 9) Working in tandem to raise $20 million over the next five years to create an endowment with proceeds going to support USATF operations.

Moderated by 1988 Olympian and Max Media Group Principal Leslie Maxie, those in attendance Thursday were given perspective on the standout 2012 seasons from Felix, Merritt and Eaton. Partial excerpts from the athlete panel can be found below.

Celebrating the success of Team USA in London was a theme for the evening.

“What an Olympics it was for Team USA,” Hightower said. “Our Olympic head coaches Amy Deem and Andrew Valmon united our team and it was our best performance since 1992 as we won 29 medals and dominated the team standings.”

To help conclude the evening, 2012 Olympians in attendance at the annual meeting along with team staff and many individual coaches took the stage to be recognized. They were also presented awards by the U.S. Marine Corps. 

Hightower summarized her observations from the past year with USATF.

“The past few years have been very exciting for this organization,” Hightower stated. “January saw our first ever combined men’s and women’s Olympic Trials for the marathon and it was a huge success. The summer saw incredible success. We had our largest Junior Olympics take place in Baltimore with more than 8,000 kids. In masters track and field, Bob Lida received the WMA (World Masters Athletics) Masters Athlete of the Year award. And I have to state that none of our national championships could take place without dedication volunteers, officials and timers.”

Hightower then announced her annual President’s Awards and Harold “Lefty” Martin, Ruth White, Becca Gillespy Peter, Mike Spinnler, Alan Kolling, Elizabeth Philips, Jeff Darman and Pam Fales all received honors.

The evening was started with Charles Clark singing the national anthem. Clark was a 10-time NCAA All-American and three-time NCAA champion while competing for Florida State University.

Allyson Felix, Aries Merritt and Ashton Eaton Athlete Panel Excerpts
Hosted by Leslie Maxie

Allyson Felix (three-time London Olympic gold medalist)
On her work away from the track
“A lot of that stuff is icing on the cake. When opportunities come you really enjoy taking advantage of them. A highlight for me was going to Africa. The experience was so powerful to be in a position to give something back. Everything was amazing and Africa was so beautiful. It’s enjoyable and you feel like all of the hard work pays off.”

On what to tell herself as a young athlete
“I would say to be patient. It takes a long time to run fast and it’s a hard lesson. You want results and want to see things pay off right away. It’s really learning to embrace the journey. You are going to have ups and downs but it’s a long road. I’m happy I finally came to the point where things came together.”

On how sweet it is now
“It definitely is. Two times I was the silver medalist and it’s not the best position to be in. But it’s very sweet once it happens.”

Will she be in Rio (2016 Olympic Games)?

Aries Merritt (London 110-meter hurdles Olympic gold medalist and world record holder)
On accomplishing all of his dreams in 2012
“You work all of your life to achieve goals of being on the Olympic team. I said after (the World Indoor Championships) that I didn’t know if I would even make the Olympic team. To go to the Olympics was a blessing and to go on and set the world record was icing on the cake.”

On the time between the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games
“It has haunted me for a long time. Even leading up to the Olympic Games I didn’t know if I would make the team. Anything can happen. You have to stay focused. To win the Olympic Trials is such an honor. I like to thank everyone for paving the way for me to be where I am today.”

Ashton Eaton (London Olympic decathlon gold medalist and world record holder)
On the next four years
“Coming off the Games I think I have accomplished a lot of the things you can accomplish in track and field early. To be able to go to practice every day to jump and throw and have fun is easy. Hopefully you can feel the love that I have for the sport. I look in the mirror and I wonder how can I be considered the world’s greatest athlete.”

On Harry Marra being named Nike Coach of the Year
“It is something he is being rewarded for that I have known for a long time. One of the reasons I wanted to do so well is that he deserves it. Sometimes I wonder if I am putting in the same work he is. It is very good to see him win that award.”

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