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Emma Coburn, Sam Kendricks take Jackie Joyner-Kersee Award and Jesse Owens Award as USATF athletes of the year


INDIANAPOLIS – Steeplechase world champion Emma Coburn (Crested Butte, Colorado) has been named the 2017 USATF Jackie Joyner-Kersee Award winner, while world champion pole vaulter Sam Kendricks (Oxford, Mississippi) has won the 2017 USATF Jesse Owens Award, USATF announced Monday.


The Jackie Joyner-Kersee Award honors the top female USATF athlete of the year while the Owens Award honors the top male athlete. Winners are determined by a vote of the U.S. track and field media and an online fan vote. Coburn and Kendricks will be honored at the 2017 Jesse Owens Banquet on Saturday, December 2 in Columbus, Ohio as part of the USATF Annual Meeting. Tickets are available online.


Coburn made history as the first American ever to win a world title in the steeplechase, setting championship and American records in the process, while Kendricks turned in an undefeated season, including his first career world title.


“In an enormously successful year for Team USATF, Emma and Sam are being honored as the best of the best,” USATF CEO Max Siegel said. “On behalf of USATF, we congratulate them on historic seasons and thank them for inspiring their teammates, the country and the next generation of athletes.”


2017 Jackie Joyner-Kersee Athlete of the Year: Emma Coburn

A world title, American record and World Championships record were just part of what was a busy 2017 for Coburn.


In London at the IAAF World Championships, Coburn led a shocking 1-2 Team USATF finish after snatching the lead on the final lap in one of the season’s most dramatic races, considered the strongest women’s steeplechase field ever assembled. Coburn’s winning time of 9:02.58 set a championship record and American record, and she became the first American since Hall of Famer Horace Ashenfelter in 1952 to win a steeplechase gold in a global championship. It also marked the first time in history Americans have gone 1-2 in an Olympic or World Championships steeplechase, as teammate Courtney Frerichs finished second. A win at the USATF Outdoor Championships earlier in the summer had given Coburn a sixth USATF steeplechase title to punch her ticket to London.


On September 30, she organized and hosted a 5k in her hometown of Crested Butte, Colorado, and two weeks later, on October 14, she married her longtime boyfriend, Joe Bosshard, in Hawaii.


Coburn joins USATF’s history books with the ranks of previous winners such as Joan Benoit, Gail Devers, Florence Griffith-Joyner, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Lynn Jennings, Deena Kastor and Allyson Felix.


“I'm so honored to be named the Jackie Joyner-Kersee award winner and feel very fortunate to be among the athletes that have won this award in the past,” Coburn said. “All of the nominees were incredibly deserving, and I was motivated and inspired by their performances all year. Thank you to the media and fans who voted for me. I am grateful every day for the support I receive and am encouraged by it to push harder. This is truly an unexpected honor. Thank you to everyone who made it a reality.”


2017 Jesse Owens Athlete of the Year: Sam Kendricks

Sam Kendricks’ 2017 was a stellar one. He went undefeated in 17 competitions. He won the 2017 USATF Outdoor Championships with a world-leading jump of 6.0m/19-8.25. He earned gold and had a nearly perfect IAAF World Championships, defeating France’s world record-holder, Renaud Lavillenie.  To top it off, he got engaged to his long-time girlfriend, Leanne, whom he’s set to marry on December 29 in Oxford, Mississippi.


In a season of 17 victories, several stood out for the U.S. Army Reservist. His year got off to a strong start with the USATF Indoor title. Outdoors, he won his second USATF title of the year in 6-meter fashion. Throughout the summer, he scored major wins against international competition

at Eugene, Oregon; Shanghai, China; Lausanne, Switzerland; Zurich Switzerland; Berlin; and Paris en route to winning the IAAF Diamond League title in the pole vault. In all, it was one of the greatest seasons ever for an American pole vaulter.


“To even be considered among the elite is a great honor,” said Kendricks, who joins previous Jesse Owens Award winners such as Carl Lewis, Edwin Moses, Michael Johnson, Maurice Greene, Kevin Young and Ashton Eaton. “To be awarded Athlete of the Year is something I never could have done alone. I’ve been amazed by this year and the people who have helped me on this journey. Thank you!”


For more about the Jesse Owens and Jackie Joyner-Kersee Awards, including past winners, click here.


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