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Jesse Owens Awards Ceremony celebrates the best of 2015


HOUSTON -- The 2015 season was feted Saturday evening at the 2015 Jesse Owens Awards Ceremony, held at the Hyatt Regency Houston in conjunction with USATF’s Annual Meeting. The ceremony was hosted by NBC Sports’ Todd Harris.

USATF Athletes of the Year Ashton Eaton and Allyson Felix, Nike Coach of the Year Bobby Kersee, USATF Masters Athlete of the Year Bernard Lagat and USATF Youth Athlete of the Year Candace Hill all accepted their awards with speeches Saturday, and the guests looked back at the year that was, including a special behind-the-scenes capturing of the NBC Sports control room for Felix’s gold-medal performance in the 400m.

Attendees also got to see a never before seen clip of the movie Race with Stephan James, who also introduced the Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year, Ashton Eaton.

Wing Awards given to fan favorites

The Wing Awards, formerly known as the Fan’s Choice Awards, were also handed out Saturday evening. Fans voted for the honors on, USATF’s relaunching of USATF Rewards. Athletes were nominated in five categories for their phenomenal 2015 performances, including Best World Championships Field Performer, Best World Championships Track Performer, Inspirational Performance of the Year, Breakthrough Athlete of the Year and Relay Performance of the Year. A full list of nominees can be found here and the winners are listed below.

Best World Championships Field Performer - Christian Taylor – In a battle with rival Pedro Pablo Pichardo, Taylor utilized his final jump of 18.21m to set a new American record in the triple jump and shattered his own world lead to win the gold.

Best World Championships Track Performer - Allyson Felix - Felix was Team USA’s only individual world champion on the track and also took home two relay team silver medals en route to being voted 2015 Jackie Joyner-Kersee Female Athlete of the Year.

Inspirational Performance of the Year - Aries Merritt, IAAF World Championships - Before the start of the IAAF World Championships, Merritt shared his impending kidney transplant, scheduled just days after Closing Ceremony. Merritt, competing on just 20% kidney function, won the bronze medal in Beijing, and underwent a successful kidney transplant three days later.

Breakthrough Athlete of the Year - Jenna Prandini, University of Oregon - Prandini won the NCAA 100m title and finished as the runner-up in the 200m and long jump in 2015. She shocked the field in the women’s 200m at the USATF Outdoor Championships and won silver as a member of the 4x100m relay in Beijing. Prandini is also a finalist for USTFCCCA’s Bowerman Award.

Relay Performance of the Year - Men’s Distance Medley Relay, IAAF World Relays - The U.S. team of Kyle Merber, Brycen Spratling, Brandon Johnson and Ben Blankenship turned in a world-beating performance, with Blankenship’s grit in the 1,600m leg bringing home a world record of 9:15.50.

Ron and Laurie Boemker named Rico Lifetime Achievement Award recipients

In addition to the Wing Awards, USATF also presented the Rico Lifetime Achievement Award to Ron and Laurie Boemker. Formerly known as USATF's Pacesetter Award, the Heliodoro and Patricia Rico Lifetime Achievement Award acknowledges individuals with the drive and vision to reach the highest plateau of the sport through their chosen area of involvement.

Ron Boemker became an official in 1978, and has since officiated track & field, cross country, and LDR at all levels ranging from all-comers’ meets to Boston Marathons, Junior Olympics, World events and Paralympic Games. He was a competition manager for the 1996 U.S. Paralympic Trials and Paralympic Games, and was meet director for two National Wheelchair Games. Ron has also served as the New England Association President and president of his state officials’ organization.

Laurie has been an IAAF National Technical Official since 2004 and a certified USATF official since March of 1983 (TAC). Her experiences encompass various roles at all levels of USATF Championships, including meets for elites, Juniors, Youth and Junior Olympics in addition to high school, NCAA Division-I, and meets for para-athletes. She chairs the IAAF National Official Subcommittee, served as co-chair of officials diversity committee, assisted with the implementation of turbo-jav for USATF Youth athletes and, as an athlete, competed at the 1971 Pan American Games.

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