14 for ’13: USAT names 2013 Annual Award winners

Dec. 20, 2013, 3:21 p.m. (ET)

USA Taekwondo honored 14 individuals on Friday with annual honors, which recognized the top Senior, Junior and Cadet Male and Female Athletes, Club, Coach, Referee, Volunteer and Family of the Year, as well as the Alexa Miller Award, Director’s Leadership Award and the Board of Directors Special Recognition Award.

2013 USAT Annual Award winners:
Senior Male Athlete of the Year- Stephen Lambdin
Senior Female Athlete of the Year- Noreen Thackrey
Junior Male Athlete of the Year- Brandon Ivey
Junior Female Athlete of the Year- Kelsey Junious
Cadet Male Athlete of the Year- Joshua Liu
Cadet Female Athlete of the Year- Danielle Wassell
Club of the Year- NTA Taekwondo (Coppell, Texas)
Coach of the Year- Christina Bayley
Referee of the Year- John Seiber
Volunteer of the Year- Marco Mack
Family of the Year- The Budde Family
Alexa Miller Award- Barb Kunkel
Director’s Leadership Award- Don Parker
Special Recognition Award- Chris Canning Foundation

“2013 proved to be another standout year for this organization’s member athletes, coaches, referees, volunteers, families, leaders and personalities,” said USA Taekwondo CEO Bruce Harris. “We are proud to celebrate those who excelled this year, and we applaud those who accomplished so much who didn’t win. The pool of talent and character runs deep in this sport, and our 2013 winners were exemplary.”

Lambdin enjoyed a successful 2013 that included a men’s heavyweight National Championship, international achievement and the highest WTF World Ranking point total among U.S. men heading into 2014 competition season. Visible on the international stage, 2013 highlights for Lambdin include gold at the Canada Open, silver at the Argentina Open and a top-15 Olympic ranking in the men’s +80kg division (as of Dec. 13).

Thackrey earned her second consecutive World Championships gold medal in October at the 8th WTF World Taekwondo Poomsae Championships in Bali, Indonesia, giving her four World Championships over the course of her decorated career. Thackrey’s 2013 gold came in the Individual Female Over-59 division (Female 3rd Master), which she also won in 2012.

Ivey continued to grow in 2013, collecting domestic and international medals all year long. His year was highlighted with international gold at the U.S. and Canada Opens, silver at the Junior Pan American Championships, and he fortified his case as one of the top junior athletes in the country with the Junior National Championships heavyweight title and gold at the New York, Virginia and Maryland State Championships.

Junious enjoyed a decorated 2013, earning National Championships in Junior and Senior divisions, as well as gold at the Junior Pan American Championships and bronze at the U.S. Open. In dominant fashion, she also took gold at the Canada Open by point gap (12 points or more) in each of her matches.

Liu collected plenty of gold during his 2013 campaign, taking care of business both internationally and right here at home. He kicked things off with gold at the U.S. Open and never looked back, taking top honors at the Canada Open, USAT National Championships and the New York, Virginia and Maryland State Championships.

Wassell was perfect away from U.S. soil in 2013, earning gold at the Pan American, Canada and Costa Rica Opens. The Texas State Champion also earned bronze at the U.S. Open and USAT National Championships

One of the largest clubs in the nation, NTA Taekwondo in Coppell, Texas, has produced many fine athletes who have gone on to make U.S. National and Collegiate Teams. Led by Master Sang Cha, NTA boasts athletes such as: 2013 National Team member Logan Gerick; 2012 National Team member Thomas Rahimi; 2013 Junior National Team member Sam Scott; 2012 Junior National Team member Madison Giddens; two-time Junior National Team member Connor Wilson; 2013 Cadet National Team member Riley Zuckert; 2012 U.S. Poomsae Team member Chanta Hao; and many more.

Bayley accompanied Team USA abroad in 2013, lending her expertise to U.S. athletes on the world’s biggest stage. She was instrumental in the success of U.S. Junior and Cadet athletes at the Pan American Open and Championships in Mexico this fall, and won Best Female Coach honors at the event.

As referee chair, Seiber served all USAT referees in a leadership capacity that has exponentially grown the sport in the United States. Seiber’s organization of referee seminars, camps and other educational opportunities had a positive impact on the effectiveness, accuracy and fairness of those who officiate this sport.

Whether it is a 4,200-athlete National Championships or the Inaugural USA Taekwondo Convention, Mack is a visible and dedicated friend to USAT and the sport of taekwondo in the U.S. Always with the athletes and the sport’s best interest in mind, no task is too large nor too menial for Mack while helping to keep the wheels in motion at all of USA Taekwondo’s major events.

Mark, Suzanne, Zachery and Madeline Budde approached the 2013 USA Taekwondo competition season as they have for the past several years: selflessly. While at 2013 Junior National Team member Zachery’s events all over the country and the world, the Budde’s make themselves available as volunteers from athlete check-ins to weigh-ins and everything in between. They regularly assist in setting up events such as state tournaments, school fundraisers, charity events and USAT Nationals, just to name a few.

Despite all of her successes in the sport of taekwondo, it could be easily argued that Barb Kunkel’s greatest achievement is her attitude. Diagnosed this year with Stage 3 breast cancer, Kunkel has proven to be an inspiration to USAT members as a coach and as an Olympian. She produced a series of videos and a personal blog documenting her journey and helping people along the way. In the spirit of the Alexa Miller Award— dedicated to young Alexa Miller who did not let progeria, a disease that rapidly ages children, stop her from competing in this sport that she loved so much— Kunkel has continued to be a force in the USAT community. She has not backed down to her challenge, and she has shown us all that we should always fight to win.

Parker demonstrated this year an outstanding measure of leadership in assisting the organization in multiple fields, including his helping the organization back to full certification with the USOC. In 2013, he served as Ethics Committee Chair, Ethics Committee Coordinator, an advisor to the Nominating and Governance Committees, and he helped to craft the Code of Ethics. Parker also served on the delegation that met with the USOC Hearing Panel, which determined whether or not to decertify USA Taekwondo. His tireless work and leadership helped forge the way to a positive 2014 and beyond.

For the last nine years, the Chris Canning Foundation has awarded the Chris Canning Award of Excellence to well-rounded taekwondo athletes who have excelled in competition, the classroom and their communities. The award, which was started in 2005 by Chris’ father, Art, in memory of his son, celebrates athletes who embody success and high character through the arts, athletics, academics and charity. Through the award, thousands of dollars in scholarship money have been given to deserving athletes, and Chris’ memory continues to serve as reminder to USA Taekwondo members to always be upstanding citizens.

Each award winner will receive a commemorative plaque and recognition in this month’s edition of The Belt. Congratulations to this year’s winners!