For Emma Coburn, it was a history-making world title. For Sam Kendricks, it was simply not losing all season.
Those two achievements helped propel Coburn and Kendricks to be named USA Track & Field’s athletes of the year. Coburn won the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Award as the women’s winner and Kendricks won the Jesse Owens Award as the men’s winner. The athletes will be formally honored at the 2017 Jesse Owens Banquet on Dec. 2 in Columbus, Ohio.
Coburn made history in August at the 2017 IAAF World Championships, becoming the first American woman to win a gold medal in steeplechase. Her time of 9:02.58 set a meet and American record. Teammate Courtney Frerichs came in behind Coburn in second. Their 1-2 finish was the first time any U.S. woman won a world medal in steeplechase. Coburn won a bronze medal in steeplechase at the Olympic Games Rio 2016.
In addition to her success on the track, Coburn also organized a 5K run in her hometown and got married in Hawaii in October.
Some of Team USA’s most decorated female athletes have been honored with the Joyner-Kersee Award, including Florence Griffith Joyner, Allyson Felix and the prize’s namesake.
Kendricks went a perfect 17 for 17 in ’17. The 2016 Olympic bronze medalist in pole vault won every competition that he entered, including the USATF Outdoor Championships and the world championships. He set a world record at the outdoor championships with a 6.0-meter jump.
Off the track, the U.S. Army Reservist has one more milestone scheduled for 2017. He and girlfriend Leanne plan to marry on Dec. 29.
Previous winners of the Jesse Owens Award include Carl Lewis, Michael Johnson and Maurice Greene.