Current and former track and field stars showed up in full shine at the 168th Street Armory in New York City for the inaugural Black Tie & Sneakers Gala on October 29.
Organized by USA Track & Field, the governing body for track & field, long-distance running and race walking in the United States, the gala paid tribute to those who have elevated the sport’s profile through their performance on the track, in science, by challenging gender biases, or by expanding television coverage of events.
The night also served as the induction of the Class of 2015 into the Track and Filed Hall of Fame, and as an occasion to present legacy awards to Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic gold medalist in the women’s marathon; Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson; and Peter Diamond, who has been instrumental in NBC’s coverage of the Olympic games since 1977.
“I always felt that this event needed to stand alone, and I had the vision to want to bring it to New York two years ago,” said USATF CEO Max Siegel. “I want the event to bring more visibility to the sport. To get people here as excited as they are in the rest of the world.”
For Siegel, a 2004 Network Journal 40 Under Forty honoree, bringing more visibility to the sport means producing more lifestyle stories and going beyond world championship and Olympic events to garner attention for the next generation of stars in the pipeline.
One of the lifestyle stories on Gala night featured Legacy Awardee Michael Johnson, now a BBC sportscaster, who was introduced by current Olympian Allyson Felix. In accepting his award, Johnson teased Felix that she should consider doubling up her track-and-field resumé by competing in both the 200-meter and 400-meter races in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Johnson himself knows a thing or two about doubling up. He was the first man in history to win gold for the 200m and the 400m events, a feat he accomplished at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Current Olympians Sanya Richards-Ross and Justin Gatlin also attended the gala.
Gatlin, who will be participating in his third Olympics after being suspended for doping from 2006 to 2010, said he is looking forward to the competition in Rio next August. Aside from the training and the joy of being an Olympian, one of the best aspects of the Olympics is the opportunity to meet and befriend the best athletes n the world, he said, recalling his scavenger hunt with tennis superstar Serena Williams at the 2010 London Olympics. For Rio 2016, he is looking forward to meeting Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo and the U.S. Women’s national soccer team.
Inducted into the Hall of Fame were Olympian and 110m hurdler Allen Johnson; Olympian high jumper Hollis Conway; Olympian and 400m hurdler Ralph Mann; World War II veteran and NCAA shot put champion Al Blozis (1919-1945); shot put world record holder Jack Torrance (1912-1969); and coach Harry Gill (1876-1956).
(CLICK HERE to view photos from the event.)