Google “Best of 2014” and the search engine offers 5,080,000,000 results… Make that 5,080,000,001. Here are my own honorees for 2014: those locals who humbly distinguished themselves in the interest of fun, fellowship, and fitness:
A life, changing
First up is a keenly felt loss to the running community in the departure of Natalie Reder, who left her position as training programs director at Fleet Feet Carrboro in June. Even for a store committed to a proper fit in all aspects of customers’ lives, Reder’s shoes are hard to fill.
“Natalie gives out shirts that say ‘Change Everything,’ and that’s exactly what she did,” said Meg Pomerantz, a coach with Fleet Feet’s No Boundaries (NoBo) program.
After five years with Fleet Feet, Reder left to join Bell Leadership Institute, a leadership and executive coaching / consulting firm in Chapel Hill. Nora Hannapel has adeptly moved into the role vacated by Reder and will surely put her on positive stamp on local running.
Climbing the walls
My vote for “2014 Best Newcomer” to the local recreation scene is Chapel Hill’s Progression Climbing ( climbprogression.com), which opened this year at 1713 Legion Road (behind Ram’s Plaza) to focus exclusively on bouldering for elites and beginners, unlike exclusively top-climbing facilities at the Chapel Hill Community Center or on the UNC campus. The new 3,500-square foot facility offers challenging climbing terrain appropriate for beginners and experts alike.
The enterprise is the realization of the vision of Rodney Biddle, who said bouldering’s time has finally come.
“(Bouldering) has literally exploded in popularity, especially among younger climbers,” he said.
‘They’ve got a secret’
As Goldilocks would surely attest, North Carolina weather is often just too hot or too cold. But just inside the Chapel Hill Community Center gymnasium at 120 South Estes Drive, it’s always the perfect. So when Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation decided to localize First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative on Sunday afternoons, the Community Center gym seemed, well, “juuust right.”
Through designated Family Times – my choice for “2014’s Best Kept Secret” – families are now invited to play together on Sunday afternoons in the Chapel Hill Community Center. From 3:15 to 6:30 p.m. the gym has been set aside space expressly for parents to spend quality time with their children playing basketball together or jumping rope or hula hooping together. There is no cost to Orange County residents.
Years in the making
My choice for the “2014 Lifetime Achievement Award” is Becky Woodruff, who translated her love of diving to a community-wide program touching the lives of hundreds of young athletes over the past two decades.
The Summer Diving Championships held this past summer at the UNC Faculty Staff Recreation Association (the Farm) pool enjoyed a jolt of new energy thanks to Woodruff and her coordination with year-round programs like Duke Diving and the North Carolina Diving.
A nationally competitive swimmer for Penn State and the U.S. diving team in the 1980s, Woodruff assumed a position at the Farm in early 2014 as fitness director and aquatics lessons coordinator. As such, she is now better able to focus on the league and relationships with new coaches at area universities.
Something in the water
My choice for “2014 Best Team Effort” is the UNC Faculty Staff Recreation Center / YMCA Meadowmont’s (FSAYM) Summer Swim League squad. FSAYM swimmers earned their way to the top of the team standings for the third straight year at the 2014 Chapel Hill Summer Swim League Championships, held at UNC’s Koury Natatorium in July.
“It wasn’t automatic—our kids put in an awful lot of work,” said FSAYM coach Matt Creatore, who felt the team’s future remained bright. “We’re predominantly a young team; next year’s team should experience a lot of success.”
Honorable mention in this category goes to the cast and crew behind the Orange County SportsPlex “Nutcracker on Ice” show. Now in its 21st year, the holiday rite is one of the sweetest treats at Christmas.
When Hillsborough Town Manager Eric Peterson isn’t pushing paperwork and a crowded agenda, he’s pushing the envelope on an autocross team that includes his wife Chris Peterson and friend Jennifer Bedell.
In September, members of this Atomic Empire / Solo Pro Racing School driving team traveled to Nebraska to compete in the autocross Pro Solo Series Finale and Solo Nationals. There, Peterson earned his first top autocross finish in the E Street class, earning the Solo Triad Award and Pro Solo Series wins in the street rear-wheel-drive division, which earned my attention for “2014 Best Male Performer.”
The sport pits drivers against the clock on side-by-side slalom courses, where response times demanded by hairpin turns rival anything in racing.
Nifty at 50
On Nov. 23, Catherine Lazorko made good on a goal to complete 50 marathons before the end of her 50th year, finishing right where her quest began in Philadelphia. What’s more, Lazorko has maintained a demanding training regimen while managing Town of Chapel Hill public affairs and balancing a home life as wife and mother of four boys. It’s that kind of commitment to a full life well-lived that puts her atop a list of worthy contenders as “2014 Best Female Performer.”
“My favorite would be one I ran this summer, which my local running group, the Runegades, organized just for me in June,” she said. “They hosted this amazing race with an official course in Carrboro and Chapel Hill, they even had water and Gatorade stops. It was very so sweet and unforgettable.”
Another honorable mention goes out to Allison Eaton, a local teacher and bow-wielding superhero, furthering her Olympic hopes in field archery. In May, Eaton successfully made the U.S. World Field Archery Team in the recurve bow division.
Best performers in an unofficial couples’ category include the ebullient duo of David and Heather Yeowell. This year in San Francisco, Heather completed her 50th marathon while husband David finished number 60. The couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in November.
My choice for “2014 Event of the Year” actually goes to three events: three races which comprise the 10th anniversary of Cardinal Track Club’s Tour de Carrboro series. July’s Four (miles) on the Fourth road race, October’s Carrboro 10K (6.1-mile) race, and Thanksgiving morning’s Gallop and Gorge five-mile run have each amounted to annual running community reunions. The tour also garners the award for best charity event, as the three-race series annually raises tens-of-thousands of dollars for local charities.