Speed skater Brittney Bowe and marathoner Jared Ward highlighted the honorees for the Utah Sports Commission’s ninth annual State of Sports Awards.
The commission announced Monday that Bowe is its female athlete of the year and Ward its male athlete of the year. All athletes were honored for their accomplishments in 2019.
Bowe, a 32-year-old long-track skater, won seven straight gold medals on the World Cup circuit in the 1,000 meters in addition to the World Championship. She set a world record at that distance, which still stands, as well as in the 1,500. Both were recorded during a World Cup race last March at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns.
Ward, a former cross country standout and current statistics professor at BYU, placed sixth overall and was the top American in the New York City Marathon in November. His time on the 26.2-mile course was 2 hours, 10 minutes, 45 seconds. That was 80 seconds off the person-record time he ran in the Boston Marathon that April. Ward, 31, placed eighth overall at that event and second among Americans. That time helped the 2016 Olympian qualify for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, where he landed 27th.
In addition, sitskier Saylor O’Brien was named the commission’s adaptive female athlete of the year and Paralympic snowboarder Keith Gabel was named the adaptive male athlete of the year.
O’Brien put herself on track for the 2022 Paralympic Gamess in Beijing this season with a bronze medal in Super G at the U.S. Championships in Winter Park, Colo. She set herself up for that performance with a bronze in an early season NorAm Super-G event.
Gabel, 34, had a season of firsts. He won his first world championship in snowboard cross in Finland and won his first career World Cup gold in banked slalom last March on the last race of the last day of the event in La Molina, Spain. The medal marked the end of an eight-year-long pursuit for the two-time Paralympic medalist in the SB-LL2 event.
The four honorees named Monday joined several previously named special award winners honored by Governor Gary Herbert and the commission. They include high school athletes of the year Huntyr Ava of West High and Cole Hagen of Corner Canyon, collegiate athletes MyKayla Skinner and Zack Moss, both of the University of Utah, and BYU cross country coach Ed Eyestone. Stetson Wright received the Lewis Feild Bareback Riding Award as the top points earner in bareback riding in three of Utah’s major rodeos.
Gail Miller, the chair of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, and Scott Anderson, president and CEO of Zions Bank, for lifetime achievement. The commission’s highlights of the year are expected to be announced April 5.
The annual awards banquet, originally scheduled for April 13, has been postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 outbreak.