In masters-level track and field, 2016 was the year of Anthony “Karnell” Vickers.
The Woodstock resident, running in the 45-50 age group, posted times ranked in the top 10 worldwide of three individual events this year. He was part of a world record-setting team in the 1,600-meter relay, and he won two national titles in the 100 dash and 400 hurdles in July. Last month, Vickers won gold in the 100 and 400 hurdles and placed second in the 400 relay at the World Masters Games in Perth, Australia.
He had one more honoring waiting for him before the end of the year — the honor of being named Athlete of the Year for the 40-49 men’s age group by USA Track and Field.
“I didn’t even know they had the award,” Vickers said. “Obviously, now that I know about it, I wanted to win it. It feels good to be honored like that. It says something about hard work paying off.”
Vickers was honored along with four other athletes in his age group, including Allen Woodard, who ran relays with Vickers.
While the honor was given for what Vickers did on the track, he said it meant more to be recognized for his accomplishments as a whole.
“I did a lot this season,” he said. “It’s really cool to look back at it now. When you’re racing, you’re so caught up in the moment. The only thing that matters is winning that one race. Once you can look at it as a whole season, it means a lot to see what you’ve done.”
One thing Vickers is hoping to gain from the recognition is more notoriety.
After a mad scramble to raise the funds for this year’s world championships, Vickers is looking for a corporate sponsor to help fund big meets in 2017. According to him, it will be worth it.
“The thing about this is it makes me want to run even more,” he said. “I’m never satisfied. I always want to do better and run faster. Next year, I’ll be in the 50-55 age group, and looking at those times, I think I’ll have a chance to break some records and do even better.”
As an athlete at the higher end of his age group, the 49-year-old Vickers was used to competing against athletes younger than him, but things got even tougher in the Athlete of the Year competition when age groups were expanded to 10-year intervals.
Still, Vickers’ results held up, and as he prepares for a season in which he will be one of the youngest runners in every race, he has his sights set on the overall Athlete of the Year title that went to American Bill Collins this year.
“I’m excited to see what happens next,” Vickers said. “I know I only have so much time left to run, so I want to take full advantage of it. I’ve been getting faster through my training, and I know I’m ready to for after the big award next year.”