Announcing the Winners of the "Honoring the Athlete" Contest

Launching a contest is a lot like organizing a new race: you never know at the outset how many people will show up.

In late March, we announced the Focal Flame Photography “Honoring the Athlete” contest, inviting nominees to enter themselves or someone they know to win $700 worth of photography and written athlete history services.

After reviewing the nominations, we have to say, simply…  Wow.

We were overwhelmed by the stories that were shared. Athletes new to their sport. Athletes with years of experience. Athletes who began their athletic endeavors at age 40, 50, and beyond. Athletes who overcame loss, injury, disease and circumstance. Amateur athletes who compete passionately while balancing the demands of work, parenting, or both. Athletes who encourage teammates and newcomers, and who give back tirelessly to the community with charity work.

We were moved to tears more than once.

And then the dilemma was clear: how could we pick just one winner?

In the end, we couldn’t. So we’ve chosen one overall winner and three runners-up in the 2010 “Honoring the Athlete” contest. We can't wait to share their stories with you during the 2010 endurance sports season. The winners are:

Overall winner: Ed Peirick
Ed will receive 4 hours of custom sports photography sessions, interviews to document his athlete history, and a story + photo book. We’ll also work with him to develop an article or letter that he can use in his charity fundraising efforts.  From the nomination:

"5 years [ago, Ed] lost his home in a fire and discovered he had cancer - all within a matter of weeks!  Ed rose to the challenge, recovered from his losses, BEAT cancer and is on his way to competing in his first ever Ironman at the very young age of 59 (or 60?)!‚Ä®‚Ä® Ed is an amazing athlete and friend who has overcome adversity in his darkest of times and risen to the challenges before him….He saw me through both of my Ironman races and trained and competed along side me for many triathlons and running races in the last several years. No matter what his own goals and passions, Ed always had the time and energy to cheer on his friends and support them in achieving their dreams."

Each of the runners-up will receive 1 h of custom sports photography, digital images, interviews, and a 500-word profile. We’ll also work with those engaging in charity benefit events to develop an article or letter for fundraising efforts.
First runner-up: Kitty Cole
From Kitty’s nomination:

"My older brother was a marathoner in the 80's and he wanted me to train and run a marathon with him...which I didn't do because I thought it/he was crazy.  My brother died running in a race in Madison and I never got a chance to run with him.  At his funeral I promised him I would train and run one marathon to honor him and his passion.  With my 45th birthday looming, I decided it was time to make good on my promise.  I trained myself and in 1998 I ran the Marine Corps Marathon to celebrate my hero and pay homage to his memory.  I crossed the finish line and "got" what his passion was all about.  Within a month I was signed up for my 2nd marathon and I have now run 17 marathons and have completed a marathon on all 7 Continents, each one in celebration of my big brother.  I've added triathlons (as I think he would have) and am now in training for IM-Florida.  I've attempted IM-Wisconsin 3 times, with 3 DNF's for varying reasons so the motivation to cross the IM finish line is very strong. I feel my brother's spirit any time I run or race and many times that is what keeps me going when the going gets tough.   I am now 56 years young and plan on running until I get to cross the finish line of a race with a grandchild.  As I don't have any grandchildren yet, I will keep training!"

Second runner-up: Darren Fortney
From the nomination:

"Darren is a twenty year cancer survivor. Also, during a back surgery his spine was nicked and he was told that he would probably never walk again. Darren proved everyone wrong and is not only walking, but running, biking and swimming. He completed the Badwater 135 ultra-marathon last July, which is a 135-mile foot race through Death Valley. He used the event to raise money for Gilda's Club. He also organizes an annual ultra-swim in Madison, Wisconsin to raise awareness of water quality."

Third runner-up: Arrietta Claus
From the nomination:

"Arrietta has a  PhD in Chemistry, works at UW in the chemistry dept., she is also a Mom with 5 kids ... the youngest are twin boys who just started college ... and now she has time and tonnes of energy for her own training. She is training for Master's Nationals to be held in Louisville in Aug. - and I think she is going to win!! She is a tough, competitive woman with a big smile!"

Many, many thanks to all the entrants. We wish we had unlimited time to work with every single nominee; there were so very many deserving stories.

To follow these and other inspiring stories, become a fan on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.