Hagerstown’s Mike Spinnler was recognized by USA Track & Field at the opening session of its annual meeting on Thursday at Daytona Beach, Fla.
USATF President Stephanie Hightower announced Spinnler as a recipient of the President’s Award. The USATF presents the award “to an association member, official, administrator or volunteer who has aided the association in its commitment to improve its services to or events staged for its members.”
Spinnler was nominated by Mike Wardian, the 2007 winner of the JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon — a race Spinnler won twice (1982 and 1983) and has directed for the past 20 years. Wardian also has represented Team USA several times at both the world 100K and 50K championships.
“I’m really pleased. I think it was well deserved,” Wardian said. “He’s one of the backbones of our sport and to see him win it is a big deal.”
“Mike Wardian asked me for my résumé and I didn’t know what that was about, but if he nominated me, that’s a great honor, that Mike thought I was worthy of that,” Spinnler said. “If it’s a service award for longevity and one of those things, I’m honored by it.”
In addition to his JFK 50 Mile duties, Spinnler has been an assistant team leader for the U.S. at the IAU 100K World Cup in 2007, ’08 and ’09, and at the World 24-Hour Run Championships in 2010 and ’12. Spinnler learned on Friday that he will once against be an assistant team leader at the 2013 world 24-hour race in the Netherlands in May.
“I’m really excited about being named to that again,” Spinnler said. “It’s a great honor and a learning experience for me.”
“The 50K and 80K events and things like that are in my wheelhouse,” Spinnler added, “but getting to work with athletes who are doing this extremely difficult 24-hour race, that’s more than 170 miles in one day ... and I’m glad I can be of assistance to these guys and gals.”
Spinnler called his times as an assistant team leader “a learning experience” and added that the continued improvement of the national team at ultrarunning events is a thrill for him.
“What I’ve learned is the level of commitment of our national team and what it takes to compete at the international level,” Spinnler said. “I was kind of naive and I didn’t know how good the Japanese, Russians and Italians were. We were going in there, getting beat and were satisfied with bronze. Then we won the women’s 100K team championship in 2009 and got the 24-hour women’s team and men’s individual gold medal this year, which are the first gold medals in that event ever for us. Now we’re getting gold medals and it’s thrilling for me to see us work our way to the top.
“It seems like this is a golden era for ultrarunning in America. U.S. distance running is the best ever now, and we’re cutting into what the Kenyans and Ethiopians are doing. If I’ve had anything to do with that, that makes me feel good at the end of the day.”