Armed Forces Athletes Of Year Honored
By Staff Sgt. Alicia K. Borlik, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 1998 Two triathletes and a world-class triple jumper captured 1997 Armed Forces Athlete of the Year titles.
The Defense Department Armed Forces Sports Council selected Navy Petty Officer Third Class Harold K. Montford and, for the first time, female co-winners, Army Spc. Niambi J. Dennis and Coast Guard Lt. Amy L. Baribeau.
The U.S. Military Sports Association honored the athletes at its "Pride of the Nation" awards banquet here Jan. 16. Also honored were the service-level athletes of the year.
Montford, a hospital corpsman stationed at Pensacola Naval Air Station, Fla., competes in both the pentathlon and triathlon. He won gold medals in the Navy Team Triathlon and Pentathlon competitions. He scored a bronze medal at the Armed Forces Triathlon Championship and gold at the 1997 International Military Sports Council World Championship pentathlon.
The pentathlon consisted of an obstacle course race, a sailing event, a seamanship race, a utility swimming race and an amphibious cross country event.
Montford is a volunteer mentor and swimming instructor for children in his free time. He said winning gold as part of the Navy team is the highlight of his career -- so far -- because his new goal is to lead the Navy team to a second gold medal. To athletes who may follow, his advice: "Be patient. It doesn't happen overnight."
Dennis is a medical supply specialist assigned to the University of Texas ROTC in Austin. She enlisted four years ago because of the Army's World Class Athlete Program. Since then she has distinguished herself by setting records for women athletes in the military.
A world-class triple jumper, Dennis is the first soldier to make the World Track and Field Outdoor Championship Team and Indoor Championship Team. Placing first in the triple jump at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championship, Dennis also set an armed forces record in the long jump at the meet.
Dennis assists Army recruiting by sharing her athletic experiences. She has spoken to 1,500 high school students around the country.
"This is just the beginning for me," Dennis said. Despite her records, she said, "I'm never satisfied with myself."
Baribeau is assigned to the Marine Safety Office, Puget Sound, in Seattle, where she is working on her master's degree in environmental management at the University of Washington. She won the Armed Forces Triathlete Championship at Camp Lejeune, N.C., in August 1997 while a member of the Navy team.
Baribeau's 1997 racing schedule included 15 triathlons in five months. She was the first woman finisher in four races and consistently placed in the top of her age group in the other events. Events ranged from spring-distance triathlons to half-ironmans. Her new goal is to compete in an ironman competition. A spring-distance triathlon includes up to a half-mile swim, between a 10- and 15-mile bike and a 2- to 4-mile run. An ironman is a 3.1-mile swim, 100-mile bike and 26.2-mile run. A half-ironman is half of each distance.
The highlight of Baribeau's competition is meeting such high-caliber athletes. "It's really motivating," she said.
The 1997 service athletes of the year are:
- Army -- Dennis, and Staff Sgt. James T. Graves, skeet and trap shooting;
- Navy -- Montford, and Lt. j.g. Christine R. Stancliff, javelin and shot put;
- Air Force -- Marathoners Capt. Mark T. Cucuzella and Staff Sgt. Lori M. Eppard;
- Marine Corps -- Capt. Sarah Quimby Fullwood, half-marathon and cross country, and 1st Lt. Joseph D. Hicks, wrestling; and
- Coast Guard -- Baribeau, and Lt. j.g. George A. Ganoung, duathlon. A duathlon is a 5K run, followed by a 10K bike, followed by a 5K run.
The Military Sports Association and its sponsors honored the 10 athletes Jan. 15-18 with the awards banquet and tours of the White House and other Washington sights.
The association has supported armed forces athletes for 15 years. It helps fund travel for athletes, and it sponsors athletes of the year programs at military bases and the "Pride of the Nation" awards banquet.
"This year we're very proud, as we always are, of the caliber of people who show up to represent the different services," said John B. Urmstom, association president. "These athletes are brought together each year as not only a celebration of their accomplishments, but the whole process of competition throughout the services.
"We believe competition is a worthy thing," Urmston said. "We believe it builds character and leadership. We believe it helps us all."