Pappas wins Owens Award

Former Vol decathlete Tom Pappas (1997, 99) concluded his 2003 dream season by winning the Jesse Owens Award, the most prestigious award in American track and field. Pappas, who won two World Championship titles in 2003, joined long distance specialist Deena Drossin Kastor as the male and female recipient of the 2003 Jesse Owens Award.

The Jesse Owens Award, which can be viewed as track and field‚s exclusive equivalent of the NFL MVP honor, is given annually since 1981 to the most outstanding American track and field star. In testament to Tennessee‚s recent track and field success, two of the six male nominees hailed from Tennessee, as sprint world champion Justin Gatlin also made the list of finalists. Male nominees for the 2003 Jesse Owens Award were Pappas, Gatlin, John Capel, Allen Johnson, Dwight Phillips and Tyree Washington. The permanent commemorative Jesse Owens award is kept at USA Track and Field Headquarters in Indianapolis, Ind. However, Pappas and Drossin Kastor will receive a replica Friday night at the Jesse Owens Award Dinner and Xerox Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, held at USA Track and Field's 2003 Annual Meeting in Greensboro, N.C.

Compiling the former winners creates a star-studded list of USA Track and Field‚s best and brightest champions. The exclusive Jesse Owens Award club includes American greats such as Edwin Moses (1981), Carl Lewis (1982 and 1991), Mary Decker (1983), Joan Benoit (1984), Willie Banks (1985), Jackie Joyner-Kersee (1986 and 1987), Florence Griffith Joyner (1988), Roger Kingdom (1989), Lynn Jennings (1990), Kevin Young (1992), Gail Devers (1993 and 1996), Michael Johnson (1994, 1995 and 1996), Allen Johnson (1997), Marion Jones (1997, 1998 and 2002), Tim Montgomery (2002), John Godina (1998 and 2001), Inger Miller (1999), Maurice Greene (1999), Stacy Dragila (2000 and 2001) and Angelo Taylor (2000).

Meanwhile, Pappas was selected as the 2003 Jim Thorpe Award winner for outstanding male field event/decathlon competitor. He is also scheduled to be presented that honor Friday at the award dinner.

''I thought there was a chance I could win, but there were so many other great championship performers,'' Pappas said after a USA Track and Field teleconference. ''It's definitely the highest award anyone can achieve in U.S. track and field. It's special because a decathlete has never won it before. I'm grateful for all the support I receive at the University of Tennessee. My coaches, doctors, trainers and strength training staff have given me a great support group. It's just up to me to do my part. I don't think I would have won this award if I was anywhere else.

Pappas, who continues to train in Knoxville under Tennessee head coach Bill Webb, offered up a 2003 to remember. With his gold-medal performances in the decathlon at the World Outdoor Championships and the heptathlon at World Indoors, as well as a No. 1 world ranking from the IAAF, Pappas had the most successful season by a U.S. decathlete in a decade and established himself as one of the greatest decathletes in U.S. history.


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