TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The 2018 Florida Senior Games Athletes of the Year may be complete opposites in stature, but when it comes to their performances on the field of play, Pickleball and Table Tennis player Deb Harrison and Track and Field athlete Brian Hankerson are at the top of their game.
For their performances at the 2018 Florida Senior Games, presented by Humana, in December 2018 in Clearwater and Pinellas County, Harrison, from The Villages, and Hankerson, from Hollywood, were named the 49th and 50th Florida Senior Games Athletes of the Year, since 1994. Besides their outstanding performances in 2018, the pair have been regular gold medal winners, not only at the Florida Senior Games but at the National Senior Games as well.
“It’s a privilege to recognize these two individuals as our 2018 Florida Senior Games Athletes of the Year,” said Marvin E. Green, Jr., Vice President of Amateur Sports. “Their tireless commitment, dedication, and enthusiasm for not just their respective sport but the Senior Games at the State and National level sets them apart as recipients of this honor.”
Standing just over five feet tall, Deb Harrison has used her quick reaction time and knowledge of the game to win 31 Pickleball medals since 2005. She began playing Table Tennis in the Florida Senior Games in 2010 and has won 18 gold medals over the last 10 years, in women’s singles and doubles and mixed doubles.
“Experience is helpful too,” Harrison said. “I’ve been playing Pickleball for 16 years and teaching the game for many years. It is a disadvantage to be short. It affects your reach for high and wide balls. You have to be superb to overcome that.”
In 2018, she won her 13th pickleball mixed doubles gold medal dating back to 2004 and after winning the Women’s Singles gold medal, it marked the third different age group she has won a gold medal (55-59, 60-64, 65-69). The 2018 Women’s Singles championship was her eighth overall women’s singles title since 2005.
Harrison competes on a national level and is a Pickleball instructor in The Villages. At the 2019 National Senior Games, she won a silver medal in Table Tennis and three Pickleball medals, a gold in women’s doubles and silver medals in women’s singles and mixed doubles.
A native of Massachusetts, Harrison was a member of the U.S. Field Hockey team from 1968-70 while a student at the University of Massachusetts. She moved to Florida in 2004 and has been a fixture in the Florida Senior Games since.
With long and lean physical presence at six feet tall, Brian Hankerson propels through the air for record-setting performances in Track and Field Jumps competitions. His long legs also help him reach the finish line for gold medals in running races.
“I’ve heard that before by other athletes,” said Hankerson. “I’ve been told I’m the perfect size for what I do.”
Besides his physical stature, Hankerson participates alongside elite athletes in programs at Bommarito Performance Systems, in Miami, three days a while working on the track on sprints and jumps two days a week.
“Last year, I was working out with Frank Gore (NFL running back from the Miami area),” Hankerson said. “The program combines weight training and movement training for running.”
Hankerson won two golds and a silver in the jumping events at the 2018 Florida Senior Games. He won the high jump gold medal with a leap of over five feet and his long jump of 18 feet was seven feet more than the second-place finisher. His triple jump of 33 feet, eight inches was six inches short of the gold medalist. He holds five age group records in the 50-54 and 55-59 age groups (two long jump, two triple jump and one high jump) and has been a sprints gold medalist in previous years as well.
His gold medal winning ways continued at the 2019 National Senior Games in the 60-64 age group with top performances in the high jump, long jump and triple jump. Hankerson won the long jump gold medal with a leap more than 1.5 feet than the silver medalist and over two feet more than his closest competition in the triple jump. He holds the top NSG performances in the long jump in the 50-54, 55-59 and 60-64 age groups.
At the 2017 National Senior Games, Hankerson won four golds and a silver medal in the 55-59 age group and set records in the long jump and triple jump.
The 2019 Florida Senior Games, presented by Humana, will be held December 6-15 in the Greater Fort Lauderdale area. Visit FloridaSeniorGames.com for more information.
Previous FSG Athlete of the Year Recipients
2017: Carol Teel, The Villages; Mike Welter, Cape Coral
2016: Kathy Petrillo, Jupiter; John Horwath, The Villages
2015: Janet Brown, Lakeland; Rudy Vazmina, Sarasota
2014: Danuta Kubelik, Crystal River; Walt Deal, Clearwater
2013: Nina Hammer, Bonita Springs; Tom Bliss, Melbourne
2012: Linda Frisch, The Villages; James Richling, Port St. Lucie
2011: Essie Faria, North Miami; Segismundo Pares, Ocala
2010: Avis Vaught, The Villages; Richard Merrill, Lady Lake
2009: Patrice Hirr, The Villages; John Shultz, Inverness
2008: Suzy Nothhouse, Estero; Dean Davis, Fort Myers
2007: Claudette Braswell, Lake Wales; Larry Wallen, Jacksonville
2006: Sari Kisbany, Redington Shores; Roger Gentilhomme, Dunedin
2005: Patricia Sargeant, Melbourne; Andy McGuffin, Umatilla
2004: Lillian Webb, Sebring; Harry Carothers, Pinellas Park
2003: Madelaine “Tiny” Cazel, The Villages; James Anderson, New Port Richey
2002: Janice Lathouwers, The Villages; Allen Bjork, Sebring
2001: Sperry Rademaker, Floral City; Howard Hall, Port Charlotte
2000: Erika Messner, Clermont; Al Treichel, Spring Hill
1999: Patricia Bond, Bradenton; Gordon Johnson, Dundee
1998: Lucia Schatteleyn, Englewood; Donald Ritenour, Belleview
1997: Ethel Lehmann, Largo; Seymour Duckman, Daytona Beach
1996: Hope Fage, Largo; F.L. McFadden, Lakeland
1995: Mary Melehan, Englewood; Leonard Stone, Barefoot Bay
1994: Doris Prokopi, Land O’Lakes; Wayne Wakefield, Bradenton
About the Florida Senior Games, presented by Humana
The Florida Senior Games, presented by Humana, are presented annually by the Florida Sports Foundation (FSF), the state’s lead sports promotion and development organization, and a division of Enterprise Florida, Inc. The Foundation works in conjunction with a variety of local sports industry partners to present the different competitions. The Florida Senior Games, presented by Humana, an annual amateur sports tradition in Florida, is part of the state’s $57.4 billion sports industry that accounts for 580,000 jobs statewide.