INDIANAPOLIS — Ohio’s James Lorimer and Harry McKnight have been selected to receive USATF’s inaugural Alumni Hometown Hero Awards.
Presented by the USATF Alumni Association and USATF Women’s Commission, Lorimer and McKnight were selected for their work to advance opportunities for women and girls in track and field in the state of Ohio.
In August 1959, after watching the USA vs USSR Athletics series at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, Lorimer asked if a girls’ and women’s division could be added to the Ohio Track Club, which was originally formed for men. Lorimer and Knight partnered to bring young women into the club. Female members of the Ohio Track Club went on to win the AAU women’s indoor national championships in 1963, and qualified athletes to the 1963 Pan American Games and 1964 Olympics.
“USATF is comprised of hometown heroes who volunteer their talents to grow track & field in communities across the country,” USATF CEO Max Siegel said. “Mr. McKnight and Mr. Lorimer have generously given to the sport for sixty years, and we’re honored to recognize them with the first ever USATF Alumni Hometown Hero Awards.”
The duo will be honored Saturday, December 2, at the USATF Jesse Owens Awards Banquet in Columbus, Ohio. The event is held in conjunction with USATF’s Annual Meeting, November 30-December 3. The evening honors USATF’s Athletes of the Year and celebrates the best of USA Track & Field. Tickets and event registration can be purchased online. A limited number of tickets are available on-site beginning Wednesday, November 29, at the Hyatt Regency.
Lorimer has been involved in a wide range of sport events in Ohio since the 1960’s. He served as chairman of the AAU Committee for Women’s Athletics during the 1960’s. He promoted national championships in track and field and weightlifting in Columbus, and in 1970 directed the World Weightlifting Championships and Mr. World contest, won by Arnold Schwarzenegger. When Schwarzenegger became Chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports under George H.W. Bush, Lorimer served on the Council.
In 1976, Lorimer worked with Schwarzenegger to found the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, which has grown to be the among the largest multi-sport events in the country, encompassing more than 70 sports and events 18,000 athletes from 80 nations.
A World War II veteran of the U.S. Navy, Lorimer earned a law degree from Penn State in 1951. He worked as an attorney and former special agent of the F.B.I, and has served as mayor and vice mayor of his home community of Worthington, Ohio, for 48 years. After service with the F.B.I., Jim joined Nationwide Insurance Company in Columbus, serving as VP of government relations and establishing Nationwide’s corporate fitness program.
Born in 1926, Harry McKnight graduated from East High School in Columbus, where he excelled in football, pole vaulting and diving. After serving in the Marine Corps during World War II, he entered Ohio State, where he was a pole vaulter. After graduating in 1951, he went on to teach and coach for 36 years in Columbus, at East High School and Walnut Ridge High School, before retiring in 1986.
McKnight served as a member of the national women’s track and field committee, and was selected as women’s head coach for the indoor 1973 USA vs USSR series and as head coach for both men and women for the 1976 outdoor USA vs USSR series in the Soviet Union. He was inducted into the Ohio Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1987 and awarded the Ohio Athletic Congress Achievement Award in 1993 as a coach.
After World War II, McKnight served 23 years in the Air National Guard. This fall, the 91-year-old McKnight joined the Ohio State ROTC and does push-ups every time the Ohio State Football team scores a touchdown.