Simpson, Verzbicas And Keflezighi Reign At Endurance LIVE

Last summer Jenny Simpson became the first American woman to win gold in the 1,500m at the world championships in 28 years. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Many of the top endurance athletes in the world gathered in Los Angeles on Saturday.

The red carpet rolled out in athletic style in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday night at the Nokia Theatre for the Endurance LIVE Awards, the biggest night of the year in endurance sports.

Presented by REFUEL | Got Chocolate Milk, the annual gala, which celebrated its 20th birthday, brought together top athletes from running, cycling and triathlon for one night to recognize the year’s most notable performances.

PHOTO GALLERY: 2012 Endurance LIVE Awards Gala

In the running category, Jenny Barringer Simpson, Lukas Verzbicas and Meb Keflezighi reigned supreme.

Simpson, who won the award for Female Runner of the Year, surprised the world in 2011 with her win in the 1,500-meter final at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.

“It’s so exciting to be here and be recognized by a community I feel so connected to,” Simpson said. “This is such a great event and such a wonderful celebration of so many special days of competition.”

The 25-year-old, who also competes in the steeplechase, finished with a time of 4:05:40 to grab gold in Daegu, ahead of Britain’s Hannah England and Spain’s Natalia Rodriguez. Her win was the first world title for the U.S. in the event in 28 years.

“There’s pressure that comes with the title of world champion,” Simpson said. “One of the great influences in my life is my coach, and she reminds me of something that I think is incredible, that now every time I step to the line, instead of the pressure of carrying the world championship, I know I can win against all odds, so I’m really excited to take that to the starting line every time this year.”

Verzbicas, who won the award for Male Runner of the Year, was the first prep athlete to run a sub-4-minute mile in a high school-only race since Jim Ryun in 1965. The 18-year-old blazed through the finish line at the Adidas Grand Prix meet in June 2011 with a time of 3:59.71. He also won the 5,000 meters, two-mile and one-mile races at the New Balance Indoor National meet, and made even more headlines later in the year when he announced he was leaving the University of Oregon last fall to pursue a career in triathlon.

No stranger to the endurance realm, Competitor of the Year winner Keflezighi first garnered worldwide attention by winning the silver medal in the Olympic Marathon in 2004. In 2009 he won the New York City Marathon, the first American to win the race since 1982. In 2011, the 36-year-old ran a PR of 2:09:15 in the same race, but finished sixth. He made his comeback in January at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, where he won the race and qualified for his second Olympic team.

“Competitor of the Year, it’s  huge honor,” Keflezighi said. “I’ve tried to be as competitive as I can since high school, college, post-collegiate and international, so to get this award exemplifies what I’ve been trying to do for the last 21 years or so for my career.”

Notable celebrity attendees at the show included Olympians Ricky Berens and Apolo Anton Ohno, who was named Celebrity Athlete of the Year, as well as ultramarthoner Dean Karnazes.

The Endurance LIVE Awards is held annually by San Diego-based Competitor Group, an active lifestyle media and event company, which owns Competitor.com and Competitor magazine.

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