"This is such an amazing story. You can't hear it and not be moved by the dedication that Tai, Rainn and Brooke have shown," said Mark Bechtel, Managing Editor of Sports Illustrated Kids. "We hear a lot about the obstacles that athletes have to overcome to succeed. But very few have coped with what these sisters—and their mom—have faced. They've done it with grace and poise. Their efforts have been phenomenal—and inspiring. For these reasons, and for their accomplishments on the track, the Sheppard sisters are the SportsKids of the Year."The three sisters spoke to SI Kids about their accomplishments and future sports goals:
- Tai wants to qualify for the AAU Junior Olympic Games every year. She placed second in the 80-meter hurdles in her age group in Houston in July, her second time competing at the meet. "Since I qualified for my first year, I'm like, I can do this," she says. "I know I can."
- "I plan to go to the Olympics one day in [a distance race]," says Rainn, who returned from Houston with a gold medal in the 3,000.
- "My goals are to get faster as a runner and jump higher," says Brooke, who placed second in the high jump in Houston.
2015: Reece Whitley (Lafayette Hill, PA)—Whitley is a standout swimmer and 2020 Olympic hopeful who has medaled in Junior Championship meets and made the semifinals of the 2016 Olympic Trials at 16. He was honored for being a role model and mentor for younger swimmers in his community and beyond.2014: Mo'ne Davis (Philadelphia, PA)—Davis, the honor roll student who became only the fourth girl in history to play in the Little League World Series, the first girl in 75 years to win a game in the Series and the first girl to pitch a shutout, illustrated for the world that no matter age, gender or race, everyone has the ability to make an impact and inspire. Today, Davis continues to pave the road for young female athletes and is outspoken about gender equality and sports. She has turned her sights to basketball and hopes to play in the WNBA someday. 2013: Jack Wellman (Newtown, CT)—While sidelined with a neck injury, this three-sport star uplifted the Newtown community by volunteer coaching the local youth wrestling team in the aftermath of a tragedy that took one of their teammates. Jack is now a wrestler at Newtown High School. 2012: Brothers Conner and Cayden Long (White House, TN)—The elder brother, Conner, competes in youth triathlons side by side with Cayden, who suffers from cerebral palsy. Conner pushes Cayden in a stroller during the run portion of the competition, pulls Cayden in a raft during the swim and in a trailer during the bike race. The two recently helped develop an accessible playground in their hometown, and their mother wrote a book about what Conner and Cayden have taught her. 2011: Noah Flegel (Lighthouse Point, FL)—Flegel, who won the World Wakeboard Association's World Championship, was equally impressive in the classroom and dedicated much of his time to organizing and cooking meals for the homeless in his community. Flegel still competes in wakeboard competitions, and he recently won the 2016 Supra Boats Pro Wakesurf Tour title. 2010: Jessica Aney (Rochester, MN)—Aney became the first female to receive the honor. A two-sport athlete with a perfect academic record, Jessica was one of the top-ranked tennis players nationally in her age group and excelled at an elite level in ice hockey. Aney now plays tennis for the University of North Carolina. 2009: Austin McCarthy (Ludington, MI)—McCarthy scored 430 points with 63 hat tricks in only three years of playing ice hockey. Off the ice, Austin was very involved in his community, working at fundraising events to benefit his local hockey association and to boost interest in hockey among local children. Today, Austin plays hockey for Ludington High School. 2008: Derek Andrews (Buffalo, NY)—Despite suffering from an unknown muscle disorder, Andrews inspired the entire city of Buffalo through his participation in baseball, hockey, soccer, swimming and gymnastics. 2007: Brock Heffron (Chandler, AZ)—Heffron became the International Cycling Union World Champion and the USA Cycling Champion in his age class. Away from the track he was a straight-A student and played on local football and baseball teams. Now, after playing for his high school's football and baseball teams, Brock is a linebacker for Wabash College. ABOUT SPORTS ILLUSTRATED KIDS Sports Illustrated Kids, the first sports magazine written for kids ages 8 and up, connects with its readers through their passion for sports. The magazine offers kids the access to athletes and sports information that they want with in-depth reporting, action photography, first-person athlete accounts and other features. The magazine, books and web site sikids.com, promote positive values, good sportsmanship and the fun of reading.
ABOUT TIME INC.Time Inc. (NYSE:TIME) is a leading content company that engages over 150 million consumers every month through our portfolio of premium brands across platforms. By combining our distinctive content with our proprietary data and people-based targeting, we offer highly differentiated end-to-end solutions to marketers across the multimedia landscape. Our influential brands include People, Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated, InStyle, Real Simple and Southern Living, as well as more than 50 diverse titles in the United Kingdom. Time Inc. has been extending the power of our brands through various acquisitions and investments, including Viant, an advertising technology firm with a specialized people-based marketing platform; The Foundry, Time Inc.'s creative lab and content studio; and the People Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN). The company is also home to celebrated events, such as the Time 100, Fortune Most Powerful Women, People's Sexiest Man Alive, Sports Illustrated's Sportsperson of the Year, the Essence Festival and the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.