Coach Tom Boatright, founder of the Aurora Flyers Track Club, coached Olympian Morolake Akinosun since she was in middle school. Akinosun clinched a Gold Medal in the 2016 Summer Olympics as a member of the 4 X 100m relay team.
AURORA, IL - The City of Aurora's African-American Heritage Advisory Board (AAHAB) held its 13th Annual Heritage Dinner on Friday, February 24 at Gaslite Manor, 2485 Church Road, in Aurora.
The crowning event of Black History Month, this annual celebration focused on young achievers who succeeded at school and in the community; and recognized AAHAB's 2017 Outstanding African-American of the Year, Coach Tom Boatright.
For nearly three decades, his name has been synonymous with excellence in athletics as the founder and director of the nationally-acclaimed Aurora Flyers Track Club. Coach Tom Boatright has dedicated more than three decades helping students from the area achieve their dreams, including his grandson, NCAA National Basketball Champion Ryan Boatright and 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist Morolake Akinosun.
"I'm so thankful that Coach Boatright was, and is, a part of my life," said Akinosun. "He helped mold me into the type of athlete that could train hard, take criticism and perform under pressure. He believed in me and saw a greatness in me that at times I did not think was even possible. I don't think I would be shining this bright if it were not for him."
Tom Boatright (center with award) is pictured with members of the Aurora African-American Heritage Board at the recent Heritage Dinner in Aurora, IL.
A graduate of East Aurora High School, Tom Boatright played on the East Aurora High School varsity football, basketball and track teams. As a senior, he was named Aurora's "Athlete of The Year." Upon graduation, he attended Northeastern State College in Oklahoma on a full football scholarship, where he led the nation in punt returns as a freshman running back. Boatright played semi-pro football for the Rockford Rams and was offered an opportunity to tryout with the Chicago Bears. He was on the 1975 rookie roster with Walter Payton, but did not make the team. That pivotal moment returned him home to Aurora and led to the opportunity to impact the lives of local youth by coaching basketball and track at various schools throughout Aurora.
In 1988, he started the Aurora Flyers Track Club with ten athletes. Today, the Flyers are a nationally-ranked track and field club with over 100 athletes currently on the roster. With their theme "It's Fly Time," the students who participate in the Flyers have competed at Jr. National Olympics with many earning national titles in their respective events. In addition to Ryan Boatright and Morolake Akinosun, hundreds of other students have achieved local, regional and national success over the years; and scores of his athletes have gone on to graduate from colleges all over the country.
"We are so honored to recognize Coach Boatright this year. It is certainly long overdue," said Patricia Holt, AAHAB Chairwoman. "He has given so much of himself to the youth of this community and it shows in their daily lives, from the academic achievers to the Olympic gold medalist. Across the board, Coach Boatright has inspired our youth to aim for excellence in every area of endeavor."
During the event, AAHAB awarded high school students with the Henry Cowherd Scholarship named in honor of longtime community leader and 2008 Outstanding African-American of the Year, Mr. Henry Cowherd.