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May 21, 2010
Runkle Receives Gail Weldon Award of Excellence

Debra Runkle, medical coordinator, head athletic trainer and assistant athletic director at the University of Dubuque, was awarded the National Athletic Trainers' Association's (NATA) 2010 Gail Weldon Award of Excellence. She will be presented with the award at the 2010 NATA Annual Meeting and Clinical Symposia on June 24 in Philadelphia, PA.

A certified athletic trainer since 1979, Debra has traveled internationally as a member of the United States Olympic Training Center (USOC). As a medical staff member for the USOC she has traveled with Team USA to the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada, the 1998 World Youth Games in Moscow, Russia, and the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. Additionally, she served as athletic trainer with the USA Wheelchair Team and Cerebral Palsy Teams. In 1982 she received the NATA Outstanding Research and Injury Award.

Before joining the University of Dubuque, Debra was an assistant professor and the first female head athletic trainer at Minnesota State University (MSU), Mankato. She taught various classes with the Human Performance Department and in the nationally known accredited Athletic Training program for 17 years. Prior to MSU, she was employed as instructor and the first athletic trainer at Chadron State College, and was a teacher, coach and the first athletic trainer in the Dell Rapids School District, in Dell Rapids, South Dakota for 3 years after graduating from South Dakota State University.

The Gail Weldon Award, established in her honor, highlights the accomplishment of women in the athletic training profession. It recognizes an athletic trainer who has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to mentoring, professional development, life balance, and leadership of women in the athletic training profession.

Gail Weldon died in December 1991 after a short, but brave, bout with cancer. She is remembered as a teacher, mentor, author, athletic trainer and friend to many. Gail was a pioneer in the advancement of women in the field of athletic training. In 1972, she was the second woman to join the NATA; in 1974, she was one of the first 10 women ever certified. Her other "firsts" include selection and involvement with the United States Olympic Sports Medicine Staff; her being the first women athletic trainer hired by the U.S. Olympic Committee; her selection as head athletic trainer for the 1979 Pan American Games and chief athletic trainer for the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team to Montreal, although that competition was later boycotted by the U. S. Government. In 1982, she was selected to serve as director of athletic training and physical therapy for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. In 1980, she was selected as the medical director for the 1991 United States Olympic Festival. Gail also served as athletic training coordinator for TAC sanctioned track and field events and traveled internationally with a number of U.S. teams. In 1980, she left her position as Head Women's Athletic Trainer at UCLA to venture out on her own and become the founder/owner of Women's TRACC (Training Room And Conditioning Center).

In addition to being a finalist for the Gail Weldon Award, Deb is a member of several professional organizations including the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA). She serves as chairperson for the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports. She is co-author of the college textbook Athletic Protective Equipment Care, Selection and Fitting and has published articles on eating disorders and athletic training topics.

Debra earned her bachelor of science in physical education from South Dakota State University (Brookings, SD), and her master of arts in physical education from Mankato State University (Mankato, MN) with an emphasis in sports medicine and cardiac physiology.