Junior Olympian Track Star Sheppard Sisters Are the Sports Illustrated Kids 2016 SportsKids of the Year

The Three Win for Their Tenacity Through Hardship, Dedication and
Accomplishments on the Track

Tai, Rainn and Brooke Sheppard Honored in 10th Year of Annual
SportsKid of the Year Award

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Time Inc.’s (NYSE:TIME) Sports Illustrated Kids has named Tai, Rainn and
Brooke Sheppard, of Brooklyn, New York, the 2016 SportsKids of the Year.
The Sheppard sisters—aged 11, 10 and 9, respectively—were selected from
among thousands of entries for overcoming substantial obstacles to
qualify for this year’s AAU Junior Olympic Games and for each
individually medaling in track and field events. The sisters appear on
the cover of the December issue of Sports Illustrated Kids and are
featured in a cover story and special SI Kids video production that
spotlights their remarkable optimism and achievement at a time when they
have been living with their mother in a two-bedroom unit in a homeless
shelter. They are the first set of sisters to win this award and the
second set of siblings; brothers Conner and Cayden Long were honored in
2012. The new issue of SI Kids hits newsstands on Monday, November 28,
and the new cover and SportsKid feature are available online now at SIKIDS.com/skoty.

Tai, Rainn and Brooke Sheppard will be honored alongside their mother,
Tonia Handy, at a special SportsKid of the Year event at the Barclays
Center in Brooklyn, New York, on December 12. They will also be
recognized with the Sports Illustrated 2016 Sportsperson of the Year,
the recipient of the 2016 SI Muhammad Ali Legacy Award and other top
names in sports at the SI
Sportsperson of the Year ceremony
to take place at the Barclays
Center later that evening. Goldfish® Flavor Blasted® crackers is
the presenting sponsor of the SI Kids SportsKid of the Year program.

The Sheppard sisters began living in a homeless shelter with their
mother after having been evicted from their apartment in September 2015.
They began their track and field careers when a babysitter signed them
up for a meet in January 2015 as a fun, free activity. After the meet,
they were invited to join the Jeuness Track Club and subsequently
qualified for the 2016 AAU Junior Olympics in Houston, Texas. Tai ran
the 400-, 800- and 80-meter hurdles; Rainn ran the 3,000; and Brooke
participated in the 800, 1,500 and high jump. Each girl placed within
the top 15 in each event, and Rainn won the 3,000-meter run for the
11-year-old girls’ division. The girls are also heavily involved in
activities outside of sports, ranging from chess and book clubs to
playing the piano and performing in school plays.

“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.

The annual SportsKid of the Year award was introduced in 2007 to
recognize exemplary young athletes who excel on the field, in the
classroom and in service to their communities. This is the 10th year
of the award. In honor of the anniversary, SI Kids has retroactively
chosen famous athletes who could have been SportsKid of the Year prior
to 2007; see those choices and the mock SI Kids covers featuring LeBron
James, Eli Manning, Dominique Dawes, Michelle Wie, Bryce Harper and more here.

Past recipients of the SI Kids SportsKid of the Year award include the

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

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

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.


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


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Danny Leonard, 917-734-3862