Steve Prefontaine

International Track Star - Running Legend

Prefontaine Athletic Award

 

In 1984, the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce President asked the Prefontaine Memorial Committee to establish an annual award to a Coos Bay/North Bend student-athlete to be presented at the Chamber's Annual Awards Banquet.

Beginning in 1985, the Prefontaine Memorial Committee has honored outstanding student-athletes whose accomplishments most closely reflected the excellence in athletics demonstrated by the late Steve Prefontaine.

Steve Prefontaine grew up in Coos Bay, OR and graduated from Marshfield High School in 1969. He was a two-time State Cross County Champion, two-time State 2-Mile Champion and also won the State Championship in the mile his senior season. Also during his senior season, Steve established a new National 2-mile record with a time of 8:41.5 at a meet in Corvallis and that record stood for many years. He capped his high school career by placing 4th in the 3-mile at the AAU National Championships, where he was chosen to compete internationally on the USA team.

Steve went on to the University of Oregon to run under the legendary Bill Bowerman. During his years at Oregon he won three National Collegiate Cross County Championships and four 3-mile/5,000-meter Collegiate Outdoor titles. In 1972, Steve won the Olympic Trials 5,000-meters race in front of a standing room only crowd of adoring fans at Hayward Field in Eugene. Later that fall, Steve represented the United States at the Summer Olympic Games of Munich, Germany where he finished 4th in one the most stirring 5,000-meter races in Olympic history. At the time of his tragic death in May of 1975, he held every American distance record from 2,000-meters to 10,000-meters.

Each year, the Prefontaine Memorial Committee asks the athletic directors of Marshfield High School and North Bend High School to submit the names of up to three worthy candidates for our consideration. Although the award is given primarily for excellence in athletics, we also look for excellence in character, involvement in the community outside of school activities and academics.

2013-2014 Prefontaine Athletic Award

   

PREFONTAINE ATHLETIC AWARD SPEECH
Presented by Mac McIntosh
Bay Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet
January 2015

"While it takes a family to raise a child, a village honors a child’s achievements and that recognition becomes part of its identity." 

Wyatt CunninghamThe Athlete of the Year award honors historic achievements of 1969 Marshfield High School graduate Steve Prefontaine, America’s greatest and most decorated middle distance runner.  His legacy helps identify our community, reflects our culture and continues to inspire personal pursuits of excellence worldwide.

Shaylen CrookIn a larger sense, the award celebrates the Prefontaine family – his parents Ray and Elfreida and sister Linda.  A carpenter and a seamstress, they taught working class values to their children, part of a generation of families in logging, millworking, fishing, and longshoring that raised 3, 4, and 5 children, filling the classrooms and athletic teams at North Bend and Marshfield in the decades when lumber products defined our culture.

Our award tonight is shared by two meritorious high school athletes, who also share the support of strong, nuclear families. 

Wyatt Cunningham is a four-time individual state champion in track and field - the first ever to earn gold in a sprint event for North Bend -  and last year led the Bulldogs to the first track and field state championship team title in school history.  His dad Kevin is a firefighter for the city of Coos Bay and his high jump coach. 

Shaylen Crook is the first female cross country state champion in Marshfield history and earned another individual championship at the 2014 state track and field meet.  Her dad is a medical technician at Bay Area Hospital and was her strength coach throughout high school. 

Wyatt maintained a high school grade point average above 3.5; Shaylen was salutatorian of the Marshfield class of 2014; in their first term of college Wyatt earned a 3.7 and Shaylen a 4.0.  Both are active peer leaders, respected universally by classmates, coaches, competitors, boosters, and faculty.

Both earned athletic scholarships and compete collegiately.  Wyatt is a high jumper also training as a multi-event athlete at Southern Oregon and Shaylen is a two-sport athlete in cross country and track for the University of Utah.  She scored for the Utes at this year’s Pac-12 cross country championships and is competing indoors this season.

Shaylen Crook's parents accepting the award.Their names will be added to a perpetual trophy that honors local high school athletes since 1983 who went on to become NCAA champions, All-Americans, conference and school record holders and the current coach of the University of Oregon football team.

Wyatt Cunningham accepting the award with his parents.Whether it’s ESPN or the New York Times, when national media describes the success of 1991 winner Mark Helfrich, two indelible themes emerge: he is a product of and reflects the culture of a small town and he continues to be inspired by the legacy of Steve Prefontaine.

Tonight we celebrate Wyatt and Shaylen’s illustrious high school careers and recognize their family’s contributions to that success.   Please offer your congratulations, as a village, to Wyatt Cunningham and through her dad Alan, to Shaylen Crook - the 2014 Prefontaine co-Athletes of the Year.”