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.

2006-2007 Prefontaine Athletic Award

   

PREFONTAINE ATHLETIC AWARD SPEECH
Presented by Bob Huggins
Bay Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet
January 26, 2008

 

Good Evening.

For the past 24 years, it has been the privilege of the Prefontaine Memorial Committee to be included among the presenters at the Chamber Banquet to honor outstanding individuals and businesses who have made significant contributions to our communities.

Before I make my presentation to this year’s winner of the Prefontaine Athletic Award, I would like to reflect for a moment on the effect of Steve Prefontaine’s legacy and what it has meant to this community.

Several years after Pre’s passing, and at the urging of Chamber Manager Don Bock, a committee was formed to organize a race memorializing Steve Prefontaine. That committee eventually became the Prefontaine Memorial Committee and we will hold our 29th Prefontaine Memorial Run in September. The run attracts over one thousand runners each year, many of whom come from great distances to honor Pre’s memory. With Nike’s long-time support, the run has been a financial success and together with our internet store, the profits have been distributed by the Prefontaine Committee to county high schools to help support financially-challenged track and cross country programs.
We have awarded a number of $1,000 scholarships to athletes who have participated in track or cross country and are going on to college. We also sponsor the Pre Track Club, a summer track & field program, and help defray travel expenses for both athletes and coaches so they can attend out of area competitions they normally could not afford to attend. We are now working to establish an endowed scholarship at Marshfield in Pre’s name and are nearing the halfway point in having enough money to award the first scholarship.

All of this is made possible because Steve Prefontaine was born and raised in Coos Bay, became a national record-holding distance runner at Marshfield and matured into a charismatic, world-class distance runner who held every American distance record between 2,000 and 10,000 meters. Amazingly, he is as popular today as he was in 1975 at the time of his untimely passing.

You may not realize this, but Coos Bay is a tourist destination for distance runners of all ages seeking to explore Pre’s roots. Hundreds of people stop at the Tourist Information Center to view the Pre Memorial, they visit the Pre Gallery at the Coos Art Museum and they want to run on the track at Marshfield where Pre competed and set his last American record.  Through the initiative and encouragement of Katherine Hoppe, who serves as the Executive Director of the Coos Bay-North Bend Visitor & Convention Bureau, the Pre Committee applied for and was recently awarded a $5,000 matching grant by the Oregon Tourism Division. This grant will help to identify Prefontaine sites of interest with the placement of bronze plaques, and also fund a quality brochure about Pre. We intend to complete this project in advance of the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials, which will be held this summer in Eugene. We anticipate even larger numbers of Pre’s fans to visit the Bay Area due to the proximity of the Trials to Coos Bay.

In looking back at the list of past winners of the Prefontaine Athletic Award, I am struck at the quality of student-athletes that have graduated from Marshfield and North Bend High Schools. And this year’s honoree is another extremely accomplished young athlete whose dominance in her sport is as impressive as Pre’s was when he was dominating Oregon high school distance running back in the late 1960’s.

It is my pleasure to announce the winner of the 2007 Prefontaine Athletic Award—Kelcy McKenna. Kelcy graduated from North Bend H.S. last spring and accepted a full tennis scholarship to attend Arizona State University. She was not able to travel here from Tempe, AZ, but she is represented by her parents Patricia and Matt McKenna. (ask them to join me at the podium) Here also to honor Kelcy is Steve’s mother—Elfriede Prefontaine.

Kelcy was a 2-sport athlete at North Bend. She was a 4-year starter on the volleyball team and her team placed in State all four years. She was named to the Oregonian All-State Volleyball First Team three consecutive years and she was named Oregonian Volleyball Player of the Year in both 2005 and 2006, leading N.B. to the team championship her senior year.

As successful as Kelcy was as a volleyball player, she was even more successful on the tennis courts. She posted the remarkable record of never having lost a high school match—finishing her high school career with an 82-0 record. In her first match as a freshman, she lost one set, but never dropped another set in 4 years. She won four straight State singles titles and was ranked in the top 20 players in the nation under 18 years of age.

Kelcy is also a finalist for the prestigious Johnny Carpenter State Prep Female Athlete of the Year Award, which will be announced tomorrow night at the Oregon Sports Awards Banquet in Beaverton.

In the words of N.B.H.S. Athletic Director Boyd Bjorkquist,” Kelcy, in addition to her unmatched athletic achievements, also displayed outstanding character as an athlete and in her daily life. She was always a humble winner and a gracious loser. If she is not the best, then Kelcy is certainly one of the top two or three female athletes to ever compete for North Bend High School.”

It is indeed my pleasure to present the Prefontaine Athletic Award to Kelcy McKenna.