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.

2012-2013 Prefontaine Athletic Award


Presented by Mac McIntosh
Bay Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet
January 24, 2014

Lauren McGowneBefore driving his 1956 Chevy to the University of Oregon in the summer of 1969, Steve Prefontaine had competed in Europe for the US national team, set a national high school record in the two mile, earned four individual state championship titles in cross country and track, and led the Pirate boys track and field team to a second-place trophy at the 1968 state championship meet.  

Our Prefontaine Memorial Committee Athlete of the Year earned two state championship titles in track and led the Pirate women to a second-place trophy at last year’s state meet.  Earlier that year, she’d earned First-Team honors at the volleyball state championship tournament, leading the Lady Pirates to their highest finish since 1976.

Beyond athletic achievement, however, it’s other qualities that distinguish Lauren McGowne from equally talented athletes.  I made her co-captain as a junior and senior and in five seasons as head coach, I’ve had no better or more effective student leader.  She brings infectious enthusiasm, mature insight, and empathy to leadership, the same qualities that resonate in every conversation with anyone who ever had the chance to train or compete with Steve Prefontaine.

These qualities led the editorial board of the Eugene Register Guard to name her the 2013 Prep Athlete of the Year, only the fourth from Marshfield of 76 athletes so named in the award’s 38-year history. 

McGownes at the Prefontaine Athletic Awards CeremonyAs a freshman, Pre won the first of 4-straight NCAA championships in the 5000, early benchmarks in a 6-year career that included American records in 7 different distance races and competition in the 1972 Olympics. 

Lauren entered Southern Oregon University this fall as a recruited two-sport athlete.  In her first season of collegiate volleyball, she won the starting spot at setter, earned First-Team All-Region honors and was named the Cascade Collegiate Conference Freshman of the Year.  She’s training currently to compete as a 7-event heptathlete in track for the Raiders this spring.

In recognizing Lauren’s achievements, we refresh our own memories of the Bay Area’s and America’s greatest, middle distance runner.  As a community, we share and are partially defined by that heritage.  On behalf of that community, it’s a distinct privilege to recognize this year’s Prefontaine Memorial Committee Athlete of the Year for living with integrity, competing with class and adding to that legacy.  

Congratulations and well done, Lauren McGowne.