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