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.
PREFONTAINE ATHLETIC AWARD SPEECH
Presented by John S Burles
Bay Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet
January 28, 2018
Greetings Chamber members and guests,
I am a member of the Prefontaine Memorial Committee. The Committee supports Track and Cross Country in County schools, and, hence, the athletes participating. The Pre Award is given to the high school student that exemplifies Steve Prefontaine’s character and his legendary burning desire to achieve.
This year the award goes to George LaGesse. George displays excellence in character, academics and athletics.
George maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA through his 4 years at North Bend High School, graduating as Valedictorian of the class of 2017. He never missed a day of school. This commitment carried over to all other areas of his life, including athletics.
George took a leadership role in NBHS Track and Cross Country. He is not blessed with enormous natural ability. He worked hard, continually, to be a significant factor in the sport.
The picture (shown on the projection screens) taken at the 2017 state track meet is worth a thousand words. Michael Brown, a superb runner at NBHS, is on his way to winning the 4A 1500 meter final. Michael won by .05 second over Lucas Caruana of Astoria. George is running down the stretch to take third with a time of 4:08, a three second PR for George. His place was very important to NBHS’s 3rd place finish in the meet.
John S Burles