Oregon Sports Awards comb fields, tracks and courts for the best
Trophies went to 12 athletes, one coach, one team, two team executives, one statistician and one local company. But the overall winner at Sunday night's Oregon Sports Awards had to be the state itself.
An impressive cast of celebrity presenters Ñled by Joey Harrington and Jerome Kersey Ñjoined the winners in saluting the state where they learned to play and the people who helped them achieve.
'I'm very proud to call Oregon home,' said Tom Pappas, the world decathlon champion from Azalea, south of Roseburg, who was named the Harry Glickman Pro Male Athlete of the Year.
'It's an honor to win,' Central Catholic's Galen Rupp said after capturing the Nike Steve Prefontaine Award as the state's most distinguished senior distance runner. 'All these athletes are deserving of winning.'
'I want to thank all my competitors for pushing me to be even better. They're all amazing,' said Brianna Anderson-Gregg of Philomath High, a Class 3A state champion track and cross country runner who was the Johnny Carpenter Prep Female Athlete of the Year.
'It's a big honor,' former University of Oregon basketball guard Luke Ridnour said in a taped acceptance speech.
Ridnour and Oregon State running back Steven Jackson were co-winners of the Bill Hayward Amateur Male Athlete of the Year award.
'I know there are a lot of great nominees,' said Ridnour, now a member of the Seattle SuperSonics. 'I really enjoyed my time down there (at Oregon). We had a lot of fun and had some good times, and I look forward to continuing to follow the Ducks.'
Harrington, Kersey, Terrell Brandon, Mary Slaney, Alberto Salazar, Steve Johnson and Charlie Sitton were among those who presented awards on the stage of the Tiger Woods Center at Nike in Beaverton.
The 52nd annual event, a successor to the Hayward Banquet, was televised statewide by KATU (2). The Portland Tribune, Nike, KATU, Standard TV & Appliance, Les Schwab Tire Centers and the Portland Trail Blazers sponsored the Oregon Sports Awards.
Other winners were:
nUO pole vaulter Becky Holliday, the NCAA champion in 2003, Hayward Amateur Female Athlete of the Year
nOregon men's basketball coach Ernie Kent, the Slats Gill Sportsperson of the Year
nWorld 800-meter champion Maria Mutola, the Glickman Pro Female Athlete of the Year
nSandy High track star Tommy Skipper, the Carpenter Prep Male Athlete of the Year
nLinfield College football, the George Pasero Team of the Year
nLinfield quarterback Tyler Matthews and Southern Oregon running back Dusty McGrorty, co-winners of the Ad Rutschman Small College Athlete of the Year award for men
nConcordia goalkeeper Shelly Butcher, the Ad Rutschman Small College Female Athlete of the Year
nPortland's Jennifer Deras, the Special Olympics Athlete of the Year
nU.S. Bank, winner of the Les Schwab Friend of Sports Award for sustained support of athletics
nBaseball executives Jack and Mary Cain, and statistician John Simmons, winners of merit awards for longtime service
'Thank you, Oregon'
Mutola, whose native country is Mozambique, ran at Springfield High and still loves to compete in Eugene. She won the opening indoor 800 of the season in Glasgow, Scotland, on Saturday, clocking an amazing 151st sub-2-minute time. Her longtime coach in Eugene, Margo Jennings, read an e-mail from Mutola at the awards show.
'I grew up in Oregon. I lived here for 10 years at a time in my life when I was unsure of myself and my abilities,' Mutola said. 'The road was rocky at times, but each new lesson made me wiser, stronger and even more determined. I would still be living in Oregon today if not for the allergies I developed.
'Every year I look forward to returning to my second home, Oregon. É I would like to thank the people of Oregon for accepting me and adopting me.
'I carry all of you in my heart wherever I go. I am very blessed to be an adopted Oregonian. Thank you, Oregon.'
Pappas has been living and training for seven years in Knoxville, Tenn.
'Tennessee made me get a driver's license, but I still have my Oregon plates on the car,' he said. 'I find myself arguing with Southerners about Oregon sports versus Tennessee sports.
'A lot of times athletes, when they get to the elite level, get caught up in the spotlight, and they forget how they got where they are and forget where they come from. I come from a small town in Southern Oregon, Azalea, and I'm never going to forget that.'
Linfield tradition persists
A dozen or so seniors on the Linfield football team took the stage to accept the Pasero award.
'Linfield has epitomized the meaning of team over the last 48 years,' linebacker Harrison Bertsch said, 'and I know Linfield football will pass on the tradition of excellence for many more years to come.'
Holliday, the Ad Rutschman Small College Female Athlete of the Year two years ago, said picking a four-year school was one of her toughest decisions coming out of Clackamas Community College.
'Choosing the University of Oregon was the best decision of my life,' she said. 'Hayward Field is one of the best places to be, especially on competition day. Hayward fans are amazing.'
Skipper thanked his family and coaches, then paid tribute to his late brother Art, a national javelin champion from the University of Oregon who died in a plane crash in October 2001.
'I'd like to thank my family and coaches,' Tommy Skipper said, 'and most of all I'd like to thank my brother, Art Skipper, for teaching me hard work, perseverance and all the great things he taught me. I'd like to dedicate this award to him.'
Concordia's Butcher thanked her soccer teammates.
'I wouldn't be here without them,' she said.
Deras, a competitor in nine sports, is considered the fastest Special Olympics woman sprinter in United States.
'I want to thank my mom for taking me to practices,' she said.