Travis Koski takes the stage to receive his Special Olympics athlete of the year award

A Century High School student was among those who were honored Sunday night at the Oregon Sports HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: JOHN LARIVIERE - Century student Travis Koski receives an award for Special Olympics athlete of the year from Oregon Sports Awards host Neil Everett.

The awards are staged annually to recognize outstanding individuals, teams and accomplishments in Oregon sports, and this year’s ceremony was staged at the Tiger Woods Center at the Nike World Headquarters near Beaverton. ESPN personality Neil Everett served as emcee for the event.

Koski, 16, picked up the Lou Burge Award for Special Olympics Athlete of the Year, which is selected by the Special Olympics Oregon organization for inspiring greatness in others. The five-year Special Olympics veteran participates in downhill skiing, track and field, basketball, swimming and Unified Sports soccer.

During his acceptance speech, Koski called the award “one of the biggest things I’ve ever accomplished.”

He also spoke of his love for Special Olympics, the confidence his participation has helped him to develop and how it has helped him discover his potential.

“I’ve found that the thing that I love most about Special Olympics, more than anything else by far, is just how positive everybody is around me,” Koski said. “Immediately, when you step into the world of Special Olympics, everyone around you immediately becomes your family.”

Koski also described the journey he embarked upon by taking up soccer. He started out on a Unified Sports team. In Unified Sports, teams partner up participants both with and without disabilities. Inspired by his experience, Koski decided to try out for Century’s high school program and made the JV II squad.

He said he “had an absolute blast” playing on the high school team, that he plans to continue his soccer career, and that he may not have turned out for the team if not for his Special Olympics experiences.

Among his other honors and accomplishments, Koski has been feted with the Gert Boyle Greatness Award at the Governors’ Gold Awards, and he won the 100-meter dash exhibition event staged at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials for track and field in Eugene. He has spoken at the Oregon Governers Gold Awards as an ambassador for Special Olympics, and he recently spoke at Wilsonville High School with Portland Trail Blazer Damian Lillard as part of Lillard’s “Respect , Pass It On” program.

Several other Hillsboro-area athletes were finalists in high school categories.

Courtney Clayton, Glencoe’s reigning Class 6A state player of the year, and former Crimson Tide pitching standout Katie Sutherland-Finch, now at Cal, were two of the three finalists for the Prep Softball Player of the Year award, which went to North Medford’s Maryssa Becker.

Century’s Ellie Thorbrue was a finalist for girls Prep Swimmer of Year, which was won by Westview’s Michelle Cefal.

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