From Paul Allen to preps, Oregon Sports Awards finalists stood out in 2009
- Stephen Alexander
- Portland Tribune - Sports
At its best, sports have the ability to show us the greatness people can achieve.
Since 1948, the Oregon Sports Awards (formerly the Hayward Banquet) has gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of athletes, coaches and teams with ties to Oregon.
At Sunday's annual show on the Nike World Campus, some of the finalists took a moment to reflect on their accomplishments. They also looked ahead to the future. Because in sports, as in life, not only do you have to 'Fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run,' as Rudyard Kipling said in his poem 'If,' and once that minute has ended, there is always another minute to be filled.
One of the highlights of the show was Paul Allen accepting a merit award for his philanthropy as the Trail Blazers owner. Allen rarely makes public appearances and almost never grants interviews. After receiving the award, Allen talked about what it meant to him.
'It's a great honor,' he said. 'Obviously, I feel like I've done my best over the years to bring a winning franchise with the Blazers to Portland. I think this is a recognition of that and the things we've tried to do in the community. It's a great honor and a great award, and I'm very thankful.'
Allen also talked about his hope for the Blazers in 2010.
'Obviously, we've had some injuries this year,' he said. 'It's great that we're getting some of the players back from injury. And we're fighting for a playoff spot right now, and I'm optimistic about that.'
• Elite distance runner Kara Goucher was one of the athletes attending the show who may experience the most change in 2010. A finalist for the Harry Glickman female Professional Athlete of the Year, she and her husband, Adam, are hoping to have their first child.
'That's why this year is kind of up in the air,' Kara Goucher says. 'We're just kind of waiting on Mother Nature right now.'
The 2012 Olympics remain in Goucher's cross hairs though.
'If I don't get pregnant in the next few months, then I'll be getting ready for a fall marathon,' Goucher says. 'I believe that I'm capable of winning an Olympic medal in the 2012 marathon, and I need a realistic amount of time to get back for that. In my professional life, that's still my number one goal.'
• Kenneth Acker led Grant High to the PIL 6A football championship in 2009. His accomplishments as the quarterback, defensive back and return man can be measured as much by the number of You Tube videos as by his statistics.
'It was my senior year, and I wanted to go out on top,' Acker says. 'We didn't make it all the way to the state championship, but in all it was a pretty good year.'
Acker's talent on the football field, as well his basketball and track success with the Generals, earned him a spot among the eight finalists for the Johnny Carpenter Prep Athlete of the Year was for 6A/5A boys.
Acker plans to attend Southern Methodist University to play football - probably defense - and major in business. He says that he wants to 'get on the field early and make a difference.'
• Oregon State football coach Mike Riley guided the Beavers to a tie for second place in the Pac-10 last season and a Las Vegas Bowl berth. He was one of five finalists for the Slats Gill Sportsperson of the Year award, won by Oregon coach Chip Kelly.
Riley already is starting to look ahead to next season.
'We've got to start forming the identity of this team,' he says. 'We're losing two senior quarterbacks, so we've got a lot of work to do in that area.'
Riley recently signed a contract extension that will keep him in Corvallis for a long time.
'It's awesome,' he says. 'I'm very, very excited about it. I've always admired those guys that have been able to stay in programs for a long period of time. And basically, you have a program and have something that's long lasting. And so I'm thankful for that opportunity.'
• Jordan Poyer, a former multisport star for Astoria High, was a co-winner with Nevin Lewis from Culver of the Carpenter 4A/3A/2A/1A prep boys award.
In high school, Poyer excelled in baseball and football. He went to Oregon State last fall thinking of playing both sports, but has turned his attention solely to football.
'There's a lot of reasons why,' Poyer says. 'I really want to start next year (as a defensive back). It was a hard decision to have to make. But I think it's the right decision for me.'
• Rebecca Ward was home-schooled in Cedar Mills. Judging by her accomplishments as a world-class fencer - a 2008 Olympic bronze medal in saber among them - she has always been a quick study.
Ward, the reigning NCAA champion after one year at Duke, was a finalist for the Bill Hayward Amateur Athlete of the Year.
'I really enjoyed going to NCAAs and competing for Duke, because I've never really been on a team before,' Ward says.
The 2012 Olympics are still a long way off for her.
'Right now, I'm focusing on Duke,' she says. 'I have an obligation to Duke.'
• Ndamukong Suh took his skills as a defensive lineman from Grant High to Nebraska.
He swept numerous major awards for his play last season, and made a trip to New York as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
'It was huge,' Suh says. 'Everyone knows that's an offensive type of award. Being a defensive guy, and a lineman at that, it was a tremendous honor.'
Suh was named Oregon's top male amateur athlete on Sunday and was presented with the Hayward award at the Oregon Sports Awards.
He is preparing for a future in the NFL, training with former Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson in Dallas.
'I'm not chasing him at all,' Suh says, laughing. 'I'm just working on my own form.'
Many analysts and scouts have predicted that Suh might be the NFL's No. 1 draft pick.
'I'm praying and hoping I am, and working toward it,' Suh says. 'I definitely want to be the No. 1 pick overall.'
• In 2009, Craig Robinson took over an Oregon State basketball team that had gone 0-18 in the conference the previous season. Robinson led the Beavers to an 18-18 record and was a finalist for the Slats Gill Sportsperson of the Year award.
Robinson is now in his second year of rebuilding the Beavers.
'We're 50-50,' he says. 'And that's actually not bad for the second year of a turnaround. I'm real happy with the fact that every game we've played we got a chance to win this year. I think we're making progress.'
Robinson also has the distinction of being the brother-in-law of President Barack Obama. Because of Robinson, the Beavers have been able play in front of the president.
'I think they were flabbergasted at first,' Robinson says of his players' reaction to having Obama in the stands. 'And then it was like it is for most people: an honor to be able to play in front of the President of the United States. I think they all came away with a richer experience having done it.'
Robinson says he has not played Obama in a game of 1-on-1 basketball.
'That's both of our decisions,' Robinson says. 'We're both pretty smart guys. We have played together in pickup games.'
• Terrence Jones has led Jefferson to two 5A basketball championships. The highly ranked Democrats star was a finalist for the Carpenter award and has the Demos ranked No. 1 in the state again.
'(The season) is going good,' Jones says. 'We're really jelling together as a team right now. Everyone is fulfilling their roles, and we're just coming out with the victories.'
Jones has yet to choose a college, and both Division I schools and bloggers are anxiously waiting for his decision.
'I've pretty much put that all on hold,' Jones says. 'Just to focus on the season and try to win another state championship.'
• Galen Rupp is an Olympic distance runner who won NCAA indoor titles in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters and distance medley last year for the Oregon Ducks. Rupp's efforts helped lead Oregon to its first NCAA indoor crown, and Rupp's further success outdoors gave him lofty credentials for the Hayward award.
This year, Rupp will run during the indoor season, and then plans to take his strides in the outdoor season in Europe late in the summer. He says he will run 'anywhere from the mile to the 10K.'
Rupp already is looking ahead to the 2012 Olympics.
'Everything we're doing is building up to that,' he says. 'Probably the 10K and even the 5K, too. So much can change between now and then. But definitely probably the 10 is where I'm leaning.'
• Kristen Shielee, a key cog in George Fox's NCAA Division III women's basketball championship season of 2008-09, claimed the Ad Rutschman Small College Athlete of the Year award.
"Our run to the title was incredibly surprise," she says. "I remember saying to a roommate at the beginning of the season that I had no clue how well we would do. It still seems kind of crazy that I can say I am a national champion."
Shielee, a senior on that championship team, is living in Pamplona, Spain. She teaches English at an elementary school and stays with a family as a nanny who speaks English to the children. She also plays semi-pro basketball for Aidoi and estimates that she is averaging 18 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks per game.
Pamplona is the land of bullfighting, and she has been to a couple of fights.
"The people were kind of crazy," she says, adding that, "I would probably go back."
Shielee is often reminded of her success at George Fox.
"I keep my (championship) ring in the top drawer of my desk and wear it often," she says. "I have gotten pretty good at explaining in Spanish what exactly it is for. It's a great conversation piece."
• Aaron Boehme, Linfield quarterback, won the Rutschman male athlete of the year award for leading the Wildcats to the D-III semifinals and a 12-1 record.
"It was a lot of fun," he says. "We had a really tightly nit group of guys."
Boehme will return next season as a senior.
"We'll be looking good," he says. "We definitely want to go farther. Once you get as far as we did, you just want to keep setting the goals higher."
• Meagan Paxton of Gladstone won the Lou Burge Special Olympics Athlete of the Year award.
Paxton has participated in the Special Olympics for 20 years. That's a lot when you consider she is only 30. She has competed in aquatics, basketball, cross-country, skiing, cycling, gymnastics, soccer, softball and tennis.
'It feels great,' Paxton says. 'I'm very honored to have been selected to get this award.'
• Scott Rueck took the George Fox University women's basketball team all the way to the NCAA Division III national championship in 2009. The D-III coach of the year was a finalist for the Slats Gill Sportsperson of the Year award that went to Oregon's Kelly on Sunday.
'Just to be on that list with those other coaches was an incredible honor,' Rueck says.
Rueck, a veteran coach with many other success stories, is not resting on the laurels of that one incredible season, though. 'This year, the team is starting to hit their stride similar to what last year's team did,' he says. 'It feels real similar. So I think they're poised to make another run. The way they're playing is exciting.'
• Everyone in Oregon knows of Brandon Roy. The guard, who has become the face of the Blazers, walked off with the Harry Glickman Professional Athlete of the Year award for men on Sunday.
Roy was recently selected for his third NBA All-Star game.
'It's exciting for me,' he says. 'Because you never know what the future brings. At the same time, it's humbling because there are so many great players in the Western Conference.'
Roy is recovering from a hamstring injury that has sidelined him for the past few games.
'The hamstring is getting better,' he says. 'Not as fast as I would like. I want to be out there as soon as possible.'
When Roy does come back, he will try to help the Blazers make the playoffs.
'First thing, and really the only thing is that we stay healthy,' Roy says. 'We feel like if we can stay healthy we'll have a good chance to play really good basketball.'
• Vin Lananna is quickly becoming an Oregon track and field/cross-country legend.
Lananna coached the Duck men's track team to the NCAA indoor title in 2009 and a tie for second at the outdoor meet. The Duck women's team was second in the NCAA outdoor meet - their best finish in a quarter-century.
Lananna, on winning the national title: 'It's a goal we've looked to achieve since the first day we started putting the program together five years ago. It was good to bring it to a culmination last year.'
Lananna, on what's ahead for his program in 2010: 'We're excited. We have a great group of kids. The majority are returning this year, so our men and women should be strong contenders for the NCAA title.'
• Anyone who wonders how an athlete could have been nominated for the Johnny Carpenter Prep Athlete of the Year ward after missing most of her junior season has never seen Shoni Schimmel play basketball.
Before and after her ankle injury as a junior for Franklin High, Schimmel was dazzling. Her ball-handling abilities and passing are seen commonly at Globetrotters games, but almost never in high school girls basketball. After a game against Skyview of Washington earlier this season, Schimmel was asked what her most spectacular play was. She laughed, 'I don't even remember. There were too many.'
Schimmel has not decided on a college. Among the ones she is looking at: Louisville, UCLA, Rutgers, Oregon, Cal, USC, South Carolina and Oklahoma.
'I'm just trying to keep everything open,' she says. 'Right now, I'm playing basketball, so I'm just trying to go with the flow. If they want to really recruit me, they'll still be around at the end.'
• Stephanie Cox, who was a star defender in soccer at the University of Portland, was one of five finalists for the Glickman female pro athlete award after a strong year with the Los Angeles Sol and U.S. national team.
'Playing at UP felt like playing with family.' Cox says, looking back on her years with the Pilots.
'This year is about preparing for the World Cup,' Cox says. 'Personally, I plan to take advantage of the WPS (Women's Professional Soccer) season by strengthening my weaknesses and being an impact player in the back line. If I do this, I think I'll be an attractive pick for the U.S. coaches to bring to qualifications for the World Cup in the fall.'
• Tyrell Fortune of Clackamas Community College was one of five finalists for the Ad Rutschman Small College Athlete of the Year honor for men.
Fortune spent 2009 winning the 285-pound NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) wrestling championship.
'I knew that was what I wanted. So it was goal of mine, and it felt good to accomplish it,' he says.
Fortune's plans for next year are to 'go to a D-I school and win another national championship.'
He is looking at Ohio State, Oregon State, Arizona State and Oklahoma State.
• Annie Hess became just the second woman in NAIA history to win three titles in the discus with her victory in 2009. The feat helped earn the former Concordia University thrower a finalist berth for the Ad Rutschman Small College Athlete of the Year award.
This year, Hess is finding her way outside of the throwing circle.
'I've been really trying to go through this transition of graduating and going into the real world and trying to get a job.' she says.
Hess just quit a two-part temp job and is now working at a 24-Hour Fitness club.
She has not given up thoughts of future track competitions.
'I do miss it,' she says. 'I do want to continue. I haven't put it down, that's for sure.'
This spring, she will start to throw again with 'some good friends.'
'I would like to get my marks back up and be able to get competitive again,' Hess says. 'My goal ultimately is getting back into shape and hopefully pursuing 2012 (the Olympics).'
• Kate Lanz was not a surprise as a finalist for the Carpenter prep award. In 2008-09, she led Central Catholic to a third-place finish at the state tournament. She is Central Catholic's all-time leader in points (1,542), rebounds (619), assists (405) and steals (303).
Lanz is now playing for OSU.
'It's definitely been a transition,' Lanz says of moving to Pac-10 ball. 'Everything is at a higher pace. Everything moves a lot quicker. You have to adapt to your surroundings better.'
Lanz is going through the learning curve as a freshman while averaging about nine minutes per game.
'I'm think I'm doing well,' she says. 'I think I'm going to continue to grow and become smarter as a player both on and off the floor.'
• Former Benson High track star Kayla Smith sprinted and jumped her way to the Carpenter award finals.
The 6A 100, 200 and long jump champion has taken her speed to the University of Illinois.
'It's not that big of a change (from living in Oregon),' she says by phone. 'I don't have any family here. That's probably the biggest change. And the weather … it gets pretty cold.'
Smith is competing indoors in the 60-meter dash, the 200 and both relays. This spring, she will move outdoors and do the 100, 200 and relays. 'I might do long jump, too,' she says. 'But I'm not sure yet.'
• Michelle Enyeart led the University of Portland soccer team nearly all season in 2009 as a senior. But she hurt her knee in the final regular-season game and missed out on the playoffs.
'Having to miss all the playoffs was tough,' says Enyeart, a Hayward award finalist. 'But I just tried to be there for the team in whatever way I could.'
Enyeart is rehabilitating her knee to get ready for her new job, after being drafted by the Los Angeles Sol.
'(Rehab) is going well,' she says. 'As good as can be expected right now. When I did get drafted, I couldn't have been more excited. I can't wait to play in L.A..'
• Hayley Ney ran long and hard as a Catlin Gabel distance runner. Her times earned her a finalist spot for the Carpenter 4A/3A/2A/1A award.
Ney has taken her running to Santa Clara. During the cross-country season, she only raced once - at the Bronco Invitational 5K. She plans to race more next season.
Ney will run on the track this spring.
'I want to P.R. again in the 1,500 and maybe P.R. in the 800 again,' she says. 'I also want to P.R. in the 5K.'
Ney has made the adjustment to the weather in California.
'During our preseason in August and September, it was really hot, and that was pretty difficult,' she says. 'We've kind of gone through a rainy phase right now, so the temperatures are pretty equal (to Oregon) at times. The heat definitely hasn't affected me.'