Local educators, student athletes honored at the Beacon awards on Thursday 

Twelve people who impacted Salem high school athletics were honored on Thursday at the Elsinore Theatre for their years of dedication to the community and young student athletes. 

“The Beacons” is an annual award ceremony put on by the Salem-Keizer High School Sports Booster Club. The club is dedicated to ensuring all students in the school district have access to athletics programs regardless of their ability to pay. 

The gala included awards for the highest-performing athletes in all sports offered in Salem schools. Eleven “Beacons” were honored for their substantial role in local athletics programs, and one person received the 2023-24 Coach of the Year award for his outstanding leadership and coaching. 

This year’s coach of the year was Jesse “Max” Price, the head baseball coach from South Salem High School, who led his team to a conference title despite playing every game on the road. 

Scott Whipple, the vice president of the Salem-Keizer High School Sports Booster Club, said the Beacon Awards honor those in the community who have been nominated for their impacts on local athletics. 

“The most significant element is it gives the community an opportunity to come together and honor who we call our Beacons,” Whipple told Salem Reporter. “Those who contribute to athletics at all different levels and in all different ways.” 

Whipple said a Beacon, which is submitted by community members, is then nominated from each high school in the Salem-Keizer School District. The Booster Club’s committee of four selects the nominees and then will choose the winners. 

For student athlete awards, aside from athletic performance and statistics, the committee also considers the athlete’s character and values as qualifications to best represent the organization. 

More information on the 2023-24 award winners is available on the S-K Beacons Website

Mike Allegre, Community Beacon 

Mike Allegre, an Air Force veteran and radio broadcaster, transformed the broadcast landscape for local prep sports in the mid-Willamette Valley after arriving from central Oregon in 1986. He began his career with football and basketball coverage on KYKN Radio in Keizer. His prior experience in radio and as a field reporter, including as the sports director at KTVZ-TV in Bend, prepared him for a long career in sports broadcasting.

Allegre’s dynamic career included college broadcasts at Willamette University, where he spent nearly three decades covering football and basketball. His most notable broadcast was during the historic moment when Willamette’s Liz Heaston became the first woman to play and score in a college football game in 1997. 

Allegre said in his Beacon biography that he is realistic about how much longer he will continue covering local sports. 

“When my ability to bring a quality game broadcast to listeners has diminished, I’ll unplug the headset,” Allegre said. “With good health, my wife’s approval and God’s grace, that’ll be a few years from now.”

Mike Allegre receives a Community Beacon award for his long career as a local sports broadcaster during a gala at the Elsinore Theatre on Thursday (Courtesy/SK Beacons)

Fred Martin, Community Beacon 

Fred Martin has served as an official in the Salem Basketball Officials Association for 41 years, and as president four times. Martin has mentored hundreds of fellow officials with the principle that, “It’s not about us. It’s about the kids,” his Beacon bio said. 

Martin has likely officiated thousands of games across the state, for both boys and girls basketball. He also spent time mentoring and working with inmates at the Oregon State Penitentiary, teaching them valuable skills. 

In 2016, Martin won the association’s “Basketball Official of the Year,” and it is a point of pride for him that despite the emotion and passion in the gym, he has never disqualified a coach from a game. 

“Martin has established a reputation that in many ways puts coaches and players at ease, because they know he will work hard, he will work with integrity, and he’ll be fair,” his bio said. “They also know that he will listen. Not unlike an outstanding judge, he allows the participants to feel heard.”

Pete Hoffert, Community Beacon 

Pete Hoffert has dedicated his life to serving the Salem community as a teacher and as a baseball coach at both Walker Middle School and South Salem High School. Hoffert’s first baseball coach was Salem attorney Bruce Williams, who he remembers from when he was 11 years old. 

“I still remember Coach Williams buying each player a new bat,” Hoffert said in his bio.

Hoffert said between his father, Coach Williams and other coaches who influenced him throughout his life, he “learned many things…about baseball and life in general. Early on, because of these coaches, I decided I wanted to teach/coach young student-athletes.”

In addition to teaching literature and composition, Hoffert coached 9th grade basketball for eight seasons, junior varsity for seven seasons and was the varsity head coach for four seasons. His entire working life was dedicated to serving youth, and few knew of his vital role in the community because of his humility and dedication to student athletes.

Don Kerzel, Community Beacon 

Don Kerzel has been a pivotal figure in the Salem Sports and Breakfast Club for over 25 years, presenting awards to Athletes of the Week and Senior Athletes of the Year. 

Kerzel has coached little league baseball for seven years, little league softball for four years, Amatur Softball Association  softball for four years, and two years of city league high school basketball. Kerzel’s most noteworthy accomplishments were from his time coaching high school racquetball. 

Kerzel has coached racquetball at Sprague for 17 years. During the 14 years he has been the head coach, Sprague racquetball has been either the national champion or the runner-up for the title. In 2016, Kerzel won the Racquetball Developmental Coach of the Year award from the United States Olympic Committee. 

He is the president of the Salem Sports and Breakfast Club to this day. 

“I feel very strongly about the city-wide forum bringing potential competitors together in one room, out of competition, off the floor, out of uniforms, showing their commonality. In a world that seems ever-more divided this cohesion is important to call out. It’s okay to want to win on the field, it’s okay to fight hard for the victory, but off the court they’re still kids,” Kerzel said in his bio. “The stories over the years about how athletics kept kids in school, how coaches stepped up as surrogate-parents, and how players overcame incredible challenges have helped me understand how critical athletics are to education.”

Kent Brewer, McKay High School  

Over the past three decades Brewer has become a fixture and an icon at McKay High School. Camera in hand, he regularly attends every sporting event whether it is football, basketball, swimming, wrestling, softball or track and field. He spends that time taking photos of kids and coaches engaged in their sports of choice. 

Brewer started taking photos when his son John was playing sports, but continued even after his son graduated. He soon became a natural part of the fauna at McKay and his photography became a calling. 

Brewer’s pictures provided a mosaic of McKay athletics, with him averaging 15,000 “shutters” every athletic season. After going through and editing his photos, he then gives each student copies. 

“Kent Brewer has given back to the McKay community for no other reason than he knows it’s important to those participating,” Brewer’s bio said. “To walk down a hallway at the school and have student-athletes, many of whom don’t know his name, smile, say hello, and recognize him as the “picture guy” reaffirms the lives he’s touched. For all the fingerprints he has left on the lives of people at McKay, Kent Brewer is a Beacon.

Larry Gahr, McNary High School 

Larry Gahr started coaching at Cascade High School in 1977, and eventually embarked on a career in the Salem-Keizer School District. He taught and coached at McNary High School for 17 years. When West Salem High School opened in 2001, Gahr agreed to move there and start the basketball program. He spent two years coaching basketball at West. 

While Gahr coached at McNary the Celtics made it into the post-season 13 times, Gahr said in his bio. The team won three conference championships and finished second five times. 

Gahr stepped down from coaching after the 2003-04 season, and taught economics and history for five years at West before retiring in the spring of 2009, capping off a 32-year teaching career. For 42 years straight, Gahr had either played or coached baseball or basketball, he said in his bio. 

“I consider coaching and teaching the same animal. Coaching is really just teaching kids a different subject in the physical, as opposed to the mental, realm. Sports are an extension of the classroom,” Gahr said. “My goal as a coach was to get my players to play as close to their maximum potential as possible. Then mesh those players together to create the teamwork needed to collectively become the best possible team.

John McArdle, North Salem High School   

John McArdle was one of the most prominent graduates of 1975 from Salem High School, before “North” was added to the school’s name, according to his bio. As a Viking, he lettered in football, wrestling and track. After graduating, he continued his athletic career at the University of Oregon where he played football as a freshman. It was in track and field where he really excelled. 

After college, McArdle represented the U.S. in a number of track and field events throughout the world, and qualified for the 1980 Olympic team. His career in the Olympics was cut short with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The games were slated to take place in Moscow before then-president Jimmy Carter announced a U.S. boycott of the games. 

Aside from his sports career, McArdle served as mayor of Independence for 25 years while he sustained a 30-year career in higher education as the director of development and governmental affairs at Linn-Benton Community College and Western Oregon University. 

“He used his time at North Salem High School, including his athletic experiences as a Viking, to springboard into a life of leadership and service for all his varied communities,” McArdle’s bio said. 

John-McArdle receives a Community Beacon award for his career as a coach at North Salem High School during a gala at the Elsinore Theatre on Thursday (Courtesy/SK Beacons)

Terry Haugen, South Salem High School   

After sophomore and junior years at South Salem High School, Terry Haugen transferred to Sprague High School in 1972 and was part of the school’s first graduating class in 1973. During his high school career, he played football, basketball and baseball. 

“I believe in playing multiple sports,” Haugen said in his bio. “I played three sports all the way through and my kids played two sports per year. I believe the more experiences we have, the better we are.”

Haugen’s best sport was football, which carried him into college at Mt. Hood Community College where he played for the Saints. His coaching career began at Willamette University in 1977 where he served as a wide receivers coach. 

Shortly after that, Haugen was hired as a teacher and coach at South.There, he won a state baseball championship as a head coach, was named the Oregon Baseball Coach of the year in 1992 and was named football Assistant Coach of the Year twice.

Kary Hadden, Sprague High School 

Kary Hadden took over the wrestling program at Sprague in 1989 after three years as an assistant coach at North Salem High School, his alma mater. Before starting his coaching career, he shined as a wrestler, beginning in high school and later at  Oregon State University where he lettered four years. He soon moved on to coach both football and wrestling for 27 years at Sprague. He later worked as the wrestling coach at Corban University.

“Throughout his incredible run as Sprague’s head coach, Hadden has tried to create a sense of family. As high school coaches ‘our job is to encourage, build up, and to challenge athletes to compete at their best’ and ‘to encourage [athletes] to be better [people] off the mat as well,’” Hadden’s bio said. “Kary wanted his athletes to ‘continue to grow and learn’. A large part of that growth came while teaching the concept of sacrifice – ‘Anything worth having must be earned, not given.’” 

Dan Evans, West Salem High School 

Dan Evans spent his early years in the pool,  which inspired his illustrious 22-year career as a swimming coach in Salem. In 2002 he became the swimming coach at West Salem High School where he built a career inspiring students’ passion for swimming. 

In high school, Evans competed at South for four years before graduating in 1987. He went on to swim for four years at Willamette University where he was the team captain his senior year. He graduated in 1991 with a degree in economics.

As the swimming coach at West Salem High School, Evans coached the Titans to 10 district team titles, nine for the girls’ team and one for the boys’ team. He coached two state champions and three All-Americans. 

“Thousands of young people in Salem have experienced the love and passion that Dan Evans has for swimming as he has influenced their lives. He is a true lifetime swimming coach and a lifetime swimming instructor,” Evans’ bio said. “His dedication, loyalty, and especially an incredible work ethic have helped Dan to leave an indelible mark on the community of Salem.” 

Jesse “Max” Price, 2023-2024 Coach of the Year 

Jesse “Max” Price was awarded Coach of the Year for his seven-year tenure as head baseball coach at South, where he took three teams to the semifinals of the Oregon School Activities Association. 

During the 2023 season, the baseball team was unable to play at home due to vandalism at Gilmore Field. The team played every game of that season on the road, with no “home” field to practice and play on. Under Price’s leadership, the team overcame this hardship and won a conference title. 

In addition to Price’s accomplishments as a coach, he also received a Crystal Apple award in 2024 for his performance as a language arts teacher. 

Jesse “Max” Price, the South Salem High School baseball coach, won the 2023-2024 Coach of the Year award from the Salem-Keizer High School Sports Booster Club (Courtesy/SK Beacons)

Student Athletes of the Year 

Football: Jamahl Wilson – North Salem

Volleyball: Sidney Friesen – Sprague 

Boys Soccer: Jonathan Ruiz – McNary 

Girls Soccer: Amity Rogers – Sprague 

Boys Cross Country: Jack Meier – West Salem 

Girls Cross Country: Nelida Dalgas – North Salem 

Boys Basketball: Jackson Leach – West Salem 

Girls Basketball: Emma zuniga – West Salem

Boys Wrestling: Andrey Cernev – Sprague 

Girls Wrestling: Reese Lawson – West Salem 

Boys Swimming: Jarrod Coy – West Salem 

Girls Swimming: Abby Evans – West Salem 

Baseball: Teagan Scott – South Salem 

Softball: Rowan Thompson – South Salem 

Boys Tennis: Lincoln Basl and Jacob Hoda – Sprague 

Girls Tennis: Tirzah Tarbox – Sprague 

Boys Track and Field: Mihaly Akpamgbo – West Salem 

Girls Track and Field: Isabel Samora Mercado – Mckay

Boys Golf: Clayton Watters – Sprague 

Girls Golf: Emily Keel – Sprague

Contact reporter Joe Siess: [email protected] or 503-335-7790.

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Joe Siess is a reporter for Salem Reporter. Joe joined Salem Reporter in 2024 and primarily covers city and county government but loves surprises. Joe previously reported for the Redmond Spokesman, the Bulletin in Bend, Klamath Falls Herald and News and the Malheur Enterprise. He was born in Independence, MO, where the Oregon Trail officially starts, and grew up in the Kansas City area.