558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
Runners, and some with their canine companions, take off from the starting line for the 10K Hot Shot Memorial Run on Saturday.
Under crystal blue skies, more than 200 participants gathered at Ochoco Creek Park on Saturday for a time of silence — and exercise.
Family, friends, and comrades gather each year for the Prineville Hotshot Memorial Run for a 5K run and walk and 10K run to commemorate and pay tribute to 14 young lives that were cut short on July 6, 1994, on Storm King Mountain in Colorado. The tragedy shook the community of Prineville and Colorado Springs, Colo., and nine of the 14 fallen firefighters were local Prineville Hotshots who died in the fire that pushed the two communities into the national spotlight during that fateful time.
The connections in the community to these young heroes were widespread, and local resident Bill Cooley was friends with several of the hotshots who perished. He was, and is, an avid runner, and it was his idea to start an annual memorial run in their honor.
“I approached Lori and Sharon (of the Prineville Athletic Club), and they sponsored it and did most of the work,” recalls Cooley of the inception of the event. “I was the idea, and they did the work, and I think Twila Flegel did the poster the first year. So, it was a community offering.”
Cooley said that he loves the sport and the community.
“And I like to compete,” he added with a smile.
As if to punctuate that statement, Cooley easily won the 5K race on Saturday, with a time of 19:09. The overall winner of the 5K Walk was Rodger Peer of Prineville, with a time of 35:48. The 10K run was dominated by Marcel Potvin of Prineville with a time of 42:02.
After the Prineville Athletic Club coordinated the race for 14 years, Shad Sitz and his wife organized the Memorial Run for five years. Jake Akerberg is coordinating the event for the first time this year, and he said he was pleased with the turnout.
“We usually have around 150 to 200, I think we are probably at 220 to 230 right now maybe,” he commented Saturday.
Akerberg said that there were a lot of families at the event who lost their children in 1994.
“It still connects them back to the community, and it is still a chance for them all to come together.”
He added that for the rest of the world, their lives move on, but the families will always mourn their loved ones. This gives them a chance to connect back to the community, and it gives them a chance to maintain the relationship with the hotshots and friends who come to support the event.
Akerberg is an employee of the Bureau of Land Management, and he also lost his firefighter comrade in an accident on the fire line in 2004.
“I have an extra passion for the Wildland Firefighter Organization, which is an amazing organization,” he noted. “They helped me out so much, and this is the least I can do to give back to them.”
His fallen friend was from Vermont, and he had tremendous support from the organization during that time.
Marvin Kelso, father of the late Prineville Hotshot, John Kelso, said this is the second year that he hasn’t been able to participate in the race, but he always comes to support from the sidelines.
“The kids died in 1994, and they had the first run in 1994,” he reflected.
Nearby, the bronze firefighter’s monument looks out over the park, and it serves as a reminder for the purpose for the race. Proceeds from the Memorial Run go toward the maintenance of the Prineville Hotshot Memorial and Wildland Firefighter Monument, as well as the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.
“That was a very fulfilling and rewarding experience to be involved in helping to build that,” said Kelso with emotion. “It was kind of a healing thing really.”
The Prineville Hot Shot Memorial Run is in its 19th year, and commemorates the loss of 14 firefighters on Storm King Mountain on July 6, 1994. The tragedy happened approximately 150 miles west of Glenwood Springs, Colo., in a wildland urban interface, where a fire that blew up claimed 14 firefighters, including nine Prineville hotshots.
Top finishers in men’s and women’s for each race were as follows:
5K Walk men: 1st: Rodger Peer, Prineville, 35:48; 2nd: Bob Trautner, unknown, 35:49; 3rd: Dan Eddy, Philomath, Ore., 40:00.
5K Walk women: 1st: Rachel Mckay, Prineville, 35:57; 2nd: Turquise Von Borstal, Terrebonne, Ore., 38:03; 3rd: Barbara Eddy, Philomath, Ore., 40:01.
5K Run men: 1st: Bill Cooley, Prineville, 19:09; 2nd: RJ Hanna, Sisters, Ore., 20:05; 3rd: Mike Burri, Burns, Ore., 20:16.
5K run women: 1st: Krista Cooley, Prineville, 22:39; 2nd: Rachel Knower, Pendleton, Ore., 24:09; 3rd: Myha Dean, Yakima, Wash., 24:15.
10K Run men: 1st: Marcel Potvin, Prineville, 42:02; 2nd: Ramon Alonso, Prineville, 42:28; 3rd: Kevin McCarthy, unknown, 43:18.
10K women: 1st: Alison Dean, Prineville, 48:14; 2nd: Maryanne Pickett, Prineville, 51:10; 3rd: Holly LeFevre, Prineville, 56:53.