The lure of a challenge and long years of dedication to their craft earned five people special recognition during Wednesday’s Youth Awards Luncheon.
Area coaches Don Fox, Ron Long and Cor van der Meer received Inland Northwest Sportswriters and Broadcasters 25-Year Awards for many years of contribution to high school and college sports.
Spokane doctor Lisa Bliss, who won the 2007 135-mile Kiehl’s Badwater Ultra Marathon, received the SWABS Dick Wright Certificate of Excellence for the endurance effort.
Spokane Chiefs general manager Tim Speltz received the organization’s Certificate of Achievement for the long-term success of the Memorial Cup junior hockey champions.
Fox spent nearly 40 years as a coach and administrator at Colville, Inchelium and Kettle Falls. He coached football, basketball, track and softball. His Kettle Falls Bulldogs went 412-184 in softball and won three state championships, two in slowpitch and one in fastpitch. He also was the high school athletic director and coached football most recently before retiring last spring.
Long spent 37 years as freshman football coach at Gonzaga Prep before announcing that last fall’s season would be his last. For the past 23 years he continued to coach despite being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Community Colleges of Spokane men’s and women’s soccer coach van der Meer won more than 300 matches during 20 years with the Sasquatch. He started the Five-A-Side tournament, which has grown to more than 300 teams entering its 25th year. It is part of a near 50-year involvement with youth soccer throughout Washington.
Speltz came to the Chiefs with owner Bobby Brett as general manager in 1991 when they won their first Memorial Cup. In the 18 seasons since, Spokane has failed to make the Western Hockey League playoffs just three times, winning two division championships and finishing second six times.
The Chiefs hosted the Memorial Cup in 1998 and won it for the second time last year with a 9-0 run through the playoffs.
Bliss, who has been medical director at Badwater for six years, was not fast enough to be a successful marathon runner, but turned instead to challenging her mental and physical toughness with endurance runs of 50 miles and longer.
She has the 10th-fastest United States women’s 100-mile time, 19 hours, 42 minutes.
Her crowning achievement was winning the women’s division of Badwater, which begins in 120 degree temperatures in Death Valley 280 feet below sea level and concludes at the 8,300-foot level of Mount Whitney.
Bliss had to battle through blisters and moments of self-doubt. She said the pain ultimately goes away, and ultra marathon runners continue on for the fun and the camaraderie with their crew members who help them through the race.
“There are periods when you tell yourself, ‘Why am I doing it?’ ” Bliss said. “Everyone wants to quit or questions themselves. The mind has to be strong to overcome it.”
She could have been speaking for all the award winners, who strove to enable those around to experience success.