Where else but on the infield of the renowned Hayward Field at the University of Oregon could Steven McChesney, a native son of South Eugene, be the recipient of a national track and field honor as the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation coach of the year?
As the 31-year Newton South cross-country and track guru gazed up into the stands last Saturday afternoon, the award as the 2021 Michael Byrnes NSAF Coach of the Year presented during a break of the Outdoor Nationals, the 64-year-old McChesney soaked in the moment with immense, overwhelming pride.
“Awesome,” said McChesney, in a phone conversion at a family gathering from his brother Ken’s home in nearby Lafayette, Ore. Thursday afternoon. “There were South Eugene kids [from his 8-year run as coach at Churchill High], a few Newton South grads living out here — they got to meet each other. I had a whole cheering section.”
He was home. The lone regret? His parents, Bill and Marcia, revered for their passionate 40-year involvement in the track scene in Eugene and beyond, both passed in 2020. The McChesney clan was called the ‘first family of track and field in Eugene.”
“That made me feel weird,” acknowledged McChesney. “Better to say we all gave back to the youth. And I think my parents were proudest that all four of their sons did that.”
All four, Tom (8:53), Billy (8:50), a 1980 US Olympian, Steve (9:04), and Ken (9:18) ran a sub-9:20 two-mile. In 1975, running for South Eugene, Steve and Billy teamed up with John Gufstafson (lead), and anchor Chris Nielson for the national record in the 4xmile (17:11). In 1981, Billy set the NCAA record in the 5,000 meters that stood for 40 years.
Tragically, Tom (1986) and Billy (1992) died in accidents. Ken and Steve have carried on, embracing their roles as mentors, teaching the next generation of runners. A few years back, Ken brought his Veritas, Ore., team east, and ran a sanctioned cross-country meet against South, Boston Latin, and host Weston.
“I’ve led a blessed life as a coach,” said McChesney, who has guided his South squads to eight All-State titles and won 1,000-plus meets, for 14 years coaching alongside his wife, Marianne.
“You belong to a community, whether it is in Eugene, Oregon, or Newton. Coaching in the Dual County League, it’s incredibly competitive, the coaches are professional, and gifted. I feel honored to have landed at South,” while lauding former AD Bob Chrusz and present athletic director Patricia Rivero Gonzalez.
“I can’t even put into words how good he is for our students, and what he does for them not just as athletes but as people,” said Rivero Gonzalez. “What he has done here for the sport of track and field is amazing.”
McChesney was part of the committee that started the Johnny Kelley Youth Races and has provided student-athlete volunteers through the years.
Molly Hillis Elliot (South, ‘94) described McChesney as a “key” person in her life. As a sophomore, she began skipping practices. McChesney set up a meeting, they set goals, and he told her that she had the potential to become a great runner if she fully committed to practice.
“That was a turning point where I realized I did want to try to reach my potential in running, and, from then on I was 110 percent committed to making all the practices and the workouts,” said Elliot, who went on to run for Georgetown University. “I think that’s what he did for many of us, he helped us set goals and achieve our potential by sharing his passion and his knowledge.”
Eastern Massachusetts was well represented at the NSAF Outdoor Nationals.
In the 5,000 meters, Ellie Shea, a rising sophomore at Belmont High selected as the state’s Gatorade Girls’ Track and Field Athlete of the Year earlier this week, cruised to the national title in 16:10.06, beating the next closest competitor by six seconds.
▪ Stoughton graduating senior Elisha Teneus-Claude finished second with a leap of 23 feet, 8 inches in the long jump.
▪ Buckingham, Browne & Nichols senior Samirah Moody ran a personal best of 23.33 seconds to win the girls’ 200-meter title. She also ran a personal best of 11.51 seconds in the 100-meters to finish second.
▪ Concord-Carlisle senior Iris Bringdale finished ninth with a personal best in the 800 meters at 2:10.75. The Concord Carlisle4x1 mile relay featuring James Boyle, Joshua Pixley, Nico Martinelli, and Marko Kovacevic finished 10th in 18:03.15.
▪ Lexington senior Aleia Gisolfi-McCready finished second in the 400-meter hurdles with a personal best of 59.90 seconds. Gisolfi-McCready ran the anchor leg of the team’s fourth-place 4x400 relay with Marielsa McBride, Catherine Movsessian, and Aylin Bruce. The relay finished with a time of 3:53.92.
▪ Lexington’s boys’ 4x800 meter relay of Traver Smith, Reed Solomon, Stephen Joseph, and Evan Eberle finished seventh in 7:59.26 seconds.
▪ The Middlesex School’s distance medley relay of Cooper Austen, Lucas Mylon, Caleb Gartner, and Mac Hadden finished fourth in 10:04.25 seconds.
▪ Northbridge’s Sydney Masciarelli (Marianapolis Prep) won the 2,000-meter steeplechase national title in 6:36.24 — beating the next closest runner by seven seconds. Masciarelli will run at the University of North Carolina in the fall.
▪ Reading’s James Donahue, a rising junior at Belmont Hill who was named the state’s Gatorade Boys’ Track and Field Athlete of the Year on Thursday, finished fourth in the mile in 4:08.28.
▪ Ethan Exilhomme of Tewksbury finished second in the 110-meter hurdles in 13.80 seconds. Exilhomme will run at Northeastern next season.
Globe correspondent Kris Rhim also contributed to this report.
Craig Larson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.