Tom Priester's name is synonymous with success, both at Southwestern Central School where he was a coaching fixture for more than four decades and as a highly-revered track and field official, and that's why his one of eight 2014 inductees into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
Born in 1939, his athletic career began around the age of 12 when he played one year of Little League baseball. In North East (Pa.) High School, sports activities were limited during the 1950s, but Priester spent two years playing varsity basketball, was on the varsity track team for two years and was the manager of the football team for four years.
Priester then went to Slippery Rock University where he played soccer all four years, lettering in two, graduating in 1962.
His career at Southwestern began later that year and for the next 45 years until his retirement in 2007, Priester amassed an impressive resume.
He made a huge mark as a cross-country coach from 1965 to 2007. During that span, his boys teams were Division 1 champs in 2000, 2001 and 2005 with that team finishing sixth in the state. His girls teams were league champs from 1985-1987 and again in 1989. He also won sectional championships in 1973 and 2005 and was a county champion in 1996.
His overall record was 410-255, not counting invitationals. He had 28 different runners compete in the state championships a total of 47 times with a number of runners going back multiple times. He coached two-time state champion, Brian Hull, in 1973-1974.
Priester also coached track and field from 1966-1974 where his team won the county championship in 1973 and were sectional champs in 1968 and 1973.
He also coached tennis from 1963-1966 winning a pair of sectional championships, coached boys volleyball during that same time span and also guided the Southwestern bowling team from 1967-1969, winning the county championship in 1967.
Priester has also distinguished himself as an outstanding high school track and field official from1975 to the present day and has been a USATrack & Field official since 1985. He has officiated NCAA Division I, II, II track and field championship meets and also national and international meets, including two U.S. Olympic trials.
He also officiated at the World University Games in 1993, the World Veterans Games in 1995 and the 2011 World Masters.
As expected, Priester's list of awards is lengthy and includes multiple awards for teaching, coaching and officiating excellence. Two of the highlights were receiving the New York State Track Officials Dick Ferzinger Award for distinguished service in coaching track and field in 2007 and in 2009, he was given the Outstanding Service Award for the Niagara Association of USA Track & Field in 2009.
In 2012, he was nominated for the Andy Bakjanian Award for Outstanding Service to USATF officials and won the Outstanding Official Award by the National Officials committee this past October.
Beyond track and field, Priester was nominated for All-American Status in soccer three times. He was also the president of the Chautauqua County Athletic Association from 1991-1994 and was on the executive board from 1988-1994.
Away from coaching, Priester played softball at all levels for more than 40 years in Jamestown and North East and still plays basketball in the Busti-Lakewood Rec Over-30 League. He was also a classic league bowler during the 1960s in the Trend Broadcasting League.
Priester has also found time to serve his community as a Board of Directors member for the former Joint Neighborhood Project and the Southwestern Schools Education Foundation.
Priester has been married to his wife, Susan, for 48 years and they have two children, Shannon and Dayne, and have six grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Priester, along with Vincent Calarco, Geza Farkas, Dan Lunetta, Cindy Miller, Al Muck, Tom Prechtl and Jack Wigley, will be honored at the 33rd annual induction dinner on Feb. 17 at the Lakewood Rod & Gun Club. The event will begin with a hospitality session at 5 p.m. followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m.
Sharon Robinson, daughter of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, will be the featured speaker.
The official ticket distribution sites are Fredonia Food Mart on Temple Street in Fredonia, Calarco's Restaurant on Market Street in Westfield, the Jamestown Cycle Shop and the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
Tickets can also be ordered by phoning Chip Johnson at 485-6991. The price per ticket is $50. CSHOF members receive a $5 discount.