Southern Oregon has been home to many prominent wrestling duals over the years, mostly thanks to the history of programs like Crater, Eagle Point...
All Richard Peck really wanted to do was put his Air Force retirement fund into a banking institution that was a little more local to his Gold Hill home off Highway 99.
Instead of keeping that money in an account at Chase Bank, Peck recently opted to switch things over to the Southern Oregon Federal Credit Union in Rogue River. He felt good about the move, and even got his name thrown into some contest the SOFCU was promoting at the time.
But Peck's desire to think locally didn't stop there.
"When I signed up for it (contest) I wasn't paying too much attention," Peck said Monday. "I knew they had a contest going on but I was more interested in having a place to put my money as opposed to winning a contest."
Then he got a phone call from someone he describes as a "nice young lady" who was pleased to inform Peck that he had been selected as the grand prize winner and won a chance to earn $5,000 in the SOFCU Basketball Shootout Contest.
"I was all ears then," Peck said with a laugh, "and I certainly am a lot more interested now."
The contest involved shooting 10 free throws, with $500 earned for every successful attempt. Peck also got to select any high school to receive matching funds, and it didn't take long for him to consider the Class 3A school a quarter-mile or so from his front door.
"I just thought that since it's such a small community, it would be nice if I won anything that they would get the proceeds," said Peck, who otherwise had no affiliation to the school. "They were close and I figured they could probably use the money as much as I could."
The news of Peck's intention hit the high school like a lightning bolt. Only a day prior, Rogue River Principal Jesse Pershin and the school's athletic director, Brian Miller, had been going over budget numbers in hopes of making some much-needed improvements at the high school.
"We didn't know where (the money) was going to come from so it was awesome to hear that we were selected by him for this," said Miller. "He could've picked any school — he could've picked Ashland High if he wanted to — so we obviously thanked him a lot."
The contest allowed for Peck to turn the ball over to a current Rogue River High student and have them shoot some of his 10 free throws, and he told Miller to have somebody ready to step in for him since he hadn't had a basketball in his hands in "at least 30 years."
Having a backup plan, however, didn't stop Peck from buying a basketball and trying to break off some rust prior to last Tuesday's contest. He knew that he was assured $500 and the school $2,500 even if no baskets were made, but he at least wanted to make a good show of it.
"I kinda went in with an open mind," he said. "I thought it would be great if I won about $1,500, you know, it would just be nice to have a few extra dollars in my pocket."
As for his teammate, Peck had only one wish.
"If I was going to hand the ball to somebody," he said, "hopefully it was someone who could make a couple baskets."
Miller called girls basketball coach Dave Ehrhardt and asked if his junior daughter Alli would mind toeing the line for Peck and the school.
Alli Ehrhardt gladly accepted the responsibility. Then again, when you're the all-time scoring leader at the school, such matters aren't really that daunting.
When the big day came last week, Peck stepped up for the first two shots. Whether it was the smaller girls basketball or that his best days were left behind as a church league player as a teenager, the outcome wasn't what the veteran had envisioned.
"One went around the rim a couple times and one hit the backboard and fell on the floor, but that was about it," he said.
That's when he gladly gave way to the nice little girl whom he had never met until that moment. All Alli Ehrhardt did after that was smoothly drop in shot after shot to finish 8-for-8 and score $4,000 apiece for Peck and the high school.
"I don't even think she touched rim on anything," said Miller. "If it's a money thing, then I wanted to pick our best shooter, and that definitely was Alli."
In fact, Ehrhardt made nine straight shots before it was remembered that Peck had used up two of his allotted 10 attempts. Everyone apparently got caught up in the moment.
"The more baskets she made, the more excited I got about it," said Peck. "I was like, 'Yes girl, you keep going!'"
Afterwards, Peck didn't hesitate to heap praise on his star stand-in.
"I'd just like to say thank you very much again to her," he added. "She did a great job for all of us."
While Peck's head is still swirling about his run of good luck, Miller said Pershin had no doubt what he wanted to do with the money, which came in short order.
"They brought the check the next day, that's how efficient they are at the SOFCU," said Miller.
Miller said Pershin has a vision to redo the school's weight room for the physical education students and athletes. It's an area that hasn't seen vast improvements in at least 20 years.
"There's been some equipment in there that's been so old that it's been broken and we've just had it taken out," said Miller. "We've purchased things here and there, and six years ago we got a new floor, but it's been in need of a complete face lift for quite a while."
Miller said the Rogue River Booster Club came up with a large portion of the expected $19,000 cost for the project, but having one-fifth of that total come from the free throw contest makes it easier to put things in motion.
"It was a good Christmas and birthday present all rolled into one," said Miller, adding that the project should be completed this summer.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, or email email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Kris_Henry