The Southern Oregon Sports Commission will announce its male and female athletes of the year and honor a sports advocate at its inaugural banquet Thursday at the Santo Community Center.

The ceremony will also celebrate the Mail Tribune's top 10 stories of 2014.

Doors open at 4:30 p.m. and the program starts at 5:15.

Tickets cost $30 and cover entry to the program and catered hors d'oeuvres. They are available on the SOSC website (southernoregonsports.com), through Travel Medford (541-608-8516), which manages the commission, and can be purchased at the door.

The Santo Center is at 701 N. Columbus Ave.

The Southern Oregon Sports Commission is an arm of the Chamber of Medford/Jackson County. Its role is to enhance sports tourism in the region.

The commission, made up of local sports and business leaders, announced five finalists for the male and female athlete of the year awards through a Facebook campaign in recent weeks.

The finalists for top male athlete are Southern Oregon University runner Eric Avila, SOU football quarterback Austin Dodge, SOU wrestler Brock Gutches, Kansas City Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie and St. Mary's and Northwestern golfer Dylan Wu.

The female finalists are former South Medford basketball player Ashley Bolston, distance runner Marci Klimek Gage, North Medford track and field and soccer player Halley Folsom, Cascade Christian swimmer Breanna Sapienza and SOU pole vaulter Stephanie Techler.

Details of their achievements are on the Southern Oregon Sports Commission page on Facebook.

The banquet is intended to celebrate sports in the region and raise funds for the SOSC.

“The awards banquet is an important thing, but it's a stepping stone to more visible progress in sports tourism,” said Dave Preszler, who chairs the commission.

The Mail Tribune's top 10 stories will be recognized through video montages. The stories, which were announced at the end of the year, were headed by the SOU football national championship and Guthrie starting two games in the World Series, including Game 7.

The others in the top five, in order, were North Medford baseball, SOU's Gutches and Oregon Tech men's basketball coach Danny Miles.

The second five were Mike Barry's win in the Southern Oregon Golf Championships, Wu and the St. Mary's boys golf team, South Medford girls basketball, Avila and high school state cross country championships.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email ttrower@mailtribune.com