NORTH BEND — When Ian Spalding fell from some rocks and went missing in the Pacific Ocean on Sunday night, his teammates and fellow students from North Bend High School flocked to the area near Sunset Bay to help search.
They searched throughout the night Sunday and all day Monday and again Tuesday, staying after the Coos County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Coast Guard had called off their official search.
“There were anywhere from 75 to 100 kids throughout the day, all day, wanting to do something to help,” North Bend football coach Gary Prince said. “They didn’t want to sit at home. They tried to be out there and support the family and let Mike, Carly and Emma (Ian's younger sister) know how much they loved Ian.”
Prince was out there, too, Sunday and Monday, trying to support the students.
“We’ve just been sharing good stories of our time being part of Ian’s life,” Prince said, adding that he was “just letting them know that I’m here if they need to talk.”
School officials in North Bend also have offered support for students.
Spalding, a junior, was the starting quarterback for the Bulldogs and also had been a starting linebacker for two years. He was the starting catcher on the baseball team.
But he was much more than a stellar athlete.
He was well-liked by his fellow students and teachers alike.
“Lots of teachers had lots of respect for him in how he went about his business as a student,” said North Bend baseball coach Brad Horning, who also was out with the students Monday.
“He was just helpful,” Prince said. “For students, for teachers. No task was too big for him. He didn’t shy away from helping those out who needed help.
“I would ask for volunteers to help me do certain things around the community or school. He was always one of the first guys to say he would help. He would be the first one there and the last one to leave. He didn’t shy away from those types of things. He was huge.”
That was an accurate description of Spalding in the athletic arena, too.
He quickly made an impact on North Bend’s defense in football and by last fall also was the starting quarterback.
“He loved playing defense as much as he loved playing quarterback,” Prince said. “He covered the field well. He was a solid tackler. He didn’t shy away from contact.
“It was just fun to watch him go out there and make plays for us.”
Baseball was much the same. He played on a Babe Ruth all-star team that advanced to the Pacific Northwest Regionals the summer before his freshman year, was playing for the North Coos American Legion team by the time he was a freshman and was starting catcher for the Bulldogs last spring as a sophomore.
He played for Horning on North Coos teams that won the state tournament two summers in a row and last summer had a sensational showing in the state tournament at Roseburg, finishing with nine hits, 11 runs and eight RBIs during the tournament while catching every inning and calling all the pitches, a duty some coaches don’t trust to catchers.
“He impressed a lot of guys in the six-game stretch over there,” Horning said.
Spalding didn’t have to impress his own coaches.
“The day he stepped on the field his freshman year, we knew we had a football player,” Prince said, describing Spalding as one of the best quarterbacks he’s ever had.
“Not just on the field, but in the classroom, out in the community. He knew what was the right thing and that’s what he did. It’s a testament to the family that he was raised in. They loved and supported him and he gave that back to others.”
Spalding’s dad Mike was an assistant for North Bend’s football team the past several years and also a coach on the regional Babe Ruth team. On one of the two trips to the American Legion regional tournament, he ran the football players on the team through make-shift practices since they were missing the first few days of football workouts back on the South Coast.
Like Prince, Horning said Spalding’s family values impacted the person he was.
“I think people really trusted him around their families,” Horning said.
That was certainly true for Prince, who has two younger daughters who are around the team a lot.
“He was always so friendly to my girls,” Prince said. “They were so excited when he said hi to them.
“He will always have a special place in our heart.”