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BHS grad gets back out to play
Caitlyn Salo makes her return to the pitch at Gonzaga.
When no college offered Caitlyn Salo a chance to continue playing sports, she decided to turn her attention to other things in life.
But she couldn’t justify staying away from sports completely.
So, after a year out of competitive athletics, Salo, a 2007 graduate of Bainbridge High School, is back doing what she loves best – playing competitive sports as a walk-on member of the Gonzaga women’s soccer team.
Salo was a four-year member of the girls’ basketball team and played on the soccer team her senior year during her time at BHS. She earned All-Metro and All-KNG honors for her play on both teams and finished 26th on the school’s all-time scoring list and in the top 10 for assists and steals.
In an email interview, Salo said with the only offers to play came from junior colleges, she decided to focus on her academics for the time being at the University of Washington, pledging a sorority as well.
But while she was at UW, the realization soon set in that without athletics, she was missing a big part of herself.
“I should have been doing something with my spare time other than sitting in a sorority not furthering any part of my life,” she said. “I would have class for about three hours a day and after that nothing. The boredom got to me and I began to realize that I really was not used to all this down time.
“Since fourth grade I have had at least two practices and one game per week and then in high school I was playing sports all year round,” Salo continued. “My grades began to slip at UW because I wasn’t occupying my time like I was used to. It used to be sports, practice and then homework and there wasn’t time for much else.”
She still kept active, joining a intramural soccer team and helping it win a championship.
With the love for sports still there, Salo decided to transfer to Gonzaga. It’s where her boyfriend, 2006 BHS graduate and baseball standout Zach Peach went after making the switch of his own to continue his athletic career at a Division I school. He now plays for the men’s tennis team.
It’s also been her dream school ever since she watched All-American Dan Dickau lead the Bulldogs to the Elite Eight and the Sweet 16 twice during his heyday, making the school a household name along the way.
She still remembers her first visit to the campus back in 2003 when girls basketball coach Penny Gienger began taking the team to camp at Gonzaga.
“I was beside myself,” Salo said. “It only seemed like Disneyland for a girl who loved basketball. I fell in love with the school more and more each year we went there.”
While Salo said Peach was a factor in her decision to transfer to the school, it wasn’t the deal maker. Instead, when she first stepped onto the campus this summer, she knew she had made the right choice.
“The campus was beautiful and for some reason it all inspired me to push myself and do well academically and try out as a walk-on for soccer,” Salo said. “I have a new outlook on who I am and what I do now because I am doing something I actually WANT to do. I never wanted to go to UW, and that showed.”
To get a chance to achieve her goal meant she had to quickly file the necessary paperwork with the school and the NCAA Clearinghouse. Once that was taken care of, all that was left was to get the OK from head coach Shannon Stiles to officially try out for the squad.
“This part was the toughest because it’s the part where the coach gets to see how badly you want something,” Salo said. “Coach Shannon told me it was too late but I could try if I wanted to. I let that get to me for a day and then I decided that she was just testing me to see if I could actually do it, and if I wanted it.
“It was stressful with a job working 40 hours a week and having minimal time to train but it’s all I ever wanted,” she continued. “I’m always up for a challenge.”
She, along with two other walk-ons, went through three days of playing with the team and testing their knowledge and skills.
The day before selections were to be made, Stiles let the three know they had made the team.
While she is not worried about taking on a challenge, Salo is still working on getting back to competing at a higher level of a sport that one has been away from for some time.
“It’s a huge switch from playing kick ball to playing possession,” Salo said. “Mentally I knew that the style of play was going to be more focused on possession and passing but physically I had never played at this intense of a level. It was hard to get used to for the first day but I caught on quickly.
“Although I have not played in a game yet – I am still nervous for that!”
But Salo knows she’s made the right decision.
“I am as happy as ever that I followed through with this,” she said. “Most athletes are handed their opportunity – I had to work for mine and train at 9 p.m. every night after work and endure some challenges at the same time to get where I am today.”
Salo also had some words of wisdom to dispense.
“If I could give any advice to youngins’ out there I would say that anything is possible if you put your mind to it,” she said. “Don’t stop playing sports just because no college (program) saw you in high school. There is always one out there.”
Gonzaga plays Portland State University at home Sunday.