It was a year for the books in prep sports

"While other publications make their “best of the century” or “highlights of the millennium” lists, I’ll stick to the bright spots in Bainbridge sports in 1999. After all, what do I know about who led the Lincoln School stickball team in batting average in 1926, or which native tribe featured the best relay team in the 1302 cross-sound canoe race?And, some might extrapolate, what do I know about what went on in 1999?"

  • Thursday, December 30, 1999 7:00pm
  • Sports

“While other publications make their “best of the century” or “highlights of the millennium” lists, I’ll stick to the bright spots in Bainbridge sports in 1999. After all, what do I know about who led the Lincoln School stickball team in batting average in 1926, or which native tribe featured the best relay team in the 1302 cross-sound canoe race?And, some might extrapolate, what do I know about what went on in 1999?Probably less than I should, I would answer. But within those limitations, there’s still a lot of ground – and time – to cover.Here’s the year, as I saw it:Most Exciting Season: The Bainbridge High School girls’ basketball team, without question. There was a feeling of manifest destiny from the first day of practice as its members drilled with inspirational intensity to overcome internal dissension, illness, injury and the indifference of self-anointed experts to conquer the state after 11 years away in jaw-dropping style. Of the Spartans’ three total state titles, I think this is the one that history should remember best – if only because its improbable elements together comprised the best story.Most Exciting Performance: With all due respect to the Spartan hoop girls’ stunning 49-41 state championship win over undefeated Meadowdale in the Kingdome March 14, classmate Charles Thompson did them one better. Thompson, last year’s state 3A singles tennis runner-up, also carried a sense of destiny with him in his senior season.It may have been all he had left to carry him through to his May 28 championship, as he staggered through three hours, two leg cramps and one determined opponent that saw him teeter painfully on the precipice of forfeit to win a marathon contest. Few who saw it will ever forget it – but it’s only too bad that too few saw it. It was, quite simply, the most heroic effort I’ve ever seen in my sportswriting career.Best Team Rags-To-Riches Story: Look no further than the Spartan boys’ baseball team. First-year coach Mike Reese picked up the pieces of a program deeply divided in the wake of its previous coach’s acrimonious departure, and with equal parts patience and persistence, put together a winning squad that exceeded everyone’s expectations. Nineteen wins and two losses? A doubleheader sweep of Olympic? At least three Division 1 college signees? You can’t help but look ahead to spring.Best Individual Rags-To-Riches Story: Erik Schei, Spartan wrestling. A season before, the three-sport athlete posted an ineffectual 7-21 record as a junior in the 178-pound weight class. A year later, bolstered by a standout showing at the quasi-military J. Robinson Camp over the summer, Schei dominated the 190-pound class with a 25-10 mark and came up just short of qualifying for the state tournament.Best Dynasty: It’s a three-way tie:• The Bainbridge boys’ lacrosse club, which swept its way to a sixth straight state title, despite some turmoil toward the season’s end.• The Spartan girls’ junior-varsity soccer team, which hasn’t lost a game in two years under the steady guidance of coach Helen Hendrickson.• The A’s Little League baseball team, which won its third straight majors baseball championship. Manager Mike Benz retired on a winning note – or did he really retire? Rumor has it he simply can’t bear to stay away from the game. Stay tuned.Best Life-Imitates-Art Moment: Britt Themann comparing her girls’ basketball team to the fictional “Hoosiers.”Worst Life-Imitates-Art Moment: Members of Team Ray, the boys’ water polo club, who landed in hot water with high school administrators over the weekend of the state tournament when one was caught with a stack of posters depicting several players posing in an imitation of an infamous scene from the movie “Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me.”Best Standing On The Shoulders On Giants Story: Pat McCloskey, a 1998 BHS graduate, successfully walked on to the football program at the University of South Carolina, run by legendary coach Lou Holtz.Best Assist: Courtney McFarlane and her BHS girls’ soccer teammates – notably Courtney Walker, Christen Faltermeier and Suzanne Fossum – who wouldn’t leave me alone until I displayed a properly reverential attitude toward the game of soccer.McFarlane, in particular, took the time to explain to me intricacies of a game with which I was embarrassingly unfamiliar for most of the 34 years of my life, and as a result, I became one of the girls’ program’s biggest fans during the fall season.“Soccer,” she told me, “is the best sport because it’s the most talented sport. You have to have endurance and speed and the ability to kick and jump. You have to be better-conditioned than in any other sport.”I can’t argue with that. I can, however, argue that such passion shouldn’t go unrewarded. If you get a chance to see these girls play soccer next year, you might get to see a team more exciting than this year’s edition – which, considering their wild ride from near-elimination to a strong showing in the state tournament – is saying a lot.Most Surreal Moment: During a Spartan football game against Clover Park Oct. 29, a Warrior defensive player dove out of bounds on the Bainbridge sideline after missing a tackle on a fourth-down play, and inexplicably lingered among his opposing numbers as he watched the play continue downfield. Spartan player Mike Dressler then got in the player’s face, barking a steady stream of effusive invective for the better part of a minute. The moment the stunned Clover Park player opened his mouth to respond, he was hit with a penalty flag for unsportsmanlike conduct. The result? Fifteen yards, and a first down for Bainbridge.Favorite Private Moment: In the waning moments of the Spartan girls’ soccer team’s upset victory over archrival Olympic in October, senior Kim Loddeke could be seen pacing the sideline, arms wrapped around her head, eyes wide and wet, saying over and over: “Oh-my-God-this-is-the-biggest-game-of-my-life.” Something about the raw emotion of that moment made me tear up a little, and forced me to falsely explain to several people that I was having a problem with my contact lenses.Best Glimpses Of Potential To Pay Close Attention To Next Year:• The new high school gym. I can hardly wait for basketball announcer Brad Barquist’s mellifluous tones to reverberate throughout the rafters during its first game Jan. 8.• Sophomore Sarah Grue’s growing dominance as a distance runner in cross-country and track. • Andy Aversano’s first Spartan varsity football season at running back.• Henry Guterson’s first Spartan varsity basketball season.• Sixth-graders Allie Picha and Brenden Gent growing, period, as the best three-sport athletes to come along in years. • Continued dominance by the Streakers, the United, the Magic, the Galaxy, the Radical Rockets and the entire slate of Bainbridge Island Youth Soccer Club teams, which won more than 70 percent of its games against its Kitsap County foes.• Emily Silver’s freshman season on the BHS girls’ swim-and-dive team. • Somebody – anybody – to pick up the Spartan softball program, shake it out and set it back on its feet. There is some serious talent between the ages of 12 and 15 waiting in the wings, and it’s going to go elsewhere unless the right person gives it a reason to stay home.• Everything else.Have a happy new year – and remember, while you’re watching bowl games Saturday, that the best show around can always be found right here, on almost any given day.”

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