July 24, 2021

High schools gave us terrific performances despite pandemic-condensed seasons

It seems a little strange writing a column about high school sports for the 4th of July paper, but if the past 16 months have taught us anything, it’s this: adapt and advance.

It’s hard to imagine with record-breaking temperatures the past week that football practice in Idaho starts in five weeks, six in Washington.

It’s been a long school year for everybody – administrators, coaches, parents, media…but especially for the student-athletes. The traditions set aside, the testing procedures and hoops they’ve had to jump through, the remote learning – it’s all been way too much to expect from teenagers still trying to find their way in this world.

I know we all hope things are closer to normal when play resumes in the fall.

First, some bookkeeping: The pandemic and associated logistics kept us from publishing our traditional all-league photos during the season. We’re happy to be able to publish them today school-by-school.

I was worried about having the schools take these photos after the “Season 3” sports wrapped up, fearing a lot of kids – especially seniors – would already be away for the summer. I’m happily surprised the athletic directors and coaches were able to get most of the athletes assembled for their photos, and I heartily thank them for their efforts.

I am bummed, though, that three schools weren’t able to submit photos, and hopefully we’ll be able to figure out how best to accomplish the task so that all the honored athletes for all the schools in the league get their pictures in the paper next year.

Although the seasons were shortened and there was no nonleague or postseason play, there were still plenty of memorable performances in the Greater Spokane League and across Eastern Washington and North Idaho during the past school year.

Let’s take a look, chronologically, at some highlights.

1 / 11
Cheney: Front (L-R): Dylan Straley (wrestling), Pyper Cagle (fastpitch, slowpitch), Bella King (fastpitch, slowpitch), Parker Cagle (fastpitch), Braxton Hinton (track). Middle: Emma Evans (basketball), Sarianna Winters (tennis). Back: Jackson Showalter (wrestling), Avery Stark (volleyball), Coach Heather Zorrozua (volleyball), McKenna Benson (soccer), Ryan Reickmann (track). Not pictured: Dusten Butikofer (track), Ben McGourin (football).

Aug. 29: Idaho high school sports started on time in the fall. The football season opener at Lake City was the first time in six months folks were allowed to gather legally in the state. I was there, and I’ll always remember how uneasy I felt around that many people for the first time in half a year.

Sept. 26: Coeur d’Alene faced its first 5A opponent and Jack Prka threw four touchdown passes in a game that was delayed by lightning.

Oct. 24: The Coeur d’Alene Charter girls soccer team won its fifth-consecutive state title.

Nov. 7: Mullan/St. Regis co-op downed Horseshoe Bend to reach a 1AD2 semifinal. Though they lost the next week, it was a tremendous achievement of cooperation between the small schools from across the Idaho-Montana border.

Nov. 15: Coeur d’Alene football, ranked No. 1 all season in 5A, reached a state semifinal but fell to Rocky Mountain.

Feb. 15: There was a snowstorm on the first day of GSL football practice. It didn’t stop anybody.

March 5: The Mead School District opened its new outdoor sports facility, Union Stadium, to rave reviews.

March 25: Mead volleyball played in East Region postseason with half its team in quarantine.

March 30: Former Central Valley girls coach Freddie Rehkow was announced as the boys basketball coach at Ridgeline, which opens in the fall.

April 2: Grace Batkoff scored two goals, including the go-ahead goal in overtime, to help lift Gonzaga Prep over Central Valley in the East Region 4A/3A girls soccer championship.

April 20, 23: Ferris’ Katelyn Strauss had an historic night in the circle with 21 strikeouts; Mt. Spokane’s Morgan Flesland threw the first of her five no-hitters of the season.

April 29: Ferris announced Malik Roberson as its new football coach, becoming the first Black head football coach in GSL history.

May 6: The downtown stadium was approved by the Spokane Public Schools board, after several weeks of negotiating and public comment. The decision capped almost three years of controversy over where to build the district’s new 5,000-seat outdoor sports facility.

May 18: GSL basketball season got underway at a time when we’re usually contesting spring district and state tourneys.

May 19: North Central’s Allie Janke ended her illustrious high school career with with wins in the 1,600 and 3,200 at the GSL track and field championships.

May 27: Mead and Mt. Spokane braved the elements for an outdoor wrestling showcase at Union Stadium. Can’t do that in January.

June 11: Lewis and Clark’s Thomas Vlasak won Gatorade Washington boys soccer player of the year, a first for the GSL.

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June 17: Mt. Spokane won a thriller over Central Valley in the boys 4A/3A title game in Tyson Degenhart’s last prep game, between two teams that were final four material in their respective classes; all-state forward MJ Bruno helped the defending state champion CV girls team top Mead in the girls title game.

Milestones: North Central cross country coach Jon Knight, Mead track coach John Mires, Mead boys basketball coach Glenn Williams and Shadle Park baseball coach Ron Brooks were among many veteran coaches who retired this year.

The following schools did not submit all-league photos.

Clarkston: Eddie Berglund (football), Dawson Packwood (football, track), Luella Skinner (soccer MVP), Jolee Nicoas (soccer), Maggie Ogden (volleyball), Mark Tadzhimatov (cross country), Hannah Murphy (fastpitch), Leah Copeland (fastpitch), Terrell Lawson (track), Gavin Wickens (tennis), Kerrington Tenwick (tennis), Jenna Allen (tennis), Memphis Broemeling (golf), Mason Van Tine (basketball), Ashlyn Wallace (basketball MVP), Coach Debbie Sobotta (girls basketball), Joey Calene (wrestling), Ryan Page (wrestling).

Othello: Brandon Kudsk (football), Chris Vasquez (football), Julian Alegria (football), Mario Sanchez (football), Jonathan Gomez (baseball, wrestling), Chon Sauceda (baseball), Nathan Garza (baseball), Isaiah Alegria (baseball), Ori Vasquez (fastpitch), Emily Garza (fastpitch), Camryn McDonald (fastpitch), Maya Valdez (fastpitch), Ashley Garza (fastpitch), Hailee Guzman (fastpitch), Nerissa Vazquez (fastpitch), Alonzo Cruz (soccer), Luiz Cruz (soccer), Anthony Oliveros (soccer), Miguel Ramirez (soccer), Jacob Risenmay (tennis), Aaron Villareal (tennis), Julissa Cantu (tennis), Maciah Tovar (tennis), Travis Murdoch (golf), Malachi Garza (golf), Annalee Coronado (basketball), Vicorino De La Cruz (wrestling), Arturo Solorio (wrestling).

Pullman: Mason Emerson (football all-purpose MVP), Carson Coulter (football, baseball MVP), Hyatt Utzman (football, baseball), Jaxon Patrick (football), Zach Farnsworth (football), Ryan Bickelhaupt (football, baseball), Alene Itani (soccer), Margot Keane (volleyball), Liam Fitzgerald (cross country), Leonardo Hoffman (cross country), Poppy Edge (cross country), Nicole Jones (cross country) Madeline Jones (cross country), Anna Fitzgerald (cross country), Elly Kunkel (cross country), Coach Allix Potratz-Lee (girls cross country), Coach Kevin Agnew (baseball), Oak Held (baseball), Hailey Talbot (fastpitch), Meghan McSweeney (fastpitch, basketball), Kellen Yoshikawa (soccer), Isaac Kim (soccer), Nigel Mumford (track), Nicole Avery (track), Sarah Campbell (track), Jay Sahaym (tennis MVP), Coach Cody Wendt (boys tennis), Ravi Lin (tennis), Ambrose Wang (tennis), Om Sahaym (tennis), Connor Lee (tennis), Vijay Lin (tennis), Coach Dan Vollmer (girls tennis), Gwyn Heim (tennis), Addison Hawes (tennis), Lauren Greeny (golf), Coach John Willy (girls golf), Matiline Rink (golf), Ryliann Bednar (golf), Coach Craig Brantner (boys basketball), Ayden Barbour (basketball), Grayson Hunt (basketball), Gabe Smith (wrestling).