KITSAP COUNTY — Spring is just around the corner. Warmer temperatures, flowers in bloom and the distinct “ping” an aluminum bat makes as it connects with a baseball — or softball — are things that immediately come to mind.
That doesn’t mean it’s sunny skies and smooth sailing from here on out— what is a spring season without a couple rainouts, anyway? — but athletes, coaches and fans are sure to be happy to get back outside after a dark, cold winter.
But before we move on to the madness of the spring, let’s take a quick look back at some of the highlights of this past winter season.
Wrestling: Historic moment for South Kitsap at state tournament
South Kitsap had the headline that outshined all others this winter: the Wolves captured Kitsap County’s first-ever wrestling team state championship, winning the 4A crown by over 50 points.
It was a weekend to remember on the mats at the Tacoma Dome as South Kitsap wrestlers went 31-9 over the course of two days. Senior Mason Eaglin, a Duke commit, won a state championship at 170 and his younger brother Xavier, a freshman, won his first title at 106.
But to win a team title, you have to have depth. And that’s where the performances of Nathan Marin (2nd, 160), Izaiah Davis (2nd, 195), Sebastian Robles (3rd, 152), Davonn Keyes (3rd, 160), Ethan Fragoso (3rd, 220) and Devin Gentz (4th, 120) made a huge difference for the Wolves.
South Kitsap seemed destined for great things from the beginning after crushing Curtis High School during an early South Puget Sound League dual meet. South Kitsap also won the HammerHead Invitational in December, but then lost to Curtis at the SPSL championships. But they would not be down for long as they came back to win regionals before taking the state title in Tacoma.
Basketball: North Kitsap boys and girls ride together to state tournament
One-and-done tournaments have a way of being unpredictable, which is part of what makes them so fun and interesting to watch.
It was an early morning wake up call for the North Kitsap girls as they faced a Burlington-Edison team that was stunned by Wapato at regionals. Would the Tigers bounce back and send the Vikings home? Or would they still be reeling from the loss?
As it turned out, the Tigers had a lot of fight in them, but North Kitsap had more. They played three quarters of that game without Raelee Moore, but Olivia Selembo (18 points), Erin Pearson (12), Noelani Barreith (11) and Grace Johnson (8) stepped in to carry the scoring load. They won that game 50-47.
It was a recurring theme throughout the year. Despite finishing with a good-looking 21-8 record, the Vikings dealt with injuries — they played at least half of the season without Selembo and Lauren Weins, their two starting guards — and were fairly beat up by the end of the state tournament.
They also dealt with plenty of adversity after two late-season losses to Port Angeles, one of which was for the league championship. But each time they recovered well and were able to put the past behind them.
Meanwhile, the North Kitsap boys basketball team was understandably upset and disappointed with its first-round loss to W.F. West. Anytime you lose by one point in overtime, there is any number of things that could have gone differently to swing the result, and this game was no exception.
But after the Bearcats defeated the Vikings, they went all the way on to the championship game — each time barely escaping with a victory. W.F. West’s three tournament wins were by a combined six points. Imagine for a moment the Vikings manage to pull out that victory, it’s not a stretch to say they could have been in a similar situation, especially in a bracket that had no clear dominant team.
Nevertheless, the Vikings had a great season. Even their one league loss to Olympic was a memorable one, but surely they would prefer to focus on their amazing run through the district tournament, which ended in a championship.
Zac Olmsted was nearly unstoppable in those three games — he averaged 20.3 points per game during the tournament — and he certainly deserved all the attention and accolades he received, which included a second-consecutive Olympic League MVP.
But so many players contributed during districts — Shaa Humphrey and Derek Zinn did an outstanding job commanding the glass; Kai Warren never failed to provide a few thrills, whether it was a high-flying dunk or a well-timed block; and every basket Logan Chmielewski scored always seemed to be an important one. Unfortunately, it just did not end the way they had hoped.
Swimming: Kingston, Olympic dominate in the pool
This year’s boys 2A state swimming meet was literally one for the books.
Eight 2A state meet records were broken; five of them by a swimmer or relay team from Kitsap County. While Kingston was unable to repeat as state champions, it did finish third, and Olympic followed right behind in fourth place.
Kingston’s Tim Gallagher is now the holder of four state meet records — two as an individual and two as a part of relay teams. Gallagher earned automatic All-American status with his 49.42 in the 100-yard backstroke and also set the new 2A meet record of 1:50.10 in the 200-yard individual medley.
Kingston’s 200-yard medley relay team, which consisted of Gallagher, Quincy Walker, Aron Markow and Ethan Fox, set a new record time of 1:33.35. The 400-yard freestyle relay team of Fox, Walker, Gallagher and Bryce Hoffer set a new 2A state meet best with a time of 3:12.91.
Olympic freshman Dietrich Meyer established himself as one to watch over the next three years. He won his first two state titles in the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle events. His mark of 46.56 in the 100 free is now the best in 2A state meet history.
Fellow Trojan Ross Burchell also took home some hardware at the state meet, winning the 500-yard freestyle in 4:33.46, which earned him All-American consideration.
Bowling: Klahowya captures league and district championships, Olympic takes third at state
It was a great year for the Eagles bowling team, although they certainly would have liked to have topped Olympic at all three postseason competitions.
In January, Klahowya captured the Olympic League title by 33 pins, thanks to the all-around effort of its top five bowlers: Samantha Blocher, Briana Kennard, Hannah Catt, Emma Parker and Jacklynne Stroup, and then a week later won the district tournament, again due to its depth — although Kennard and Parker, in particular, had strong performances, finishing second and fourth respectively at districts.
At the state tournament, Olympic finished third to Klahowya’s fifth. Marissa Nemeth took home sixth for Olympic with 1,076 pins and Samantha Stump knocked over 991 pins, which was good enough for 15th.
The top individual Kitsap bowler was Bremerton’s Hannah Sutton. Head coach Dean Wagner said he believed Sutton could win a state title in her senior year — and she came awfully close to doing so. Sutton finished third at state with 1,135 pins, capping a successful high school career for the Knights. Sutton also won the individual league and district championships.
Central Kitsap’s Jazmine Clewis turned in a top-notch performance in the 3A tournament, finishing in third place with 1,141 pins. Clewis got off to a hot start, racking up a 228 in her first game of the day.
Gymnastics: Kingston makes it to state for the first time
The Kingston gymnastics team knocked down several barriers this season. It all started at the Senior Night meet on Jan. 26 against North Kitsap, in which the Bucs scored a school record 153.2 points. Head coach Sheila Moore said it was after this meet she knew Kingston had a chance to qualify for the postseason.
She turned out to be prescient. Kingston finished second at the Sub-District meet with 144.075 points. Mikka Yamane took first place in the vault, uneven bars, floor and the all-around. Breckin Sontz took home a third-place finish in vault and also took sixth on the balance beam, tied for eighth in the all-around and tied for 11th in uneven bars.
Yamane once again took first place in the uneven bars at the district meet, along with second-place performances on the floor and third place on the vault. Yamane finished second in the all-around and Sontz finished eighth. It was enough to get Kingston into the state meet, finishing 19 points ahead of Renton.
The Bucs finished ninth at state; the team consisted of Yamane, Sontz, Aunika Kramer, Annelise Pardee, Anna Quinn and Cierra Franklin. Yamane qualified for the finals in both the bars and floor exercises. She finished sixth and tied for 11th in those two events, respectively, and took 15th overall.