Another year has gone by so fast that you’d swear it was just a few days ago that a February snowstorm was causing myriad postponements and cancellations during the winter season playoffs.
We might not be able to agree on whether or not 2020 marks the end of the decade — it doesn’t, because there was no year zero — but we do know that on midnight Jan. 1, we left behind another great year of athletic achievements in Kitsap County.
Here’s our list of some of 2019’s best and most interesting moments:
Olympic’s ‘Super Six’ win 2A swimming title
A minimum of six qualified swimmers is required to win a state championship in swimming, and that’s all the Trojans needed in February to score 293 points and capture the first swim title in program history.
Brothers Haakon, Rainer and Dietrich Meyer and Ross and Ryan Burchell — along with Tiernann Shelton — combined to win two relays and two individual events and several top-five finishes at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.
Crucially, Olympic won two of the program’s three relays — which are worth double the points over individual events — and finished third in the other one, including a record-setting performance in the 200-yard freestyle relay that was one of the highlights of the meet. The three Meyer brothers and Shelton swam the event in 1:26.64, breaking the record set in 2018 by Columbia River.
With a number of good sprinters, it wasn’t surprising that head coach Paul Henderson loaded up in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events. Dietrich Meyer won both the 50 and 100 while two other Trojans also finished in the top eight to pick up some more valuable points. Ryan Burchell took fifth and second in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events and older brother Ross, who was not at full strength due to an injury, picked up fifth in the 100-yard butterfly.
North Kitsap boys basketball places sixth at state
There is plenty of buzz surrounding this year’s Vikings, with some believing they can bring home a 2A state championship in Yakima in March.
While all of that remains to be seen, we certainly got a glimpse of that potential at last year’s state tournament, where they finished sixth overall in the state. The team was powered by four freshmen and three juniors, all but one of whom returned to North Kitsap this year.
The team received a crucial bye through the first round after defeating Clarkston 59-51 at regionals but then stumbled in its first game against Renton, losing 56-51. The Vikings had beaten Renton by eight a couple of weeks prior in the district tournament, but the Indians got the better of North Kitsap in Yakima as the Vikings turned the ball over 20 times and struggled from the floor.
North Kitsap rebounded to beat Fife, thanks to a 23-point performance from Shaa Humphrey but lost the fourth-place game to Clarkston to finish sixth.
A South Kitsap legend retires
John Callaghan’s 21st season as the head boys basketball coach would be his last as he officially announced his retirement a few weeks after his team’s final game.
His 304 wins place him fifth all-time among West Sound hoops coaches. Callaghan’s teams at South Kitsap qualified for the 4A state tournament six times, placing in five of them. He also won four Narrows League title and one district championship.
Most importantly, Callaghan was a South Kitsap alum himself who helped return the program to the glory it enjoyed when he was playing there in the 1970s. He built long-lasting relationships with players, fans and the community built on mutual respect. Win or lose, there was always a line open to talk to Callaghan after a South Kitsap game.
A new softball league champion, a home run record and Olympic League dominance
May 17 was a great day for Olympic League softball teams. At 2 p.m. that day, all four district qualifiers won their quarterfinal games to guarantee that the top four teams out of District 3 to the state tournament would come from the Olympic League.
North Kitsap had crushed Orting, 17-2, and Olympic defeated Lindberg, 8-1. Port Angeles and Sequim ended up playing for the district championship while the Vikings and Trojans played in the third- and fourth-place game. A pair of home runs from Sadie Chipley gave Olympic a 5-2 victory.
Speaking of Trojan home runs, junior third baseman Vanisa Ivie hit 18 of them last year to set a school record. Ivie and league MVP Molly Gates powered an explosive offense that averaged 12.6 runs per game last season.
The Vikings also made history on their own, winning their first Olympic League championship since 2004. North Kitsap clinched the title with a 3-1 win over Port Angeles, thanks in part because of a complete-game, nine-strikeout performance from freshman fireballer Makayla Stockman.
Bremerton 4×100 repeats, Kitsap track star shine at Mount Tahoma
For the second consecutive season, the Bremerton foursome of Tyishea McWhorter, Lauryn Chandler, Nyaijah Johnson and Te’Caela Wilcher captured a state championship in the 4×100 relay. The group turned in another dominant performance and the result was never in doubt as they led wire-to-wire.
Conditions were far from perfect in Tacoma as rain fell for much of the final day of the state track meet. Batons were slick, but despite some sketchy changes, McWhorter had a comfortable lead when she rounded the last turn, finishing the relay with a time of 49.05.
North Kitsap’s Emerson Bollert, Raelee Moore, Madeline Pruden and Alyssa Cullen won the 2A state championship in the 4×200 relay. Central Kitsap had a pair of champions in Seth Tower, who leaped to a high jump title, and Pono Fuiava, who won the discus. Deyondre Davis brought home a title for South Kitsap in the 110-meter hurdles.
Magic on Ed Fisher Night
After two consecutive 0-10 seasons, the South Kitsap football team won its first game since 2016 in early September, beating Rogers 31-14.
Ed Fisher, the man who directed South Kitsap during its glory years, was on hand to see the athletic field renamed for him. And the 2019 Wolves looked like the Wolves of the mid-1990s with a power running game and strong defense leading the way.
Rylen Bayne, making his first career start at quarterback, threw for 170 yards and three touchdowns. Dylon Murray added an eight-yard rushing score in the second quarter. The Wolves went on to win just one more game this past fall, but there is now optimism in Port Orchard that the program can get back to being a winner.
Wild weather wreaks havoc on schedules
Between the record-breaking snow in February and the unusual lightning storms that hit the region in September, it was a tough year for the athletic director who had to deal with all of the postponements.
The district wrestling and swim meets were pretty much wiped out entirely across western Washington, which created a Mat Classic at the Tacoma Dome of unprecedented length, with 32 wrestlers qualifying in each weight class.
The District 3 boys and girls basketball tournaments were also severely affected. The action kicked off on Feb. 6 for the boys and Feb. 7 for the girls, but the next round was delayed by an entire week as snow blanketed the region.
In the fall, unseasonable lightning storms were responsible for some late starts during football season, including a big week-four match between North Kitsap and Bremerton.
Kingston had a sure victory over Port Townsend wiped out in week two. The Bucs led 20-0 in the second quarter and were in total control of the game when lightning and heavy rain moved into the area. The game was cancelled and it cost Kingston a chance at a season with a winning percentage above .500.
Klahowya, Central Kitsap dominate the cross country circuit
Chambers Bay has been kind to both Central Kitsap and Klahowya since the Westside Classic moved there three years ago. The Central Kitsap girls picked up their third consecutive district team title in 2019 and the Klahowya boys and girls repeated as 1A district champs.
At the 3A state meet, Central Kitsap took fourth with lead runner Maya Nichols finishing 11th with a time of 18:35 in a race that featured a powerhouse North Central team put all five of its scoring runners in the top nine.
The Klahowya boys went on to finish second overall at the 1A state meet, while the girls took fourth. Alyssa Becker was the highest-placing individual runner, taking fourth with a time of 18:59.50. Jaeden Ellis (16:24.20) and Kelton Gagnon (16:31.70) had top-20 finishes for the boys.
Central Kitsap girls soccer makes a memorable 3A state tournament run
The Cougars had a fine regular season, finishing in second place in the South Sound Conference. Their play was fairly consistent with a misstep here and there as expected from a team with just three seniors. The regular season highlight was a 1-1 tie with defending 3A champs Gig Harbor.
They went on to clinch a state tournament berth with a 1-0 win over Kelso but were shut out in their next two matches to finish fourth.
But once the bright lights of state competition flipped on, the Cougars were tough, gritty and resilient. They overcame a late goal against a high-powered Seattle Prep team to win in penalty kicks and scored twice in the final five minutes against Mountain View to advance to the semifinals.
They were bested by the eventual state champs and No. 1 team Lake Washington in the semis but bounced back to beat No. 2 Lakeside in the third-place game.
Tim French retires
The end of 2019 saw the retirement of a second highly successful West Sound coach. North Kitsap volleyball coach Tim French announced his retirement not long after his Vikings finished their seventh-consecutive state tournament appearance.
French’s overall volleyball record stands at 473-194, with a 269-100 record in 16 seasons at North Kitsap. That includes a 149-5 record against Olympic League opponents. His Viking teams have won seven consecutive league championships and 11 of the past 12.
French began his coaching career as an assistant at Lind (now Lind-Ritzville) in 1984 and as an assistant on a “B” state championship team. He is a graduate of Ingraham High in Seattle.