It’s early May, and the high school sports scene in Kitsap is usually buzzing with activity as teams get ready for the postseason.
But this year, all is quiet; the COVID-19 pandemic completely shut down spring sports. And while you will hear just about everyone say that there are more important things going than sports — and it’s true — it doesn’t diminish the fact that a huge number of talented athletes all over the country won’t get to participate in their senior year.
If you never participated in sports in high school, being a senior is meaningful. Even if you’re not a captain, you’re still a leader; you set the tone for your team through your actions and demeanor. Younger players look to their upperclassmen for inspiration and guidance. As a senior, you get a special night at the end of the regular season, which is a wonderful piece of closure since many athletes do not go on to compete in college, and a final chance to celebrate your time in your chosen program with your friends, family, teammates and coaches.
As always, Kitsap had a number of seniors ready to lead their teams to successful seasons. So even though there will not be any teams chasing championships this season, let’s take a look at what we might have seen.
Defending track titles
The Bremerton girls 4×100 relay team were successful in taking home a championship for the second straight year in 2019, but this year would have been different as half of the foursome graduated. Juniors Te’Caela Wilcher and Nyaijah Johnson were set to anchor a new team.
The same could be said of the North Kitsap 4×200 team, which won a state title last year and set a new school record in prelims. Sophomores Ayanna Selembo and Kamora McMillian were set to join up with returners Emerson Bollert and Alyssa Cullen and would certainly have had a shot at defending their title. Fortunately, all four are underclassmen and can return in 2021.
South Kitsap senior Deyondre Davis was looking for one more shot at winning the 300-meter hurdles after finishing third the previous two years. He finally captured a title in the 110-meter hurdles last year and certainly would have been a good bet to repeat there as well.
Central Kitsap senior Seth Tower also would have had the chance to win a second straight championship after pulling off an upset in last year’s high jump competition. Cougars junior Pono Fuiava was the defending discus champ as well.
How would the first-time coaches fare?
It’s always interesting to see how a first-time coach handles taking over a new program and Kitsap was set to have a fair number of them this year.
Notable programs with new coaches include Clay Blackwood (North Kitsap fastpitch), Jay DeVries (North Kitsap girls tennis), Chuck Stark (Olympic fastpitch), Justin Brien (Central Kitsap baseball), Neal Gaulden (Central Kitsap track and field), Meika Hall (Klahowya softball), Bob Lawrence (South Kitsap fastpitch) and Preston Greer (South Kitsap boys soccer).
North Kitsap and Port Angeles headline battles on the diamonds
In both baseball and softball right now, the Port Angeles – North Kitsap rivalry has produced a number of tight, well-played games in recent years. The Vikings fastpitch team had a memorable day in Poulsbo last year as then-freshman Makayla Stockman outdueled her Roughriders counterpart in a 3-1 victory that helped the program clinch its first league title since 2004.
It was a crowning achievement for a big senior class that would have passed the torch on to three seniors this year — Genevieve Keller, Taylor Mahitka and Kelsey Johnston. The road to defending the championship likely would have gone through Port Angeles and perhaps even Olympic, led by senior slugger Molly Gates and her classmates Zionna Thomas and Chloe Ashcraft.
If you look at the past few matchups between the North Kitsap and Port Angeles baseball teams, you will find the last five regular season contests were all decided by one run. Those two teams were also likely set to battle for Olympic League supremacy once again with a pair of solid middle-of-the-order bats in seniors Chris Schuchart and Tucker Gowin. Senior outfielders Josh Fisher and Nick Alexander and pitcher Logan Chmielewski were also set to be big contributors, along with fellow seniors Austin Saurdiff and Andrew Jones.
Down in the South Puget Sound League, South Kitsap was looking at another solid season with an excellent one-two punch in senior pitchers Tim Reidy and P.J. Moritz that led the program to a three-way tie atop the SPSL last season. The Wolves also had a number of seniors ready to contribute, including Spencer Sieckowski, Jacob Olsen, Jeriah Blake, Dylan LaBreche and Blake Ballew.
Likewise, the Wolves fastpitch team were set for another successful year with a big group of talented underclassmen to be led by senior catcher Piper Jacquemart and shortstop Lynden Wolf.
Plenty of playoff action on the pitch
Five Kitsap soccer teams made the postseason last year and a few of them would have been a good bet to return.
In the Olympic League, North Kitsap likely would have grabbed a district spot thanks to the efforts of all-league forward Wyatt Murphy, who scored 16 goals last year. Kingston, led by senior Ben Hewett, who had 13 goals and 10 assists last season, would have likely been in the mix for one of the lower spots, along with Bremerton, which lost a lot of seniors to graduation, but would have returned a solid forward in Raul Islas-Barojas.
Likewise, Central Kitsap would have returned few familiar faces outside of senior Dom Murray, but head coach Keith Sargent always seems to get the most out of his teams and the Cougars would certainly have had a puncher’s chance at getting back to districts.
Klahowya, with little opposition in the final year of the Olympic League 1A, would have rolled through league play with seniors William Stewart, Morgan Seidel, Cameron Johnson, Matthew Hytinen and Dakota Johnson leading the way.
Yes, without a doubt the spring of 2020 would have been fruitful for teams in Kitsap County, and it’s a shame these seniors won’t get their last chance to represent their schools and line up alongside their friends. But life will always throw us unexpected curveballs, and it’s up to each individual to make the adjustments.