The new year is upon us and with that comes a few customs.
We get used to writing “19” as we date our paperwork and we head down to the store to pick up a new calendar — yes, there are those among us who still buy paper calendars to hang on a wall — and we set New Year’s resolutions that may or may not stick with us throughout the upcoming year.
Research on New Year’s resolutions has found varying success rates, ranging anywhere between 8 and 35 percent. But it seems the key for those who do keep their promises is to have a common trait — they keep their goals relatively simple and precise, as opposed to a vague or broad declaration such as “lose weight” or “give more to charity.”
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some attainable goals for Kitsap teams in 2019.
NK basketball: Return to State
The Vikings boys and girls basketball teams were the only two in Kitsap to make the regional round and eventually the Hardwood Classic in Tacoma last year.
The boys are off to a 9-2 start and are currently ranked sixth in 2A by the WIAA RPI. They have already beaten Port Angeles in the first of their two meetings, and recently had a successful run at the Sterling Christmas Shootout, defeating Kennedy Catholic and Fife — the latter a team the Vikings will likely see down the road in districts — before losing in overtime to 4A Tahoma in the finals.
While they may have lost four starters to graduation, the younger players have stepped up and the team has barely missed a beat thus far. They currently have the inside track for another league title. A four-game stretch in mid-January featuring Central Kitsap, Port Angeles, Olympic and Sequim should be a good tune-up for the postseason.
Meanwhile, it wasn’t long ago that the girls team was 1-3 after playing an enormously difficult early non-league schedule. The Lady Vikings took on Archbishop Murphy and Black Hills — who finished second and fourth at state, respectively, in 2018 — and a high-powered 3A Bainbridge squad.
But as head coach Penny Gienger has begun to find where all her new players fit, the results have turned around. The team picked up a confidence-boosting win over Sequim on Dec. 18, which was 6-0 at the time, and have knocked off Kingston and Central Kitsap since then.
North Kitsap will have a harder road through districts and regionals with a less-experienced team, but its combined talent and roster flexibility should help the Vikings compete with just about any team.
Kingston and Olympic boys swimming: Top five finishes at state
It’s hard to imagine anything topping last year’s 2A boys state swim meet. A number of state meet records were broken and the top four teams were separated by a mere 18 points. Kingston head coach Mark VanHuis described it as a “slugfest.”
While the Bucs were unable to defend their 2A crown, they did finish third, and the Trojans were just behind them in fourth place. And many of the top swimmers for both teams have returned for 2019.
So many things have to go right in order to win a state championship in swimming, but both teams are fast enough to do it. With that proviso, a spot in the top five in the podium is a strong possibility.
These two teams will meet on Jan. 17 at the North Kitsap pool in a meet that will likely decide the league championship.
Kitsap baseball teams: Advance beyond first day of tournament
Central Kitsap will christen its brand new field with five consecutive home games to start the year. One of those matches will feature North Kitsap in an early-season battle of two of the three Kitsap teams that went to state last season.
With a very deep pitching staff and enough bats returning to score some runs, the Cougars appear to be the best candidate to reach this goal — at least on paper. The program also has tons of young talent that will push the older players for playing time. The team qualified for last year’s 3A state tournament but lost to O’Dea in the first round.
However, North Kitsap has plenty of talent returning, as well, with some promising freshmen who could step in right away. And South Kitsap always seems to reload rather than rebuild, even after graduating nine seniors. The Vikings easily beat Centralia 11-1 but then lost 8-6 to W.F. West later in the day. The Wolves also suffered a disappointing loss to Jackson in the first round of the 4A state tournament.
Bremerton track: Stay atop 2A
It was rare to see the Knights’ 4×100 foursome of Lauryn Chandler, Nyajiah Johnson, Te’caela Wilcher and Tyishea McWhorter all on the track at the same time. The group suffered through some nagging injuries during the season, but when it mattered most, they came together and won a state title with a score of 48.98 at the Mount Tahoma Stadium track, just .86 slower than the meet record set by Bellingham in 2003. Chandler also won an individual title in the 100-meter hurdles.
With the entire group returning — McWhorter and Chandler are seniors while Johnson and Wilcher are sophomores — along with alternate Trisha Mae Mabini, the goal here is relatively simple: stay healthy, stay ahead of the pack and maybe, if they’re feeling bold, shave off that final .87 to set a new meet record.
Kitsap softball: Make a splash at state
You’ve likely begun to notice a theme here — all roads eventually lead to the state tournament. That’s where teams want to excel and succeed by putting their programs on the state map.
Last year, Olympic, North Kitsap and Klahowya all made their respective tournaments this year, but success was limited. The Trojans and Eagles both ended up 0-2 while North Kitsap went 1-2. The Vikings, making their first state tournament appearance in a decade, beat East Valley 9-6, but then lost their final two games by double digits.
The Vikings return all but one player from their entire roster. Olympic returns a number of high-caliber players, including both of its starting pitchers. The state softball tournament is an entirely different animal, and Kitsap got a look at how much talent there is on some of these top teams. That experience should serve them well in 2019.
Kitsap football: Build on 2018’s successes
It was a bit of a step back on the Kitsap Peninsula in 2018. Central Kitsap, North Kitsap, Klahowya and Olympic all made it to districts, but only the Vikings and Eagles advanced to state, both losing in the first round. But in a positive result, the Eagles made their first trip to state since 2004.
But there is a reason to believe in better fortunes on the gridiron next season. The Cougars return a number of players on both sides of the ball and North Kitsap has very strong underclassmen ready to step in. The Trojans return some of the area’s top athletes; Bremerton, which finished 4-6, also had a large and talented freshmen class enter the program last season and Klahowya won’t have to rebuild quite as much as it did in 2017 after losing 29 players to graduation. The Eagles, though, generally have a tougher road to state with only two qualifying spots given to the Nisqually League.
Team champions: Return to the podium
We are less than two months removed from the Vikings’ day to remember at King County Aquatic Center. Heading into the final event — the 400-yard freestyle relay — North Kitsap had sewn up a 2A state championships. I’ve never seen a team happier finishing fourth in an event as the 30 points the team picked up, ballooning their final score to 277.5, 47 points ahead of Liberty.
It was Kitsap’s third team title of 2018 — the South Kitsap boys wrestling team won the 4A state championship in February, followed by the North Kitsap girls tennis team’s 2A team title, earned largely on the strength of Danya Wallis’s fourth-consecutive singles crown.
The Vikings swim team will lose a couple of key swimmers this year but otherwise returns much of its core. South Kitsap has replaced nine seniors this year, but won a third consecutive title at HammerHead and finished tied for first at the Pacific Coast Wrestling championships.
To ask a team to repeat as state champions in any sport, but especially individual sports such as swimming and wrestling, is not realistic, no matter the available talent. However, that doesn’t mean the student-athletes won’t be dreaming of hoisting the hardware one more time in 2019.