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Vlahovich: It’s been a year worth remembering

How do you quantify the success of a high school sports season?

Certainly you can measure it in the trophies won, and once again this year area teams and athletes earned their share.

For journalists, there are the miles traveled and thousands of printed words and numerous photographs that hopefully capture a season’s essence.

But nothing defines a season like the smiles that radiated on the faces or satisfied comments of young track athletes – win or lose – like Mead sophomore Baylee Mires or Central Valley senior Emily Deishl, who ended the 2008-09 year with last weekend’s state meets.

It is the running of the race, the dealing with adversity as well as exulting in victory, the smiles and tears of joy or disappointment that make sports so vital a part of the school experience.

After witnessing all that at the final State 4A-3A-2A track extravaganza at Mt. Tahoma High and neighboring 4A and 3A softball competitions, I stopped in Ellensburg on Sunday to be at my daughter’s final Central Washington University softball picnic. The site, coach Gary Frederick’s hillside home, offered a breath-taking panorama of the Kittitas Valley and culminated my final road trip of this year.

The trips began with state cross country and post-season football in November, included state wrestling and regional and state basketball.

What with work and the fact it was daughter Linse’s senior season, I was on the road watching/covering sports for 10 of 12 weekends beginning the first weekend of February through the end of April.

As a writer, you are an observer and feel the emotions – the thrills and disappointments – of others. As a parent, you tend to internalize the highs and the lows of every play, win or loss.

For the athlete, however, those ups and downs, smiles and tears, are invaluable.

Frederick has been at CWU for nearly 50 years as an athlete, administrator and coach. His wife, Bobbi, died during this season of Lou Gehrig’s Disease and the players insist her inspiration and spirit led to the Wildcats’ record 33-20 year and second- place finish in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference that arguably was worthy of an NCAA regional bid.

In his years coaching a variety of men’s and women’s sports, Frederick has been wildly successful and experienced failure. As we chatted Sunday, ever philosophical, he said that without adversity and disappointment, athletes can’t learn or appreciate success.

So here’s to this year’s high school winners, be they state titlists or those who exceeded expectations. Appreciate the remarkable accomplishments of your journey win or lose.

A few to remember:

North Central distance runners – Andrew Kimpel, Leon Dean, Jeff Howard, Ben Johnston, Alex Avila among them – are No. 1 in the nation, a three-time 3A state cross country titlist and Nike Nationals winner in the fall.

They were part of a second straight track title as well last weekend.

On June 20, they’ll run a couple races at the Nike National Track Meet in Greensboro, N.C.

“It’s the last hurrah for these guys,” said distance coach Jon Knight. “I had a tear in my eye when they won their fifth team championship. It’s been quite a ride.”

Sister, sister – A year ago, Freeman’s Lea Jansen teamed with her older sister Hannah to win State 1A tennis doubles. Last weekend, Jansen beat her freshman sister Maya in the singles final for the Scotties second straight team title.

Northwest Christian – Boys basketball completed an unbeaten season for its fourth straight 2B state title and Chase Ramey made Sports Illustrated’s Faces In The Crowd for playing in more than 100 wins during his career.

C’s rate A’s – The move to 2B agreed with Colfax, which won state volleyball, girls basketball and track, had a football semifinalist, softball and baseball state qualifiers. Colton coupled its State 1B girls basketball triumph with a softball title last weekend.

Volleyball – The Greater Spokane League upheld reputation winning not one, but two state titles. Lewis and Clark swept the 4A and Shadle Park won 3A (and for good measure, the Highlanders girls basketball team placed second in state, too).

GSL football – For years they took their lumps. They didn’t duplicate Lewis and Clark’s state title of ‘07, but last fall three teams placed among the top eight in state and the league swept the CBBN in crossover games. Yes, it is becoming a football league.

For the record – If I added right, area schools in six classifications brought home 19 state team championships (Mead boys won their 15th cross country title and sixth in track, and Lewis and Clark girls captured golf behind champ Chessey Thomas) among a total of 56 top-eight plaques. That doesn’t include the 27 individual cross country or track and field (such as three-time champion Mires and Valley Christian’s Jeff Pope in cross country and 2B 1,600) and 17 wrestling titles (six at Deer Park alone for the Stags’ second straight team title).

Although they didn’t place, Rogers basketball provided one of the many feel-good stories with its first trip to state in over two decades.

Accomplishments, indeed, worthy of a smile.