Hall o’ Fame inductee Suzy Zustiak is joined by Zach Hauser (top) and a vintage Chuck Hardee.
The three athletes who comprise the 70th class inducted into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame all made a huge impact during their playing careers, while maybe not always getting their due credit.
Whether it was because they played at a time when other stars pulled a lot of the spotlight away, or their teams were still works in progress, this top-notch trio should have gotten more credit in the heat of the moment.
So, we’re here to fix that and welcome all three into these hallowed digital walls — where a (soft, soothing) spotlight is locked on them 24/7.
After today, you’ll find Suzy Zustiak, Chuck Hardee and Zach Hauser living up at the top of the blog under the Legends tab, which is where they always deserved to reside.
Our first inductee, Zustiak, was a power-hitting softball sensation who could play any position you asked.
She just missed the renaissance in the CHS diamond program, graduating in 2000, two seasons before the Wolves came within an inning of winning a state title.
But it’s safe to say Coupeville wouldn’t have been in position to do what they did in 2002 without trailblazers like Zustiak, which is why her former coach, fellow Hall o’ Famer Randy Dickson, nominated her for induction.
“Just as solid as they come,” he said. “Suzy was one of our building blocks.”
Playing at a time before the Wolves went from being a slow-pitch to a fast-pitch program, Zustiak, along with teammates like April Ellsworth-Bagby, helped CHS transition from losing 40+ straight games to making the playoffs in their senior season.
Winning eight of its final nine regular season games, including huge victories over Archbishop Thomas Murphy, Lynden and La Conner, Coupeville finished 2nd in league in 2000, earning the first tri-district playoff berth in program history.
Zustiak was key to the surge, bashing home runs and saving the La Conner game with a sliding catch that made even her low-key coach jump out of his shoes.
Our second inductee, Hauser, was also a diamond dandy, a hard-chuckin’, hard-hittin’ pitcher/first baseman who put together a dynamic CHS career, then played several successful seasons of college ball.
With the Wolves, he was an All-League hurler in 2008, at a time when CHS was in the 1A/2A Cascade Conference, and was invited to play in the All-State feeder games.
When he wasn’t blitzing foes from the mound, Hauser was a hit machine at the plate, one of the most consistent batters to rep the red and black.
He tied for the team lead in hits as a senior after narrowly missing the top rung as a junior, finishing an inch or two behind James Smith in producing base knocks.
After high school came a solid two-year run at Big Bend Community College, where he was a successful starting pitcher as a freshman, before transforming into a lights-out closer in year two.
Our final inductee, Hardee, comes from a different generation than his two companions.
A product of the party-hearty “Dazed and Confused” ’70s, he was a three-sport athlete (football, basketball, tennis) who, by his own recollection, is not quite sure how he always stayed in school.
The night life didn’t slow him down however, as he was a key running back on a Wolf gridiron squad which shocked the nation (well, at least the state) in his senior season.
Coming off of a one-win year, the Wolves outscored foes 123-64 in ’74, winning one of only two football league titles in modern CHS history.
Piling up more than 2,000 yards on the ground, Coupeville lost only once in the regular season (an early non-conference game) and carried the good times all the way to the state playoffs, a place the Wolf gridiron warriors hadn’t seen since the ’30s.
Once Hardee finished his high school athletic days, he made one of the biggest transitions any former Wolf athlete ever has.
The self-proclaimed “party boy” became a cop, with 20 years in law enforcement, now owns three stores in Spokane and got deep into politics — becoming a committed conservative who, most recently, put in countless hours as part of the Washington state support crew for the Ted Cruz presidential campaign.
Still a die-hard Wolf, even if he no longer lives on Whidbey, Hardee reminisced about his high school days for me when I badgered him into being in my “Where are they now?” series on former CHS greats.
“It’s funny, when I look back at who I was in high school — immature, a party boy, I’m sure I would have been voted most likely to get nowhere,” Hardee said. “However, I would bet today, many would be very surprised at where I ended up.”
Today, that journey takes a side trip to the Hall o’ Fame.