Archive for the ‘A freakin’ American hero’ Category

Stephanie Blas and family.

She’s special.

A lot of people came and went during my 12 years at Videoville, and Stephanie (Bonacci) Blas remains in the top 1% of my former co-workers.

Back in 2004, when Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights was all the rage — well, in her DVD player at least — I harassed Miramax, Lionsgate, Buena Vista International, and Ingram Entertainment in pursuit of anything and everything released to promote the film.

Stephanie thought the film’s star, Diego Luna (back before he starred in Star Wars: Rogue One), was the bee’s knees, so if there was a poster or piece of paper with him dancing on it, we needed to make sure someone was mailing it to Coupeville.

That was 18 years ago, and things have changed a bit since then.

Miss Bonacci became Mrs. Blas, and she and her husband Kevin — a pretty good dude who kind of looks like Diego Luna a bit, if you squint — are raising sons Liam and Luke.

I left Videoville in 2006, though I still see Stephanie from time to time, thanks to her being the aunt of several of Coupeville’s more prominent athletes.

At 37, one thing remains the same as it was when she was 19 — she is sunshine made human, one of the kindest people you will ever meet.

So, I wish this story was being written for some other reason.

The reality though, is Stephanie has been battling breast cancer since April.

She has Ductal Adenocarcinoma, ER/PR positive, HER2 negative, likely in late stage 2 or early stage 3.

Treatment will likely include chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation, and will greatly disrupt life for Stephanie and her family.

With that in mind, as she begins her fight, Stephanie’s sister Sherry is launching a meal train to ease the transition.

Anything you can do, from meals to gift cards to prayer (if that’s your thing), will be a major help to a young woman who exudes grace, kindness, and joy in everything she does.


For more info or to sign-up, pop over to:



PS — If Diego Luna’s people see this, Stephanie could probably also use an updated photo. Just sayin’.

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Sultan senior Seth Sorgen — a legend on the mic. (Photo courtesy Scott Sifferman)

Seth Sorgen, I have a crisp fiver with your name on it.

All you have to do to claim this huge financial reward — approximately half the annual operating budget of Coupeville Sports — is renounce Sultan, move to Whidbey Island and become the voice of Wolf sports.

Tempting, isn’t it?

OK, probably not, but it was worth a try at least.

Now, if you don’t live in Sultan, you may be wondering who Seth is, and why he’s my new obsession.

He’s only the best play-by-play man to hit streaming this year, a velvety-voiced mic god who could — nay, should — be the true heir to Dave Niehaus.

As Nicolas Cage would say (at least when played on SNL by Andy Samberg), “That’s high praise!”

I stumbled across Seth while watching the stream of Thursday’s softball clash between Sultan and Coupeville, a 22-0 rout for the visiting Wolves.

Streaming of high school games increased sharply during the pandemic, but Sultan has been at the forefront since the start, with their in-house Turk Pride TV.

The Turks get their cameras closer than the ones slapped onto walls by the NFHS Network, and they do a pretty stellar job.

Some schools deliver play-by-play with their broadcasts, while many don’t.

A couple are truly decent — shoutout to Orcas Island — but Turk Pride TV holds that top rung.

Especially when Seth is at the mic, it appears.

Marinate in some of his thick ‘n rich wordplay from Thursday’s broadcast:

** – “She slaps a hit. I already said slap about 18 times. It’s our word of the day, I guess.”

** – “I don’t know her, but she has the vibe of a girl who would dive face-first into the fence to make a catch.”

** – “It’s probably two outs, or a runner has just been abducted from second base and no one has noticed.”

** – “Or the runner got bored and decided to go to the dugout for a drink of water. Never know…”

** – “That umpire has a truly fantastic mustache.”

** – “The weather cleared up and we got to play. I was a little worried I was going to show up to sadness and despair.”

** – “Forget about the mitt. That ball falls gently into her loving arms.”

** – “Izzy Wells is trying to bring in her maybe sister, Savina Wells. I don’t know, Wells is a pretty common last name. But they do go to the same school, so anything is possible.”

** – “Coupeville also has Allie and Maya Lucero. Also might be sisters. Pretty sure on that one, cause Lucero is NOT a common last name.”

** – “My brother dislocated his shoulder in a wrestling match. This injury is not as bad, just a good bruise for tomorrow. And yes, my brother did do it live on Turk TV!”

** – “And she hits the ball into what I like to think of as the golden gap.”

** – “You get a free base for that. Well, put free in quotes; you’ve still got to run.”

** – “The fence saved us again from getting hit. Always appreciate your local fence, folks.” 

And if you live in Sultan, appreciate your local play-by-play man, cause you’ve got a great one, Turks.

Don’t make me launch a GoFundMe to outbid you for his services!

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Ja’Kenya Hoskins, Superstar. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Ja’Kenya Hoskins. Say her name, and write it down for good measure.

I’m calling it right now – this is her year.

When the students who form the Coupeville High School Class of 2022 head back to school for their senior year, there will be multiple athletic storylines waiting to play out.

From Hawthorne Wolfe chasing the all-time CHS boys basketball scoring record to Izzy Wells trying to become the first pitcher to lead the Wolf softball squad to state twice, potential glory is everywhere.

But, with no slight meant to any girl or boy in the Class of ’22, I’m anointing Ja’Kenya as the North star for this pack of Wolves.

It’s a testament to what she could accomplish athletically, as a key basketball and track star.

On the hardwood, Ja’Kenya is a high-energy, rebound-snatching, let’s-roll-in-the-open-court wrecking machine.

And, when next spring rolls around and brings with it the hope of a state meet for the first time in three pandemic-altered seasons, Miss Hoskins will brandish a major distinction.

She’s the only active CHS track athlete to own a state meet medal, as she was part of a 4 x 200 relay squad which finished 3rd at the big dance during her freshman season.

That also put Ja’Kenya up on the CHS track record board, where she joined older sisters Ja’Tarya and Jai’Lysa, part of record-owning 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 teams, respectively.

It was a great start, but then the pandemic took a chomp out of Ja’Kenya’s prep track career.

Covid completely wiped out her sophomore campaign, then track returned with a limited number of meets, but no postseason, during her junior year.

While nothing is guaranteed, the rise of vaccination numbers hopefully promises a more traditional final track campaign for Ja’Kenya and Co.

Breakin’ records, every day.

But the reason we’re tabbing this “The Year of Ja’Kenya” goes beyond sports.

The youngest of four children in her family (brother Will joins his three sisters), Miss Hoskins is everything you could hope for if you want someone to be the representative of your town, and its school.

Anyone who has met her can tell you she is a vibrant ray of sunshine disguised as a human being, someone whose mere presence makes everyone in the immediate area happier.

From middle school on, when rival teams arrive in Coupeville, it’s not been unusual to see most of the opposing players immediately crowd around Ja’Kenya, with her peals of laughter rising up to the ceiling as she greets everyone she knows and loves.

Which is just about everyone.

It’s the same when she hangs out with her fellow Wolves, such as close friends like Izzy Wells.

Want to find Ja’Kenya? Listen for the laughter, and look for the part of the crowd having the best time of anyone in the gym.

Ja’Kenya and Izzy Wells, possibly up to shenanigans.

Last year, during soccer season, I saw her on a fairly-regular basis in the press box, as she ran the clock and did announcements, and I pretended like I understood soccer.

I came away impressed.

Ja’Kenya is whip-smart, but not in a show-off way, very funny, remarkably-poised, and as genuinely kind and caring as any teen you’re likely to meet.

She was deeply-concerned when she thought she might have stumbled over a rival soccer player’s name during pre-game introductions (trust me: she nailed it), and had something nice to say about every single one of her classmates.

Every … single … one.

And she wasn’t being a smart-ass. Ja’Kenya is just that nice.

Now, she may have no memory of Videoville, a sad confirmation that we’ve gone far enough past my lazy, hazy video store days for that time to mean anything to the Netflix ‘n Instagram generation.

But even then, Ja’Kenya’s kindness shone through.

“Oh, I’m sure I would have liked the video store if I was there! Especially the gumball machine!!,” she assured me.

Meanwhile, I’ll just go sit over here in the corner, babbling like Grandpa Simpson, about the olden days…

But enough about me. Back to Ja’Kenya.

She impresses me, and has every day and in every way, since she was just a wee lass. The more I learn about her, the more my admiration grows.

I hope Ja’Kenya knows how highly others think of her – from the adults she interacts with to her fellow student/athletes.

The hope is for the 2021-2022 school year to play out as normal as possible, and to see a lot of really great Coupeville teens end their CHS days on a high note, athletically, scholastically, and socially.

But I’ll admit it.

I really want to see Miss Hoskins be rewarded. I want this to be “The Year of Ja’Kenya.”

She’s earned it; she deserves it.

Way back in 2013, Ja’Kenya (pink shirt) was already lovin’ the spotlight.

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Lauren Grove, kickin’ butt and takin’ names. Always. (Dawnelle Conlisk photo)

Lauren Grove is as tough as they come.

During her time as a Coupeville High School athlete, she impressed me again and again with her grit, her desire, and her unwillingness to back down against any team or any athlete.

That spirit carried her through an impressive prep career, one in which she wore the red and black while competing in track and field, volleyball, soccer, and basketball.

One of only two students from her graduating class to play a sport in all 12 seasons, Grove was a slam-dunk for the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame.

Miss Intense, at work. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Now, though, she is waging the strongest fight of her life, as she recovers from extensive burns suffered in a grease fire in May.

As she faces, and overcomes, every obstacle, Grove is documenting her journey on an Instagram page.

It is raw, unfiltered, and, like Lauren herself, full of hope.


To see her progress, pop over to:


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Jodi Crimmins (Photo property Oak Harbor School District)

“They’re more likely to eat their veggies if they grow them, and they love getting their hands dirty.”

Former Coupeville basketball terror Jodi Crimmins is doing a killer job as a Garden and Sustainability Teacher on Special Assignment for Oak Harbor Public Schools.

Saturday, the world at large got to see her deliver a TedTalk thanks to Sno-Isle Libraries.

If you missed it live, you can catch “How School Gardens Empower Young People” by simply popping down and watching the video I’ve embedded.

Give Jodi seven minutes, and she’ll give you a look at a bright future.


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