Archive for the ‘A freakin’ American hero’ Category

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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Whidbey News-Times Sports Editor Jim Waller (right) shares a chat with CHS girls basketball coach David King. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The adults are back.

After three months-plus with no sports coverage, the Whidbey News-Times and South Whidbey Record have returned the dean of local sportswriting to his desk.

Longtime Sports Editor Jim Waller was one of several employees who accepted a furlough back in March as the COVID-19 pandemic threw the newspaper industry into turmoil.

His last stories, a profile of Coupeville three-sport star Scout Smith and a piece on South Whidbey soccer announcer Crispin Roberts, posted to the internet March 24.

After that, my former high school journalism teacher lived the home life of “honey to-do lists”, leaving Whidbey sports fans with only my hyperventilating to get by on.

That changed as of Monday.

Waller has been at the core of Whidbey Island sports since his birth, as a player, teacher, coach, and writer.

He was born into the life, one of the sons of revered local coach Mert Waller, who led all four Coupeville High School programs (football, basketball, baseball, and track), before moving into similar positions in Oak Harbor.

Jim Waller was a standout athlete who went on to teach and coach multiple sports at OHHS.

Of the two people writing about sports on Whidbey, he is the only one to be a member of a real Hall of Fame, honored in 2001 by the Washington State Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Waller led the OHHS baseball program for 30 years, taking the Wildcats to the Class 3A state title game.

A graduate of the University of Washington, he is in his second go-round with Whidbey’s newspapers.

Waller first wrote for the News-Times as a youngster, then returned to the post after retiring from the Oak Harbor School District.

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Coupeville grads CJ Smith (left) and Zane Bundy are both pursuing careers in law enforcement. (Photo courtesy Charlotte Young)

Captain Cool is switching up uniforms.

Coupeville baseball legend CJ Smith, who pitched CHS to its first league title in 25 seasons during his senior campaign in 2016, is the latest former Wolf to become a first responder.

Smith has been hired by the Mercer Island Police Department.

He joins Aaron Trumbull (Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue) and Zane Bundy (Kittitas County Sheriff’s Department) as CHS grads who have made the jump to the front lines in recent months.

Smith began his new job a day after serving as the best man at Bundy’s wedding to fellow Coupeville alum Rebecca Robinson.

Captain Cool arrived on Whidbey with his family midway through his sophomore year of high school, and immediately became one of the best athletes in a Wolf uniform.

Along with younger siblings Hunter and Scout, he approached every sport the way you would expect from the offspring of two coaches.

Dad Chris Smith and mom Charlotte Young raised children who mixed natural talent with a cerebral nature.

The trio never panicked in tense situations on the field or court, had a far greater understanding of rules and strategy than most rivals, and could drop the hammer of the gods when it mattered most.

CJ was a strong football and basketball player for the Wolves, but had his best moments on the baseball diamond.

A pitcher who never betrayed a flicker of doubt on his face when on the mound, he always seemed to pitch the same with a one-run lead as with a 10-run advantage.

That serene calm helped center his teammates, and, sometimes, his coaches, with Smith reaching the mountain top April 29, 2016, when he shut down Port Townsend to clinch the Olympic League crown.

It was the first baseball title for the Wolves since 1991.

After high school graduation, Smith studied Criminal Justice and played baseball for Green River College alongside his younger brother.

Making the jump from being a starting pitcher to a relief ace, CJ stormed out of the bullpen to become Auburn’s answer to Mariano Rivera, earning accolades as a shut-down closer.

While the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled this spring’s baseball season, both Smith brothers were awarded Green River’s Campus Life Leadership Award for “outstanding leadership and achievement.”

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Jae LeVine, owner of the biggest heart of any athlete I have ever written about. (First three photos by JohnsPhotos.net, final one courtesy Sean LeVine)

Jae LeVine is my hero.

Athletes come, and athletes go, and they tell you not to play favorites, and yet, without a doubt, I do.

We can construct our Mount Rushmore for Wolf athletes, and argue endlessly about who will get the other three spots, but the first face we’re going to see is that of JaeLynn.

Miss LeVine is everything wonderful and amazing in this world, and when I get tired of people, I think of “Flash” and things seem a little better.

Joltin’ Jae has fought for her life since the day she was born, just a hair over 21 years ago, and has remained one of the happiest, kindest people I know, despite, or maybe because of, the challenges thrown at her by her own body.

“How you doin’?”

Born with a congenital heart defect, JaeBird has her second (and hopefully final) open-heart surgery today.

My hope for her is that she recovers quickly and with as little physical and emotional pain as possible.

That Jae can return to her family – parents Sean and Joline, sisters Micky and Izzy, and girlfriend Heidi – and be covered in love.

That everything she wants in life comes her way, and that she is rewarded every day.

As she went through middle school, then high school, here in Coupeville, doctors took sport after sport away from her.

Concerns over her heart removed Jae from the basketball hardwood and volleyball court, but she got to stay on the softball diamond and she sparkled until her final mic drop.

On the wall in front of my computer, the place where I write this blog, there are various letters, pictures, and memorabilia from eight years of Coupeville Sports.

Jae is represented by a softball team photo, by her graduation announcement, by her Senior Night writeup, and by her autograph on a box score from the first time CHS softball beat Klahowya.

“With this bat, I will rock you.”

That’s the game where The Mighty Mite opened a can of whup-ass, smashing a single, double, and triple off the best pitcher in the region, with the two-bagger providing the game-winning RBI in a 7-6 victory.

I will always remember Jae’s Senior Night speech, probably the most emotional moment for me personally while doing this job, but that Klahowya game also looms large.

The image of “Flash”¬†bouncing on the bag at second after her big hit, using her fingers to fire imaginary lasers at her teammates going bonkers in the dugout, is nothing but pure joy.

Just like Jae herself.

So, as she goes into surgery today, I need everyone to do two things for her.

One, if you pray, please pray for Jae.

If you don’t pray, think good thoughts.

Whatever you’re comfortable with.

And two, when “Flash” gets out of surgery, she will be by herself in the hospital at first, because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Her mom expects Jae will be in the hospital for a week, then home with the family for 2-3 weeks.

“I am asking for family, friends, friends of friends, neighbors, and acquaintances to cheer her on and give her encouragement and love through the mail,” Joline said. “Jae is a people person and I know that being alone during the recovery time while in the hospital is what scares her most.

“If we can reduce her anxiety by flooding her with love during this time, I know she will be forever grateful.

“I plan to make a care basket for her while in the hospital and I know she would love to have letters to read to pass the time. She also LOVES scratch tickets!”


Mail letters to Jae at 1555 SW Downfield Way, Oak Harbor, WA, 98277.

“Let’s get this party started!”

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