Archive for the ‘A freakin’ American hero’ Category

   Allison Wenzel is one of four Wolf seniors who played a sport in all 12 seasons of high school. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Missed it … by that much.

As we head towards the first official games of spring, preliminary reports have 22 of the 29 Coupeville High School athletes who played a fall and winter sport completing the trifecta and earning status as three-sport athletes.

While that’s an impressive number for a very small student body, it narrowly misses tying the best performance in the six-year history of Coupeville Sports.

The numbers:

2012-2013 — (18 three-sport athletes)
2013-2014 — (23)
2014-2015 — (20)
2015-2016 — (17)
2016-2017 — (23)
2017-2018 — (22)

That includes four Wolf seniors — Allison Wenzel, Hunter Downes, Cameron Toomey-Stout and Hunter Smith — who made it a flawless 12-for-12, playing a sport in every season of their prep careers.

Certainly nothing to sneeze at, as only three CHS athletes — Lauren Grove, Jared Helmstadter and Tiffany Briscoe — accomplished the feat in the last two years combined.

It was almost more than four, as well, as Lauren Rose and Joey Lippo each missed perfection by just a single season, opting to sit out their senior and sophomore basketball seasons respectively.

Of the 22 who are minting themselves as three-sport athletes in 2017-2018, there’s a good balance.

The breakdown shows 12 boys and 10 girls, with seven seniors, six sophomores, five juniors and four freshmen.

Wolf girls were ahead going into spring, but five of the seven who are declining to play this season, for various reasons, are female athletes.

The spotlight will swing back on the girls next year, though, as the only CHS juniors who have a shot to pull off a 12-for-12 career are Lindsey Roberts and Sarah Wright.

Coupeville’s three-sport athletes in 2017-2018:

Mollie Bailey (frosh) (soccer, basketball, softball)
Kylie Chernikoff (frosh) (volleyball, basketball, track)
Hunter Downes (sr) (football, basketball, soccer)
Mason Grove (soph) (tennis, basketball, baseball)
Gavin Knoblich (soph) (football, basketball, baseball)
Ryan Labrador (jr) (football, basketball, track)
Joey Lippo 
(sr) (tennis, basketball, baseball)
Dane Lucero 
(jr) (football, basketball, baseball)
Jean Lund-Olsen
 (soph) (football, basketball, track)
Jake Pease 
(jr) (football, basketball, baseball)
Chelsea Prescott 
(frosh) (volleyball, basketball, softball)
Avalon Renninger 
(soph) (soccer, basketball, tennis)
Lindsey Roberts (jr) (soccer, basketball, track)
Kyle Rockwell 
(sr) (football, basketball, baseball)
Hunter Smith (sr) (football, basketball, baseball)
Scout Smith
 (soph) (volleyball, basketball, softball)
Cameron Toomey-Stout 
(sr) (football, basketball, track)
James Vidoni
 (sr) (football, basketball, baseball)
Allison Wenzel 
(sr) (volleyball, basketball, track)
Genna Wright
 (frosh) (soccer, basketball, tennis)
Sarah Wright
 (jr) (soccer, basketball, softball)
Tia Wurzrainer 
(soph) (soccer, basketball, tennis)

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   Coupeville HS/MS Athletic Director Willie Smith has some words of wisdom for you. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Everything is in flux, with Coupeville jumping to the new North Sound Conference next school year, after being denied a chance to drop from 1A to 2B.

Into the fray wades one man, a gleam in his eyes and a deep burning commitment in his heart.

Wolf Athletic Director Willie Smith is here to kick you in the rear, pull you up by your bootstraps and calm your frazzled nerves.

A word (or three) from the big man himself:

Do what you can’t!

As we move into a new middle and high school league, together again with familiar schools such as King’s, Sultan, Granite Falls, South Whidbey, and our newest school, Cedar Park Christian, I believe this statement strikes a tone which rings very true for us.

What do we believe about Coupeville athletics?

Do we believe it’s an unfair advantage to pit public school athletes verse private school athletes?

Do we complain because we are the smallest 1A school, not only in our conference, but in the state?

Do we make excuses for not working out, attending summer camps/clinics, or not playing because (fill in the blank here)?

Is it the coach’s fault, other player’s fault, “we don’t win, so what’s the point of trying or turning out?”

What do YOU believe about Coupeville athletics?

As I’ve moved from player, coach, Athletic Director, retired coach, and back to Athletic Director, I’ve experienced possibly every league configuration, various levels of competition, equity in school size and disparity in school size.

I’ve heard every excuse in the world as to why we can’t compete, don’t win, don’t have good coaches, have poor support, yada, yada, yada…

The one thing that rings true throughout the entire span of my association with athletics is that no matter what the situation, good teams have the same intangibles: work ethic, leadership, commitment, and the ability to overcome adversity.

Do what you can’t.

1996-97 girls basketball team: lose two starters prior to districts, enter districts as #4 seed, play Lynden Christian, ranked #1 in state.

Down by two at half, they’ve taken off the press because it doesn’t work, end up losing by 12.

Play three loser-out games in a row, winning two, face King’s in loser out/winner to state, up 10-0 after 1st quarter, end up losing by 10 to eventual state champs who play Lynden Christian in championship … all with eight girls on the entire team.

Do what you can’t.

1999-2000 girls basketball team: new school in our league named Archbishop Murphy.

Playing with two seniors, one junior, a sophomore, and a freshman starter, win league, beat Murphy by 24 on home court, beat Murphy in loser-out to get to state tournament on a shot hit by 5’8” player over two 6’0 girls.

Down 15 at half in game two, loser-out, at state, storm back to win first-ever state tournament game in Coupeville girls athletics.

Do what you can’t.

2007 football team — down 12-0 in fourth quarter, score twice in last six minutes of game to win, and get to within one game of state tournament.

The 2007-08 track and field team that captured fourth as a team.

2007-08 baseball team, win-less in previous season of Cascade League play, finish third, take first in sub-districts, first in tri-districts, state appearance.

Do what you can’t.

2013-14 baseball, after going 0-fer freshman year and having the ten-run rule in effect for 10 of 16 games, finish 16-10 and a state appearance.

Do what you can’t.

I don’t mention these because I’m patting myself on the back as the coach.

I mention these teams, and I could go on with many other teams and individuals, but because I know, firsthand the work, the effort, the commitment, and their ability to handle adversity.

People will often say that those teams and individuals that won league titles, made it through districts and participated/placed at the state tournament had a lot of talent.

True, but what made them successful wasn’t the talent they had but the way they worked to raise their talent levels.

Our high-achieving teams and individuals don’t leave on vacation during the season, they don’t miss workouts in the summer or spring, they don’t make excuses as to why they aren’t being successful, they don’t take the easy road.

They work, they fight, they push themselves and others, they’re coachable and they’re committed.

They believed in what their coaches were teaching them, they trusted the process, they understood that you can’t beat somebody just because you’re more talented, and they certainly didn’t care who it was they were playing.

They were sure, they were confident, they believed, and they put the work in without question and without reserve.

Do what you can’t.

I keep repeating this and this is why — our sports programs are at a point where our community, parents, and kids need to make a choice, the same choices that our coaches have had to make.

Are we willing to commit to our programs, our coaches, and each other?

Are we excuse-makers or are do we accept accountability?

Do we work as hard as we can, every day, to push ourselves and our talent to the highest level or are we afraid of failure?

Failure isn’t a bad thing, in athletics and in life it should be accepted as a means to reach our goals.

If we choose not to fail then we choose not to excel, learn, or grow and we will never reach any height other than the one we are currently at.

Our coaches have dedicated themselves to providing opportunities throughout the spring and summer to help reach our goals.

Our current coaching staff understands commitment to our athletes, they are willing to give up time to help make our kids better people, teammates, and players.

They are determined to make an impact in our new league and beyond.

Are we ready to join them?

You will see “Do What You Can’t” on t-shirts worn by every coach and every athlete next year; it will be posted in the weight room, around the gym.

Take a risk, join a team, be part of something that is bigger than ourselves and you just may find out how rewarding, how strong you are, and how far you can actually go once you let go of all the self-imposed guards you’ve put up.

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   Avalon Renninger is one of 29 Wolves who could stick the landing and be three-sport athletes in 2017-2018. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Commitment seems to be at an all-time high.

Two-thirds of the way through the 2017-2018 school year, we are on target for the most three-sport athletes in one year at Coupeville High School in the six years of this blog.

From 2012-2013 until 2016-2017, CHS twice topped out at 23 iron men (and women), but this year the Wolves could hit as high as 29.

Now, that comes with a very big “if.”

If everyone on this list turns out for a spring sport. If no one gets lured away by school work, or a job, or driver’s education or spring fever or injuries.

And, because of that last word, we know, barring a miracle, the target number is really 28 and not 29.

Mikayla Elfrank’s badly-injured ankle, which shut her down midway through basketball season, is all but certain to keep her out of action through the spring, which is too bad.

But, if softball, baseball, girls tennis, boys soccer and track provide enough of a lure to keep most of the rest of this list in action, CHS will be blessed.

Three-sport athletes are huge, especially at a small school, where every body counts.

I would also add this — if you want to play college sports, at any level, playing multiple sports is a huge plus.

If you look at former Wolves who have competed for collegiate programs in recent years, or are currently active, almost every single one was a three-sport athlete during their days in Coupeville.

Tyler King, Makana Stone, Nick Streubel, Hailey Hammer, Ben Etzell, Monica Vidoni, Mitch Pelroy, and the list goes on and on.

Among the athletes on that list, King soared the highest, achieving NCAA D-1 All-American status as a cross country and track runner while on scholarship at the University of Washington.

Running was his forte, but he didn’t obsessively limit himself, playing basketball as well, where he was a starter and key contributor on the last great Wolf boys team, the 2009-2010 team which went 16-5.

Playing other sports provided King a chance to grow as an athlete and competitor.

College coaches, at every level, from D-1 to community college, are vocal about their preference for athletes who stretched themselves and tried multiple sports, over those who obsess (and often burn out) as a one-sport specialist.

And if you’re not going to play college sports? Take full advantage of your high school days.

Don’t look back and say “dang, I wish I had played…”

So, with all that in mind, here’s a look at how CHS has finished in previous years:

2012-2013 — (18 three-sport athletes)
2013-2014 — (23)
2014-2015 — (20)
2015-2016 — (17)
2016-2017 — (23)

The 29 who could achieve the feat this year (still hoping Mikayla wakes up tomorrow and her leg is miraculously healed…) and what they’ve played so far:

Mollie Bailey (frosh) (soccer, basketball)
Trevor Bell
(soph) (football, BB)
Kyla Briscoe
(sr) (volleyball, BB) 
Kylie Chernikoff
(frosh) (VB, BB)
Koa Davison
(soph) (FB, BB)
Hunter Downes
(sr) (FB, BB)
Mikayla Elfrank (sr) (VB, BB)
Mason Grove
(soph) (tennis, BB)
Maddy Hilkey
(jr) (socc, BB)
Gavin Knoblich
(soph) (FB, BB)
Kalia Littlejohn
(jr) (socc, BB)
Ryan Labrador
(jr) (FB, BB)
Joey Lippo
(sr) (tenn, BB)
Dane Lucero
(jr) (FB, BB)
Jean Lund-Olsen
(soph) (FB, BB)
Jake Pease
(jr) (FB, BB)
Chelsea Prescott
(frosh) (VB, BB)
Avalon Renninger
(soph) (socc, BB)
Lindsey Roberts (jr) (socc, BB)
Kyle Rockwell
(sr) (FB, BB)
Ema Smith
(jr) (socc, BB)
Hunter Smith
(sr) (FB, BB)
Scout Smith
(soph) (VB, BB)
Cameron Toomey-Stout
(sr) (FB, BB)
James Vidoni
(sr) (FB, BB)
Allison Wenzel
(sr) (VB, BB)
Genna Wright
(frosh) (socc, BB)
Sarah Wright
(jr) (socc, BB)
Tia Wurzrainer
(soph) (socc, BB)

That breaks down to four freshmen, eight sophomores, eight juniors and nine seniors. 15 girls and 14 boys.

Four of those 12th graders — Wenzel, Downes, Toomey-Stout and Hunter Smith — can stick the landing on not just being three-sport athletes, but going a perfect 12-for-12 during their high school days.

If they do, the quartet would beat the last two years combined, when Jared Helmstadter (2015-2016), Tiffany Briscoe (2016-2017) and Lauren Grove (2016-2017) pulled off the perfecto.

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   A back injury will likely cost Hunter Smith the final five games of his senior season, but he exits holding seven CHS football records. (David Stern photo)

He is the best I have seen play with my own eyes.

From the first moment he stepped on the field as a fab frosh, to today, where he’s a sensational senior, Hunter Smith has been the gold standard.

A back injury, aggravated on a running play at Vashon where he was sandwiched by multiple tacklers and bent in three directions at once, will likely claim his remaining days on the gridiron.

He stalked the sidelines at Port Townsend, will not play against Bellevue Christian tonight, and the chance he will see the field in his team’s final three games is slim.

As a fan, it will be a killer to see half his senior season carved away, it’s true.

But, as great as he has been, if us missing the chance to see a few more highlights means Hunter heals and is pain-free in the years to come, it’s an easy choice to make.

And, in the end, on-field greatness isn’t decided by how many games you play — but by what you did in the time you had.

Ian Barron, Coupeville’s career rushing leader and one of the few who would join Smith in the conversation for the greatest Wolf gridiron player of all time, essentially missed a complete season thanks to two different injuries.

We can take Smith’s three-and-a-half years wearing #4 and say, with absolute assurance, this young man here, he was one of the greats.

He exits holding seven different CHS football records, one more than Barron, and is the only Wolf to own season and career marks on both sides of the ball.

A silky-smooth receiver who routinely turned five-yard passes into 50-yard jaunts, he was rarely, if ever, shut down by opposing defensive backs.

Flip the tables, and Smith was Mr. Lock-down.

He was pick-happy, could fly to the ball to deliver bone-crunching hits and rendered his side of the field a no-pass zone most nights.

But numbers are numbers, records are records, and the true greats achieve rarefied air by doing something more than just putting up stats.

Smith was a quiet leader, a guy who led by example, and someone who always put his own teammates ahead of himself.

I don’t say that lightly.

As he churned through games, piling up stats, the ONLY time I ever heard him say a word about the numbers was a moment when he thought his mate in the defensive backfield, Cameron Toomey-Stout, was being robbed.

A clerical error during their junior season awarded Smith an interception which Camtastic had snagged, and, behind the scenes, Hunter did everything in his power to get the stat properly awarded.

He was chasing the school’s career pick record at the time (and caught it during his senior year), but wanted credit only for what he had truly achieved.

More importantly, Smith had great pride in Toomey-Stout and didn’t want to deflect the spotlight from his friend.

That moment, as much as any pass he hauled in, or any time he zipped into the end zone and immediately tossed the ball to the ref, Barry Sanders-style, is why we will remember him so fondly.

Who knows? Somewhere down the road a Wolf player may show up and come gunning for Smith’s records, the way he did when he surpassed ’80s great Chad Gale.

But, whether he holds the records for a season, for decades or until high school football fades out and is replaced by Ultimate Frisbee, Hunter Smith will live large in the memory banks of Wolf football fans.

He was a class act, on and off the field — the best I have witnessed with my own eyes.


Smith’s career numbers:


102 catches
1,761 receiving yards
17.3 yards a catch
17 receiving TDs


33 carries for 128 yards
1 rushing TD


1-1 for 67 yards


105 tackles
16 interceptions
3 fumble recoveries
2 TDs on pick-sixes

Punt/kickoff returns:

17 for 351 yards
1 TD on a punt return
1 TD on a kickoff return


140 points
22 touchdowns
4 conversions

School records:

Receiving TDs in a game (3) – 2016 vs. Bellevue Christian

Receiving yards in a season (916) – 2016
Receiving TDs in a season (11) – 2016
Interceptions in a season (7) – 2015

Receiving yards in a career (1,761)
Receiving TDs in a career (17)
Interceptions in a career (16)

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Coleby Fleming, the artist at rest. (Chris Pingol photo)

Coleby Fleming is one of the more talented guys in Coupeville.

His work with a camera, both in still pictures, and video photography, continues to dazzle.

Fleming’s latest work comes to us from my homeland, Norway, where he spent a summer vacation with his grandma.


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