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Coupeville’s Makana Stone has signed a pro contract and will play in England’s top basketball league. (Photo property Loughborough University)

Same country, a higher level of competition.

Coupeville grad Makana Stone is remaining in England, but will make the jump to the country’s top basketball league after signing her first professional contract.

After stellar four-year runs on the hardwood at both CHS and Whitman College, the former Wolf went overseas, suiting up last season for Loughborough University in England’s Women’s National Basketball League.

Now, she will play for the Leicester Riders in the Women’s British Basketball League.

Stone and her new squad have a 24-game regular-season schedule, which kicks off in October and runs through April, 2022.

The top eight teams in the 13-team league advance to the playoffs.

Leicester and its rivals also square off in two tournaments which run alongside the regular season, with the WBBL Cup first up.

The Riders open play in that event Sept. 25, facing the Oaklands Wolves.

And yes, for my fellow Americans, there is supposed to be an “s” at the end of Oaklands, which plays out of Hertfordshire, and is not to be confused with the city in California which gave us Damian Lillard.

Stone, who earned a B.A. in Biology at Whitman, wraps up her Master’s in Exercise Physiology at the end of August.

Graduation is not until December, but other than making the walk to get another diploma, Andre’s lil’ sister will be able to focus full-time on the hardwood lifestyle.

Stone practiced with Leicester last season, but, as a non-European Union player, needed to qualify for a work permit before being eligible to play in the WBBL.

So, her game action came for Loughborough, which is sort of, kind of, the farm team for Leicester.

Running wild, the Coupeville native averaged a double-double, pouring in 270 points and snatching 231 rebounds across 17 games.

Stone added 33 assists, 58 steals, and eight blocked shots, had the third-best efficiency rating in the league, and finished second among all players in voting for the WNBL Team of the Year.

Her best performance was likely a 20-point, 21-rebound afternoon against previously-unbeaten Ipswich.

That game was capped by Stone banking in a buzzer-beater over the defense of Gonzaga-signee Esther Little, lifting Loughborough to a 77-76 win.

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Madison McMillan is a three-sport athlete with a very bright future. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Madison McMillan is in a unique position.

As she prepares to enter Coupeville High School as a freshman this fall, the three-sport star already knows what it’s like to be a high school athlete.

McMillan was one of seven 8th grade girls who played above their grade level last year, helping a CHS hoops program which struggled with low numbers.

Given an extra, early season of high school basketball, she tallied 33 points across five JV games in a pandemic-altered season, finishing second on her squad in scoring.

McMillan powers in for a bucket. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Not content to stop there, McMillan quickly moved to the softball diamond, capping her final season in little league by being a homerun-bashing supernova — first for Central Whidbey’s juniors squad, then for an All-Star team which finished fourth at the state tourney.

Along the way, she crushed an out-of-the-park dinger which brought back memories of previous Coupeville sluggers like Hailey Hammer and Veronica Crownover, who both went on to have legendary four-year runs on the high school diamond.

Toss in volleyball, and McMillan plans to be a busy bee during her high school days, playing year-round.

“As long as my grades are good!,” she said with a laugh.

McMillan is part of a tight-knit group of talented young Coupeville athletes who have grown up together, uniting as teammates and friends.

“My most favorite thing about being an athlete is playing the sport with friends and winning and losing as a team,” she said.

“I also love the sense of competition between teams, because both teams want to win.”

McMillan, who enjoys history and English classes when in school, tabs sports classics A League of Their Own and Miracle as her favorite films.

Ready to drop the hammer. (Jackie Saia photo)

Her love of sports has led her to embrace the idea of being a three-sport athlete, which is huge at a small school like Coupeville, which needs as many players as possible.

“My favorite sport really depends on the season,” McMillan said. “Like, if it was the fall, my favorite sport would most likely be volleyball.

“Or, if it was spring and summer then it would be softball, when winter would be basketball,” she added. “So I’m pretty fortunate to have a sport for each season.”

As she has grown as an athlete and young woman, McMillan has had many mentors, with her grandparents, Gordon and Nancy, standing out.

“My grandpa definitely had the greatest influence on not only my sports career, but my life as well,” McMillan said. “He coached the tee-ball team I was on, and rookies.

“And along with my grandma, he comes to cheer every single game, no matter what sport it is.

“And jokes if I play college sports he and my grandma will buy a trailer and drive to each game.”

McMillan and Teagan Calkins celebrate as they roll to another win. (Jackie Saia photo)

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Jada Heaton (left) and Mia Farris, ready to rock the softball diamond. (Jennifer Heaton photo)

“I have a great group of friends I play softball with. Every year we strive to be better.”

That’s working out quite nicely for Jada Heaton, as she and her playing companions have done exactly that — get progressively stronger and more-talented with each season.

The group has piled up wins, captured district titles, and made runs at the state tourney as little leaguers, capped by a recent fourth-place finish at the big dance in Vancouver while playing as the Whidbey Island All-Star juniors squad.

Along the way, a quick scan of photos shows Heaton almost always wearing a huge smile while in action, whether spraying hits at the plate or chasing down long bombs to the outfield.

“Get back here, you!” Heaton pulls off a Willie Mays-style catch near the outfield wall. (Jackie Saia photo)

The young star on the rise derives a great deal of joy from her time on the field, and her time spent with a close-knit group of friends.

“Softball is my favorite, because I’ve been playing since I was little,” Heaton said. “I like playing sports with my friends as a team. Win or lose. Trying to always get better.”

Now, with her little league days having come to an end after big wins at the state tourney over teams from Puyallup and Mukilteo, she’s on the path to beginning a new career as an athlete.

Heaton will be a freshman at Coupeville High School in the fall, and plans to play volleyball, basketball, and softball for the Wolves.

“I’m excited to play them all in high school,” she said. “I want to keep getting better; hopefully letter in all three of those sports.”

“Hand me my bat, ladies. Mama has to go wreck some fools!” (Jackie Saia photo)

Athletics keep Heaton hopping — “Not much time for anything besides sports,” she said with a laugh — but she did have a great time in one particular class.

“I enjoyed working on the middle school yearbook,” she said. “Hoping I will be on the yearbook staff for high school.”

In everything she does, Heaton leans on those close to her for positive reinforcement.

“My family is always supporting me,” she said. “I (also) have an amazing group of friends.

“Most of us have been together since preschool,” Heaton added. “I am thankful for their friendship.”

Regardless of which of her sports she’s playing at a given moment, she always tries to approach things with a can-do outlook.

“One of my strengths as an athlete would be my attitude,” Heaton said. “I try hard to encourage my teammates.

“I also listen to my coaches good and bad. Learn from what they are telling me,” she added. “I will work 110% and not give up. Working hard, but also having fun doing it.”

The happy warrior. (Corinn Parker photo)

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Teagan Calkins zooms to the front of the pack as a cross country runner. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Teagan Calkins is ahead of the pack.

The ever-active Coupeville student/athlete, who will be an eighth-grader this fall, has spent much of her time playing ahead of her age group.

At age 12, Calkins is the youngest member of the Whidbey Island All-Star juniors softball team, which just concluded a successful four-game run at the state tourney.

While in Vancouver, she played in the outfield and caught, while being the team’s second most-productive hitter at the plate.

The youngest girl on the Whidbey Island All-Star junior softball squad, Calkins played strongly at the state tournament. (Jackie Saia photos)

It’s just the latest highlight for Calkins, who has also played soccer, cross country, basketball, and volleyball, while participating in gymnastics and taekwondo.

It’s a busy sports lifestyle, but one she plans to keep going. When she hits high school in a year, Calkins hopes to play volleyball, basketball, and softball, while also staying with taekwondo.

While she enjoys all her sports, softball and volleyball currently top the list.

“Softball because I enjoy kinda being in charge of the field, because of the positions I play, which are center field and catcher,” Calkins said. “Volleyball because I like diving and receiving a lot. I like playing libero.”

Calkins flies home with a run.

Regardless of the sport, being active and involved are big for her, and she embraces the exciting aspect of each activity.

“I like the adrenaline rush and being focused on one thing,” Calkins said. “To leave everything else behind and just focus on the sport.”

Away from competition, she enjoys math class (“I’ve just always loved math, and I’m really good at it”), and has shown a keen eye as a photographer, emulating mom Jackie Saia.

Already a star, at age six.

On the field, or court, or trail, or mat, Calkins brings energy and fearlessness to everything she does.

“My strengths are having motivation to dive to get the ball in both softball and volleyball and having good stamina,” she said.

“I’d like to work on how to play every position if I’m needed in softball, and “crashing” to stop the ball at catcher,” Calkins added. “I’d also like to work on pitching … release point, and speed, and how to do different releases for different pitches.”

To get to where she is, and to get to where she wants to be, Calkins has benefited from strong coaching, something she highly appreciates.

“Coach Fred (Farris) has coached me in softball for five years and taught me pretty much everything I know,” she said.

“When I was put in higher level volleyball camp and being the only 7th grader on an all-8th grade team, I was coached by coach Cris (Matochi).

“He was very encouraging and positive.”

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Mollie Bailey, prairie legend. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Mollie Bailey didn’t really need me.

Rising up from the prairie dirt as a fully-formed rural myth, capable of entertaining herself and others while achieving great feats, she was fully capable of building her own legend without an unpaid PR man to hype her.

But she let me hang around, and write about her for many years, so she’s got that going for her, which is nice.

Along the way, she morphed from a little girl with braids, chucking the ball at the hoop alongside Logan Martin during countless basketball halftimes, into a strong, confident young woman who soared in the classroom and on the softball diamond.

She was a terror swinging a bat, yet equally brilliant with a stack of books in front of her.

Mollie followed in the large footsteps of older sisters McKayla and McKenzie, warrior queens in their own right, but the youngest child always (I said always!) carved her own path.

Staring down the world from behind shades, she bopped along to a drummer’s beat, which is appropriate, as that’s the instrument she plays.

“Let’s get this party started!”

It’s easy, too easy sometimes, to compare people to Hollywood heartthrob Matthew McConaughey, the master of laid-back cool, but with Mollie it really feels right.

On the soccer pitch, on the basketball court, and, especially, on the softball diamond, she never betrayed any nervousness, never looked flustered or lost.

So maybe she was more like Jeff Bridges as The Dude in The Big Lebowski — always abiding.

Others walk, or run, but Mollie?

She cruised along, slow-nodding to her hyperventilating fan section when she felt like it, delivering one-liners out of the side of her mouth while crafting memorable moments.

As a sophomore, she was a key contributor to a Coupeville High School softball squad which went to state, then made considerable noise while at the big dance.

The pandemic ripped her junior diamond season from her grasp, but Mollie was back as a senior, Covid mask in place, going absolutely bonkers at the plate.

Hitting in the cleanup spot, the Wolf catcher put together an often-astounding final campaign, bashing the snot out of the ball.

She hit at well over a .500 clip, raining down double after booming double with a gentle flick of her powerful wrists, kick-starting a CHS offense which outscored foes 154-41 during a 12-0 season.

Smashing the crud out of the softball — it’s kind of her thing.

As hot at the plate as she was — and there were times when the bat threatened to melt as Mollie merrily mashed — she was also a calming influence while clad in her catcher’s gear.

Wolf hurler Izzy Wells was rarely in trouble this spring, but the few times other teams threatened to make a run, it was Mollie, laconic and rarely-ruffled, who promptly settled her team down.

Her athletic success carried over to other sports, as well, as she patrolled goal for the CHS soccer squad, and popped her share of shots from outside during her time on the basketball hardwood.

Through it all, she kept her family’s tradition alive, always (I said always!) knowing where the camera was.

But Mollie, like McKayla and McKenzie before her, is much more than just an athlete.

She claimed valedictorian honors, earned a staggering number of scholarships, and is headed to the University of Washington, where she’s been directly admitted to the College of Engineering. 

Brilliance — a family trademark.

Mollie is the product of a union between two long-time prairie families — Bailey and Engle — and is likely related to 74.3% of people in Coupeville, many of whom have been great athletes and/or students.

Hanging out with a small portion of her large fan club.

It would have been easy for her to coast along, go under the radar.

Instead, she’s boldly carved out her own path to success, and will remain as one of the enduring legends from my time writing about life on the prairie.

Today, Mollie joins her sisters in receiving an honor which is both fake and real, all at the same time — induction into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame.

After this, you can find her hanging out up at the top of the blog, under the Legends tab.

Being the coolest cat in the club, and doing it her way.

Always.

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