Archive for the ‘Hall o’ Fame’ Category

John Engstrom (back row, far left) finally enters the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame.

John Engstrom was the small town boy who hit the big time, and made the big time sit up and take notice.

The descendant of one of Whidbey’s pioneer families (his mom was an Engle), he rose from being a three-sport athlete and class valedictorian at Coupeville High School to thriving as one of Seattle’s most-respected newsmen.

Now, the late writer picks up one more honor, as we induct him into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame.

There are a fair share of former Wolf stars whose names I know, having run across them in my hunt for stats and stories, but whose tales remain largely foreign to me.

Thanks to Charlie Burrow, who nominated Engstrom for induction, I can finally put more of a face to the name.

One down, several hundred to go, and this reminder – if there is a Coupeville athlete from the past you want to see go into our digital Hall o’ Fame, don’t assume I know their full story.

Come forward, let me know. I need your help to fill in the blanks.

With Engstrom, who graduated from CHS in 1959, we have a man who excelled in football, basketball, baseball, and the classroom during his time as a Wolf.

His name popped up during my attempts to track down all the buckets scored by Coupeville hoops stars, as he pumped in points as a junior and senior.

Playing alongside “Big” Mike Criscuola, who may be the true #1 scorer in program history (the records of the time are spotty, at best), Engstrom was Coupeville’s #2 scorer during his senior season.

That was the year the Wolves shocked the pundits by finishing second in the six-team Northwest District tournament.

Reducing to a mere paragraph or two in the pre-tourney breakdown, Coupeville stunned Sultan and Darrington, before narrowly falling to a rampaging La Conner squad in the title game.

It would be 11 years before the Wolves would become the first Whidbey Island boys hoops team to win a district crown (the immortal 69-70 CHS team coached by Bob Barker), but Big Mike, Engstrom, Sandy Roberts, and Co. made believers of all the non-believers.

After graduation from Coupeville, Engstrom attended the University of Washington, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in elementary education and a masters in education.

Spring-boarding from his time on the school paper, he went on to write for United Press International and have a long career as a sports writer, editor, travel writer, and TV critic for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

He and wife Susan Paynter, a revered P-I columnist, retired in 2009 when the newspaper brought its print edition to a close.

The couple lived on the Oregon coast afterwards, until Engstrom lost a battle with acute myeloid leukemia at age 72 in 2014.

On his passing, his newspaper colleagues hailed him as “a terrific supportive boss, just a wonderful human being.”

“A steadier, more laid-back person you could not find,” said another.

Among Engstrom’s many high points during his journalism career was covering the Seattle SuperSonics during their NBA championship season in 1979.

Whether camping in his fifth wheel trailer while documenting Eastern Washington wheat farmers, or living in Spain during Franco’s reign, the former Wolf was the ultimate journalist, one who impacted all of his co-workers in positive ways.

He was “a gentleman, a lovely man, a favorite colleague,” who was “all class and grace.”

And now, a bit late, but very well-deserved, he joins our lil’ digital Hall of Fame.

After this, when you look up at the top of the blog, go peek under the Legends tab, and you’ll find Engstrom camped out where he’s always belonged.

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Jazmine Franklin (front) and McKenzie Bailey, during their days as high school tennis aces. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

They were awesome together. They were awesome apart.

And now, three-plus years after graduation from Coupeville High School, Jazmine Franklin and McKenzie Bailey continue to grow in their awesomeness.

The former is an accomplished artist who’s a step away from breaking big, while the latter is on her way to being the coolest teacher a new generation of little kids could hope to meet in the classroom.

While both continue to soar on a daily basis as they chase their dreams, today we’re here to primarily talk about what they accomplished as Wolf athletes.

It is a sports blog, after all, and we’re way overdue on inducting the dazzling duo into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame.

So, let’s rectify that oversight and crack open the door on our digital hall of wonders, sending them into hallowed company as a team.

After this, when you wander up to the top of the blog and peek under the Legends tab, you’ll find Franklin and Bailey exactly where they’ve always deserved to be.

Both did it all, and did it extremely well, during their time in the red and black.

Franklin was an accomplished cheerleader and a class leader, while Bailey bopped her way through volleyball and basketball, while also being at the forefront of everything the Class of 2016 student leaders accomplished.

But, it was when they came together, picking up tennis rackets and laying waste to anyone foolhardy enough to wander into their path, where they sparkled like never before.

“Killer Kenny” attacks.

“Girl’s crazy … but I kind of dig it.”

CHS tennis coach Ken Stange referred to the fun-loving, hard-hitting duo as Salt ‘n Pepa, and they were his go-to whenever he needed a crucial win.

It might have been easy for their play to be overlooked, as their hard-court careers virtually mirrored those of Payton Aparicio and Sage Renninger, who were a #1 doubles team for four straight seasons, culminating in a long run at the state tourney their senior season.

Playing in the #2 slot never dinged their shine, however, as they methodically raked their way through other teams, while helping their teammates raise their own games.

When he looked back at the first 15 years of his career as leader of the Wolf tennis programs, Stange tabbed Franklin and Bailey as one of the best doubles duos he had coached.

He appreciated their ability to blister foes from big and small schools alike, and how they went about accomplishing the feat.

Over the course of their prep careers, the duo went an eye-popping 28-4 when teamed up together.

That’s a brain-melting .875 winning percentage, a number few, if any, Wolf athletes have come remotely close to hitting.

Always game for a photo op…

But deadly efficient on the court. (Ken Stange photo)

Franklin and Bailey were leaders on and off the court, a combined second voice for their coach, and they capped their prep careers by being “excellent team captains.”

Stange has seen (and coached) hundreds of young women and men during his decade-and-a-half-plus at CHS, but Salt ‘n Pepa remain among his favorites, for their skill, their fight, and their attitudes.

“They were about winning and fun, in that order,” he said. “They lived out loud and I loved it!”


To see (and possibly purchase) Franklin’s artwork, pop over to:


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Jakobi Baumann flies over the hurdles during a track meet last spring. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

The first time I met Jakobi Baumann, he was a young kid hanging out in the old, cruddy wood shack masquerading as the press box at Mickey Clark Field.

Over the course of a high school soccer game, he ran the scoreboard and we talked a bit as I scribbled a few notes about a game that was playing out to a less-than-thrilling tie.

Jakobi was smart, that was already obvious, but he was also funny and well-spoken.

This was a guy going places, and not just because his dad, Duane, ran the school.

My snap judgement that day was a simple one.

One day, I would probably still be occupied with slapping attack bees with my notebook (the old press box was a death trap…), trying to figure out how to make a scoreless stalemate sound halfway exciting.

Meanwhile, the young Mr. Baumann would be out in the world, impressing people of prestige and power.

And lo and behold, I was right.

Maybe not about the bees, as the school’s current press box — a huge improvement — has so far shielded my tender vittles from any kamikaze insects.

But about Jakobi hitting grand heights? I was dead on about that.

As he and twin brother Jaschon wound their way through their years at CHS, both were top-notch students, athletes, and people.

With no disrespect meant to Schon, who is off to study at the U-Dub, this article is about Kobi, though.

As he heads to Mexico to begin a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we want to send him on his way by recognizing everything he accomplished during his time in Cow Town.

So, we’re inducting Jakobi Baumann into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame, honoring him for being a stellar tennis and track and field performer, as well as a standout in every other activity he tackled, from band to drama to Science Olympiad.

Baumann and fellow Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Famer Allison Wenzel could play a mean duet.

And, for being a really solid dude, a guy who was supportive of his teammates and classmates, and did it all with a genuine sense of class.

After this, while the real Baumann will be South of the border for awhile, he will also live on under the Legends tab at the top of the blog.

It’s a position he earned through hard work.

On the tennis court, Baumann rose from a middle-of-the-pack player in his early days to being solidly The Man, anchoring the lineup at #1 singles for the Wolves.

As he grew taller and more sure of himself, his power increased, his willingness to take the challenge directly at rival players revved up, and the wins came along with his growth as a player and person.

While his shot-making skills were strong, Baumann set himself apart from others by refusing to give in, regardless of the score.

Intensity, thy name is Jakobi.

Time and again, he fought back from deficits, pushed his rivals deep into matches, and never slowed down when chasing balls which seemed long gone.

Watching Jakobi play, it reminded me of a kid named Sonny Jelvik, who was on the Tumwater High School team when I played my own three years of high school tennis.

Time and again, I would pound shots against him in practice which had “winner” stamped on the ball (I thought), only to see Sonny run down the ball at the last second and flick it back into play.

It was frustrating beyond all belief, and made for long afternoons on the court, as we slugged away at each other for hours. But it made me better, something I see now.

Like Jelvik, Baumann had no off button, and his desire to win was matched by few.

That carried over to his time in the world of track and field, where he made it to bi-districts, a step away from the state meet, in three events as a senior.

Baumann put in a great deal of time as a distance runner, and was one of the few brave souls among the current crop of Wolf boys to attack the hurdles with great glee.

If we go back through eighth grade, he tried his hand at nearly everything, competing in 13 events during his time as a track star.

That he found the time to do two sports, when he was also occupied with so many academic activities as well, is pretty amazing.

While this is called Coupeville Sports, we have to take a second to note his single greatest accomplishment might have come in the world of music, where Baumann made the trombone thrill as he advanced to the state championships.

But, whether he was lettin’ loose with sweet sounds, flying over the hurdles, long legs churning, blinding people with science, or just goofing around with friends, he was always the real deal.

Jakobi was (and is) a genuinely nice guy, smart, witty, willing to stand up for what he believes in, but also able to do it with kindness for all.

He will go far in life, of that there is no doubt. More serious, highly-accredited Hall of Fames will be in play one day.

The kid with the jokes in the broken-down press box will be a man who makes the world a better place.

When Jakobi receives other honors, when the stories written about him land in bigger outlets than my blog, it will be really easy to be happy for him and his family.

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Former Wolf QB Hunter Downes owns the Coupeville High School record for most touchdown passes in a career. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

His bones sometimes betrayed him, but his heart never did.

Over the course of a four-year run at Coupeville High School, Hunter Downes fought through too many injuries, many of which might have derailed someone with less drive and grit.

But, each time he snapped or bent something new, the 2018 CHS grad bounced back, his body healing (at least for a moment).

The gleam in his eye? That never vanished.

Downes always seemed to me like one of those rare athletes who really, truly lived for every moment they got on the field, the court, or the pitch.

Even wracked by more injuries than the average Wolf, he suited up for a sport in all 12 seasons he was granted.

Football and basketball were his mainstays for all four years, while a brief foray into track and field soon gave way to life on the soccer pitch.

Through it all, he was always front and center, though he brought different skill sets to each sport, and filled often vastly-different roles for his teams.

As a soccer player Downes was a rough-and-ready enforcer who also had a nimble touch around the net when needed.

Celebrating a goal on the soccer pitch.

Playing with many of the highest-powered scorers in program history, he didn’t have to carry the offensive load.

That didn’t mean he couldn’t sting an opposing goalie when the moment was right, though.

On the basketball court, Downes filled a similar complementary role.

His four seasons of high school hoops were shared with Hunter Smith, who finished as one of the most-prolific scorers in school history.

While Downes often played a set-up role, it was one he seized with wild abandon.

A smooth passer who could make the nets sing when he shot, he largely made his name as a force in the paint.

Often giving up height and weight advantages to the rival burly brawlers he faced off with, Downes lived to snatch as many rebounds as humanly possible.

Using guile, positioning, and a nice stubborn streak which kept his butt anchored down low even while being roughed up, he never backed down.


Rumbling in the paint.

His knack for cleaning the glass, on both ends of the court, was huge.

Whether taking the ball back up strongly, or dealing it to waiting shooters, Downes was a master at giving the Wolves second (and third, and fourth) chances.

But, of all his sports, football is the one where he may have shone most brightly.

A gun-slinging quarterback who enjoyed juking would-be tacklers out of their shoes before firing balls into triple coverage, Downes rarely played it safely on the gridiron.

Named the starter as a sophomore, he saw his first season in charge of the varsity offense end prematurely, derailed by an early-season injury.

Fighting his way back, Downes popped back behind center the next season and stayed there, through bruising sacks and awkward collisions, always flinging the ball skyward on a wing and a prayer.

More often than not, it worked out, as he hooked up with Smith, Cameron Toomey-Stout and Co., ripping off big chunks of yardage and crowd-pleasing touchdowns.

When he finally limped off the field at the end of his run, Downes, even having lost out on most of his sophomore campaign, landed among the most productive QB’s in CHS history.

His 35 career touchdown passes are the most in school history, while he also shares the single-game mark of four scoring bombs with Wolf legends Corey Cross and Brad Sherman.

Downes came dangerously close to catching Sherman for the school’s career mark in passing yards, and saved one of his best moments for the very end.

Tied with Sherman at 33 career passing TD’s, Downes had watched most of his key receivers KO’d by season-ending injuries.

He had very few reliable targets left as his senior season rolled to an end, and he was getting hit at a steady rate himself, as the starters on his line also suffered through a considerable wave of injuries.

But, weaving and bobbing, Downes connected on the record-setting heave, dropping the ball onto the hands of his close childhood friend, Jake Hoagland.

In a season of pain and misery for the Wolves, the fling and catch produced not just a record, but a thin sliver of pure joy.

For a moment, all the action around them came to a screeching halt and two friends etched their names into the record books while recreating some of the magic from their backyard days.

Downes was limping as the post-touchdown celebration played out, having been blasted once again.

But he was also grinning.

Like I said, Downes, more than many, really seemed to enjoy his time as a high school athlete.

He might not have gotten all the opportunities he deserved, but he took advantage of every single one he was given.

Today we honor Hunter for his stats, but also for the way he played — attacking every day, every game, always trying to get the most out of every play.

As the newest member of the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame, he joins former teammates and the old-school giants whose records he chased.

After this, you’ll find him camped out under the Legends tab at the top of the blog.

It’s a fitting home for a guy who never let an injury slow his roll, a guy who lived to be a ballplayer, and a dude who made sure to play every game like it was the most important contest of his life.

Bring it on. (David Stern photo)

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Allison Wenzel is the only CHS athlete in at least a decade-plus to make it to state in three separate sports. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

A master of many instruments, she also went to the state championships in music.

“Let the bodies (and the braids) hit the floor!!”

Allison Wenzel can do everything.

And, if not, give her a day or two and she’ll master whatever new task you try and throw her way.

A Japanese-born American bad ass, Allison combines blistering talent with a serene spirit.

She’s one of the most genuinely kind people you will meet.

Unless you’re trying to take a basketball away from her, then she will get all up in your business and leave you to bleed out in an alleyway.


Or, possibly for real…

During her days at Coupeville High School, Wenzel, a 2018 grad, was a non-stop whirlwind.

She was one of four students in her class to play a sport in every season of her prep career, putting in four campaigns apiece in volleyball, basketball, and track and field.

A role player who sacrificed for the team, she had her greatest achievement at the very end of her high school career.

Standing alone after so many years of playing for others, Wenzel advanced to the state track and field championships in the discus.

Once in Cheney, she let fly with the best throw of her career in her swan song, ripping off a PR and claiming 9th place in all of 1A.

That solo run in the spotlight allowed Wenzel to achieve something very few Wolves have, reaching the state tourney in three separate sports.

She’s the only Coupeville athlete to pull off the trifecta in the last decade-plus.

You’d have to go back to the early 2000’s, when Wolf girls basketball and volleyball squads went to state on a regular basis, to find a time when there might possibly be another three-timer.

In recent years there have been a number of talented Coupeville female athletes who made it to state in two sports.

Makana Stone. Skyler Lawrence. Emma Smith. Maya Toomey-Stout. Lindsey Roberts. Sarah Wright. Kyla Briscoe. Emma Mathusek. Payton Aparicio. Chelsea Prescott. Lauren Rose. Scout Smith. Lauren Grove.

Ferociously successful, one and all, but the needle stopped at two, and hasn’t made it to three for any of them.


Four of those Wolf girls still have at least a school year left in their careers, so hope lives.

Coupeville boys? Yeah … there’s been a bit of a dry spell.

We’re talking the late ’80s as the last time there’s the possibility of finding a male Wolf who went to state in three sports.

Chad Gale, certainly, and, after that, we’d need to do some more research.

Today, though, we know Wenzel stands at the top of the peak for recent athletes, alone and untouched.

Chalk it up to talent, commitment, and drive.

Others skipped seasons, took time off, stayed on the sidelines.

Not Wenzel.

As a sophomore, she was on the girls basketball team which squared off with perennial powerhouse Cashmere, falling just short of making it to the final eight.

Then, as a senior, she went East with the volleyball squad, where the Wolves tangled with heavy hitters Castle Rock and Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls), before capping things during track season.

Actually, Wenzel made it to state four times, as she also was the queen of the music set.

A master of many instruments, she went to the big dance as a musician, qualifying both as a solo artist (interpreting Mozart on the French Horn) and as part of a duo with Jakobi Baumann.

So, it comes as little surprise that the effortlessly-talented Wenzel is currently pursuing studies in musical education at Central Washington University, wowing a whole new crowd.

For her hustle on the court, her displays of power in the throwing arena, and her artful musical noodlings, plus her kindness, her huge heart, and her love of Star Wars (bonus points!), it’s time to acknowledge all she accomplished, and all that is yet to come.

Allison Wenzel is a bright star streaking across the night sky, one who lights up everything in her path and inspires all of us down here on planet Earth.

Putting her in the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame, which we do today, is something she richly deserves.

After this, you’ll find her up at the top of the blog, under the Legends tab.

Out in the real world?

She’ll be winning real awards left and right, quietly being awesome, cause she couldn’t be anything else.

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