Archive for the ‘Hall o’ Fame’ Category

Elizabeth Bitting, the newest inductee into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame. (Jackie Saia photo)

There are many different types of coaches.

The screamer. The silent leader. Captain gung-ho. The passive-aggressive prodder.

It goes on and on, but the rarest of the bunch may be the fountain of joy.

That’s a coach who really, truly loves their athletes, one who seeks out superstars and marginal role players alike, making each and every one feel important and treasured.

With no disrespect meant to other Coupeville coaches, past or present, one woman stands alone in best exemplifying those traits for Wolf Nation.

Whether working with middle school athletes, or high school competitors, whether guiding track teams or cross country squads, Elizabeth Bitting is our fountain of joy.

Having worked with her for several years now, I can attest to the level of her commitment, which is extraordinary.

Bitting has helped guide champions to their destiny, and exulted in her athlete’s achievement.

But she is also always there when the last runner crawls across the finish line — genuinely thrilled in a two-second improvement for that young girl or boy.

A stellar athlete in high school and college, Bitting continues to compete in running events, from 5K’s to endurance-level tests of the human soul.

She loves running, and it shows in her words and action.

Never more so than when she takes the lessons she’s learned while pounding away on backwoods trails, finds that 12-year-old kid who has never been an athlete, and lights a fire inside of them that they never expected to find.

When you look at Bitting during races, she is a tsunami of joy, and it touches her own athletes and rivals from other schools.

The running guru nimbly installs confidence and joy into each of her young athletes. (Elizabeth Bitting photo)

And that explosion of joy soon filters across the faces of virtually all of her young charges.

Trace the line of photos during a Coupeville Middle School track or cross country season, and you see the growth.

Athletes who looked shy and anxious in the early going have a new confidence as the season plays out.

Half-smiles widen into huge grins, and the interplay between the young Wolves and their exuberant coach becomes a two-way street.

Cross country is often a lonely sport, with runners navigating trails and underbrush off on their own, but it is also a perfect launching pad.

You don’t have to learn intricate team plays, or find your spot in a five or 11-player lineup. You just have to put one foot in front of the other, then celebrate each “win” against your personal clock.

It’s a beautiful entry sport for girls and boys of all sizes, shapes, and athletic backgrounds (or lack thereof).

And how blessed then are the young Wolves, who find the coach awaiting them to be a hardy mix of sunshine and love — a woman who makes their time on the trails a truly positive experience?

Bitting is a joy to work with as a writer, as well.

She’s quick to send info, goes into great detail, and often shoots photos of her young stars which provide a behind-the-scenes look rarely captured by those clicking away from the outside.

Toss in the fact she birthed what we now know as Race the Reserve, and her positive impact on our schools and our community just continues to grow.

Celebrating at Race the Reserve. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

So, while we could wait until retirement to induct her into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame, the answer to that would be a simple, why?

For one thing, we all hope Bitting keeps at it for years (decades?) to come.

And secondly, inducting her now gives us a chance to reflect a bit of that shine back on to her, to let her know how much we all respect her.

So, after this, when you look up at the top of the blog, under the Legends tab, that’s where you’ll find Bitting hanging out.

Over the years we’ve had a lot of good coaches in Coupeville, and we’ve had a few bad ones. It would be the same in any town.

But no other community has Elizabeth Bitting, which truly sets us apart from the pack.

She is joy unleashed, and we all benefit from being a part of her universe.

A freakin’ fountain of joy, I said. (Morgan White photo)

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Coupeville’s Jaimee Masters, a two-sport athlete who also possesses oodles of artistic talent. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Talent on the court, talent off the court.

A highly-accomplished artist and two-sport athlete, Jaimee Masters had a sizable impact during her days at Coupeville High School.

She followed in the footsteps of cousin Hope Lodell on the volleyball court, but carved out her own solid reputation.

A hard worker with a team-first attitude, Jaimee played all four seasons during high school, working her way into being a valuable role player for the Wolf varsity.

Masters played multiple positions on the court, but always gave her all.

As a senior, she played in 29 of 30 sets during a pandemic-shortened campaign, racking up a solid number of digs as a dependable back-row assassin for a CHS squad which claimed second-place in the Northwest 2B/1B League.

Her tenacity and solid work ethic greatly helped her on the tennis court, as well.

Playing both singles and doubles over the course of her hardcourt run, Jaimee ended her prep net career by teaming with Emily Fiedler to form Coupeville’s #1 doubles duo.

The seniors didn’t get to play as many matches as they might have liked — again with the Covid restrictions — but they took advantage of every opportunity presented.

“Prepare to die, Mr. Tennis Ball!”

Facing off with Friday Harbor in a six-match royal rumble, Coupeville went undefeated during Jaimee’s senior season.

As in truly undefeated, with a 6-0 mark in team matches, and a 30-0 record in individual rumbles.

Masters and Fiedler strolled to straight-sets wins in all six of their matches, winning them by a combined score of 72-11.

They were brutal, efficient, and remarkably kind to the rival players they were battering, showcasing their athletic skills, but also their compassion.

While sports accomplishments are the driving force behind this blog, it’s also worth noting that Jaimee’s talents go far beyond the athletic world.

During the early days of Covid lockdown, with no games to write about, I transitioned a bit and tried to highlight other skills.

One of those areas was artwork, and Jaimee was a particular standout there, showing off works of precise beauty and artistry.

That mixture of talent, hard work, and a caring soul helped her accomplish great things during her school days in Coupeville, and should serve her well as she charges out into the adult world.

Today, though, we’re bringing Jaimee back for a moment, as we induct her into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame.

It’s a well-deserved honor for a remarkable young woman, and, after this, you can catch her hanging out at the top of the blog, up under the Legends tab.

Jaimee never asked for praise, but instead went out and earned it every step of the way.

The true mark of a great one.

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Emily Rose has followed up high school soccer success with impressive real-world achievement. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Work hard in silence. Let success be your noise.

Having done the former, Emily (May) Rose is hopefully enjoying the latter.

The 2017 Coupeville High School grad has gone from selling sweet, sweet soft serve at Oak Harbor’s Dairy Queen during her teen years, to rocking the world of big business.

Having earned a B.A. in Business Administration with a minor in applied advertising and strategic communications from Washington State University, Emily is now off to join the management trainee program with Enterprise.

That follows on the heels of raking in sales for Alta Marketing, as she juggled all the parts of her busy life with the same skill she once brought to the soccer pitch.

A perfect complementary player, Emily played at midfielder and forward for the Wolves, providing an often-potent scoring touch with a willingness to do whatever was necessary for the betterment of her team.

While she played alongside some of the biggest names in CHS girls soccer history, her impact was noticed by those down on the pitch.

“She was so overlooked by many, and yet she always worked hard,” said a former teammate, who bumped me in the direction of inducting Emily into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame.

It was an easy decision, as I already had her on my master list of former Wolves worthy of being immortalized in our lil’ digital shrine.

But knowing others out there, and especially those who played alongside Emily, felt the same way, really tips the scales in her favor.

Ever alert and ready to pounce on a scoring opportunity. (Sylvia Hurlburt photo)

Emily’s four goals as a CHS booter — three as a junior and a final tally as a senior — ties her on the all-time CHS girls scoring list with Hayley Waterman and Erin Rosenkranz.

That’s a quality trio there, as both of those older-school Wolves are among the best to ever pull on a Coupeville uniform, while also being truly brilliant scholars who have been highly-successful in real life.

Like her counterparts in the four-goal club, Emily was never the focal point of her team’s offensive plan.

Instead, she put in the work, grinding and putting herself in the right places at the right time.

Emily could scramble and scrap and fight for 50/50 balls, and, given the chance, she had a nimble scoring touch.

Through it all, as her former teammate attested to, she never coasted, and should feel justifiably proud of her prep sports career.

Now, as she rapidly climbs the real-world business ladder of success, her work ethic, her commitment, her inner strength, are all being highlighted and recognized.

So I’m more than happy to induct Emily into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame, and, after this, you’ll be able to find her hanging around under the Legends tab at the top of the blog.

Well, symbolically at least.

In real life, Emily is not the type to rest on her laurels or past glory.

Instead, she’s boldly achieving success and impressing folks with each new day, a high achiever who shines as brightly as her smile did when she stalked the prairie pitch.

A hard worker and high achiever, on and off the pitch. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

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Matt Hilborn pulls off a web gem. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Matt Hilborn often reminded me of Wiley Hesselgrave.

The pair crossed paths at Coupeville High School very briefly, with the former playing his freshman season of football as the latter wrapped up his senior campaign.

Other than that they weren’t on the same teams, as Hesselgrave played basketball, while Hilborn opted for baseball.

But both guys, the CHS Class of 2016 one — among the most highly-respected Wolf athletes of the modern era — and the Class of 2019 one, always struck me as being very similar in how they approached their time repping Cow Town.

They were old-school players putting in work during a new-school time frame, dudes who showed up to practice and games with lunchbox seemingly in hand, ready to work.

Neither wasted much time on social media, and neither wasted much time flexing between plays.

Hilborn, like Hesselgrave, let his actions speak louder than words, and will be fondly remembered by coaches, teammates, and fans long after moving on to post-high school pursuits.

The oldest of Scott and Wendi’s two sons, Matt was a true four-year star, making an impact on both the Wolf football and baseball programs from his debut to his Senior Night farewells.

A two-way warrior on the gridiron. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

On the gridiron, he had skills and pop.

Matt could lay a hurtin’ on rivals, flying into the scrum ready to break fools in half, and pop the football free for his squad to recover.

But he was also a huge asset on the offensive side of the ball, as a runner and receiver, or returning kicks.

Having sent an electric jolt through the assembled Wolf faithful, Matt, like Wiley before him, would pop back up, nod (ever so slightly), then move on to the next play.

He didn’t prance around and celebrate tackling a third-string runner late in a game where his team trailed by three touchdowns, like some.

Matt wasn’t big on theatrics, but he was huge on results.

That carried over to the diamond, where he landed on multiple all-league teams while putting in work on the pitching mound and patrolling the infield.

His bat had pop, his legs could generate some speed, and, above all, he was a smart, seemingly self-contained player.

Add in an arm which could rip off some nasty pitches, and the Wolves were blessed during his four-year run.

Hilborn and Mason Grove pose after the duo collided during a mad pursuit for a ball. (Chris Smith photo)

Matt stayed on an even keel, and his team benefited.

It’s possible his insides were churning the whole time, but, from the perspective of those in the stands, he always seemed composed and in control.

Make a huge pitch, deliver a crucial hit, or commit the rare error, and Matt remained in control, exactly what you want from a team leader.

During his time in a Wolf uniform, we exchanged a mere handful of words, most of them when he stopped by my duplex once to deliver food from his mom.

Which is good, since, like Wiley before him, that taciturn personality just added to his old-school legend.

Matt showed up, busted his tail, then tipped his hat and moved on with his life.

Much respect from the stands for that.

And, officially, as of today, Matt gets his rightful induction into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame.

Which should have come earlier, but I am apparently forgetful.

Recently, as I scanned the list of names nestled under the Legends tab at the top of the blog, I was surprised not to see his name.

Could I have forgotten to give Matt his just due?

Or did I write a story and merely forget to add Matt’s name on the official list between … Wiley Hesselgrave … and Dawson Houston?

Oh, anything is possible, as anyone who has seen my brain misfire over the years can attest.

Today, that changes however.

A Hall o’ Fame story, either the first or the second, and this time, I absolutely, positively have added Hilborn to the roll call.

Putting Matt right where he has always belonged.

Senior Night with the parental units. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

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Kalia Littlejohn, ready to wreck you. (Sylvia Hurlburt photo)

I don’t pay to get into Coupeville High School athletic contests.

Various athletic directors over the years have given me free access to games, which has made the life of a low-paid sports reporter/blogger much easier.

That being said, there have been a handful of Wolf athletes who brought something truly special to the court, or field, or track oval, or soccer pitch.

If I had to pay, these select few Coupeville athletes would fall into the category of “They were worth the price of admission.”

Without a doubt, one of those premier stars is Kalia Littlejohn, who has always possessed an electricity and a style rarely seen in Cow Town.

She played three seasons of soccer, and parts of two campaigns on the basketball hardwood, before eventually graduating from another school, and she remains one of the truly special athletes to pass through the CHS hallways.

Through wins and losses, through good times and bad, Kalia was a firecracker, capable of bringing a stadium full of fans to its feet, or drop-kicking a pesky rival halfway across the field.

When she was on the basketball court, she was a ferocious ballhawk, constantly nipping, bobbing and weaving, and driving ballhandlers crazy with her quick hands, fast feet, and chippy on-court personality.

Kalia came to win, every day, and she was vocal about it, not backing down from anyone as she slapped her thighs and implored those around her to rise up with her.

That part of her personality carried over to the soccer pitch, where she lived and died for the game for many years.

Kalia spent a great deal of her young womanhood traveling back and forth across the state, and often much further away, as she and older sister Mia chased a 24/7/365 soccer life.

Mia and Kalia, a formidable sister duo. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Once free of the car, and unleashed on the field, she ran wild, golden leg drilling goals into all corners of the net, while often wielding her arms like weapons, clearing space and laying down the law.

“I wish a fool would…”

She might not have said it out loud, but Kalia played with a rare confidence, and a raging fire in her gut.

Off the pitch, she was a super-friendly, easy-going young woman, a smile almost always present as she bopped though life to her own funky tune.

But once she stepped between the lines, the beast emerged and it was often beautiful to behold.

The team on the other side of the pitch might have worn jerseys with big-city names on them, but frankly, Kalia couldn’t have cared less.

Or, at least that’s the impression I had.

She believed in her own talent, was more than willing to outwork, outhustle, and outmuscle anyone in her way, and earned the strut in her step.

Unleash the beast. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

While on the CHS pitch, Kalia rattled home 33 goals across three seasons, second-best in Wolf girls soccer history only to Mia’s 35 tallies.

The lil’ sis racked up numbers with remarkable consistency, leading the team in scoring as a freshman and junior.

The only Wolf girl to notch single-season double-digit scoring totals twice during their prep career (Mia and Genna Wright did it once each), Kalia rarely settled for pedestrian goals.

She would launch fireballs which blazed across the fading prairie sunlight.

Curl wicked sliders which dipped and dove around bodies before hitting pay-dirt.

And, sometimes, when the mood struck, Kalia would simply crush the ball with the intensity of someone genuinely trying to see if they could pop the darn thing.

She was feisty. Combative. Electrifying.

And, always … ALWAYS … worth the price of admission.

Today we welcome Kalia into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame, where she joins several family members, and it’s an induction long overdue.

When you look under the Legends tab at the top of the blog after this, that’s where you’ll find her, most likely rippin’ up the joint and earning all the applause.

Kalia has always been much more than just an athlete, and remains a bright, blazing star as she navigates post-high school life.

With her drive, her commitment, and her strength, she will be a success at whatever path she chooses. Of that, I have no doubt.

But, while she’s always looking forward, the rest of us will pause for a moment and look back in awe and appreciation.

Thank you, Kalia. You were a ton of fun to watch, and write about.

Superstar. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

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