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Coupeville’s Tony Killgo, a two-sport star in the ’80s, lives with wife Karen in Hawaii. (Photos courtesy Killgo)

Killgo hard at work as an underwater welder.

Thirty-three years after graduation and still a CHS record-holder.

He’s gone, but far from forgotten.

Tony Killgo calls Hawaii home these days, but the Coupeville High School grad still looms large on the school’s track and field record board, sharing in one of the longest-standing records in program history.

During his senior season in 1986, the standout two-sport athlete went out with a bang, teaming up with Jay Roberts, Rick Alexander, and Bill Carstensen to break the boys 4 x 100 record.

After claiming 3rd at the state meet in the event, the pack broke up and went their separate ways. But the record they left behind has lingered, remaining untouched now for 33 years.

Only Natasha Bamberger’s marks in the 1600 and 3200, set in 1984, have endured longer on the Wolf record board.

Three-plus decades later, the memories of that dream season remain vibrant for Killgo.

“I received four letters in football and track, as well as individual awards in both track and football,” he said. “But I’d have to say if there was a year that stuck out, it would most definitely be the year our relay team captured lightning in a baton.

“It was a great moment to be a part of,” Killgo added. “Our friendships and camaraderie were in perfect sync for our relay team.

“I have to say I’m very proud to be a part of that magic us four got to experience; I will always cherish that time and our memories.”

While track is where his legend has lingered the longest, it was the gridiron that probably captivated Killgo the most.

“I’d have to say football was my favorite sport,” he said. “And I don’t know that I necessarily have favorite games as much as I have memorable plays, and moments of teammates making the impossible, possible, with great plays I remember to this day.”

The player who looms largest for Killgo is his older brother, Paul, another Wolf legend whose exploits are still discussed.

“Although we didn’t run together that year, or play football that year together, I always strived and yearned to be as good as him in both sports,” Tony Killgo said. “Those who remember seeing him play in both track and football will attest he was something to watch.

“And just knowing that he was watching me, pushed me to my limits to be the best I could, not just in school, not just in sports, but in life.”

Their father also “never missed a game or a track meet,” something which has always stayed with Killgo.

It was that kind of support, both from his own family, and from the families of other CHS athletes and students, which made playing in Coupeville special.

“The memories I remember the most were before the games and the meets, the moms and the dads of the participants getting together and enjoying the upcoming meet or game,” Killgo said.

“Parents like Diane Bailey and the Marti family and Mr. Aparicio, as well as one of my favorites, Mr. Ford.”

Supporting both their own children and the offspring of their neighbors made for a tight-knit community.

“You see, those are the memories I remember — bringing our families, loved ones, moms and dads together on one night or one special occasion,” Killgo said. “We brought them together to enjoy each other’s company and camaraderie as well.

“A moment where they could smile, laugh, and enjoy each other’s company and forget about the complexities of life, like bills, obligations, and family stresses,” he added. “I’d have to say these are the memories I remember the most — bringing a community together.”

While he no longer sees most of his high school mates on a regular basis, Killgo hopes that when his former teammates and fans think about him, they do so with a smile.

“I’d like to hope they remember me as somebody who had good school spirit,” he said. “And someone who always tried to represent his family and community the best he knew how.”

As he’s traveled through life after high school, Killgo has used many of the lessons he learned as a teenage athlete in his adult life.

That’s something he hopes the current generation of Wolf sports stars embraces.

“I learned to win with grace, but, most importantly, how to lose with grace,” Killgo said. “Winning and losing in life is a special thing to learn from.

“You see, at that time we didn’t have participation trophies, you either sank or swam, won or lost.

“Playing both football and track taught me the importance of teamwork and it’s reflected in my business today,” he added. “I don’t have any employees, I only have coworkers, as we are all a team pushing towards the same goal.”

These days, Killgo is a certified commercial diver specializing in underwater demolitions and welding, and his business takes him bouncing between the Hawaiian islands.

He and wife Karen worked together, but her career came to an unexpected end when she was injured and contracted a rare, non-contagious disease – Complex Regional Pain Syndrome/Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (CRPS/RSD).

There are estimates of 50,000 new cases each year in the United States, with those affected experiencing intense pain in limbs, hands, and feet, as well as changes in skin color, temperature, and loss of movement or function.

Pain is constant for most with the syndrome, and doctors worldwide have been unable so far to solve the cause of CRPS/RSD.

As the couple have dealt with the disease, they have tried to use what they’ve learned in a positive manner.

“My wife’s constant battle kind of puts life in perspective,” Killgo said. “To have sympathy and help others when we can.”

With a new school year about to star, Coupeville High School’s athletic fields and gyms will be full of Wolf athletes, some seasoned, some making their debuts in the red and black.

However their prep careers play out, Killgo hopes that everyone in a CHS uniform takes every moment in, that they embrace the chance to play, and set themselves up to look back with as much fondness as he now does.

“My only advice to the next crop of athletes and students is to just enjoy life,” he said. “Enjoy your friendships and camaraderie, but most of all your family and your community.

“Because, when you’re gone those are the things you remember the most,” Killgo added. “Not awards, not teams, but the small moments that make you who you are later, down-the-line in life.”

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Jeff and Cindy Rhubottom. (Contributed photos)

   A flashback to the days when Rhubottom terrorized Wolf rivals on the hardwood.

   The socks were extraordinary, and so was their ability to put the ball in the hoop.

“Respect yourself. Respect your school.”

Jeff Rhubottom was one of the best athletes to ever walk the hallways of Coupeville High School, and he lived by that credo.

A 6-foot-4 tower of power, the 1978 Wolf grad was a 12-time letter winner (four times each in football, basketball and track and field), a two-time All-Conference hoops player and the school record holder in the high jump for more than a decade.

While fellow football player Rich Wilson (6-4) nipped Rhubottom’s mark (6-2) in 2000 — and retains the school record 17 years later — Rhubottom’s legacy still looms large.

He torched the basketball nets for 459 points his senior season in 1977-1978, the second-best single-season mark ever put up a Wolf, boy or girl.

Over the course of four seasons, while sharing the ball with some of the biggest scorers and sweetest shooters in CHS hoops history, he finished with 1,012 points.

In 100 seasons of Wolf boys basketball, only Jeff Stone (1137), Mike Bagby (1104) and Rhubottom contemporary Randy Keefe (1088) have topped that.

While he enjoyed his other sports (he was a tight end/outside linebacker in football and a sprinter, relay runner and state meet-qualifying high jumper on the track oval), basketball was always Rhubottom’s favorite.

“Making the starting five on the varsity squad in basketball my sophomore year” was a particular highlight, which allowed him to “play with great athletes like Bill Jarrell, Randy Keefe, Marc Bisset and Foster Faris.”

That unit played for legendary CHS coach Bob Barker, a man who had a huge positive impact on Rhubottom.

“Coach Barker (was a favorite) for his professionalism,” Rhubottom said. “I remember him quoting as he was handing out our red blazers, ‘You’re representing yourself as an athlete and you’re representing Coupeville High School’.”

CHS football coach Pat Lippincott and track guru Craig Pedlar (“great teacher, great coach”) also helped shaped the young Rhubottom into the man he became.

“Coach Pedlar brought Michael Ellsworth, Jeff Fielding, and myself to the State A Finals in Yakima in 1978,” Rhubottom said. “It was great to be involved with great athletes of the school.

“It’s what you did on Friday nights.”

Whether it was standing tall at the state tourney or ripping through the line to block a punt against Concrete, before scooping up the loose ball and taking it to the house for a touchdown, Rhubottom played with passion, for himself and his teammates.

“I loved and respected the athletic program, playing with great athletes in a small town.”

The lessons he learned as a Wolf benefited Rhubottom as he went on to build his own family (he has a son, Jeff, Jr.) and a career in the painting business.

“Working hard and being responsible and trying to stay in the best physical shape as the years go by. Keeping active,” have been his guiding principals.

Rhubottom considers himself “totally blessed,” having been married to Cindy, “the most beautiful, loving wife, mother, and grandmother” until she lost her battle with cancer in September, 2016.

Being “surrounded by loving new and old family” has helped him greatly.

As he looks back at his own career, Rhubottom calls on today’s Wolves to seize the day.

“Respect yourself. Respect your school. Give 110%. Enjoy the experience,” he said. “Have fun, because it goes by quick.

“Keep active. Always love the sport,” Rhubottom added. “It was fun to take a trip down memory road of my athletic career at Coupeville High School. These are memories I will cherish forever.”

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Modern-day Peter Charron.

   As he approaches his 20th high school reunion, former CHS great Peter Charron still has fun in everything he does. (Photos courtesy Charron)

"Flash," back in his CHS football prime, with teammate Jomo Simpkins.

“Flash,” back in his CHS football prime, with teammate Jomo Simpkins.

On a trip to Disneyland with some of his fellow Coupeville cheerleaders.

On a trip to Disneyland with some of his fellow Wolf cheerleaders.

The male half of the CHS co-ed cheer squad.

The male half of the CHS co-ed cheer squad.

Old school track star Charron, ready to bust some records.

Old school track star Charron, ready to bust some records (and maybe his elbow).

“Being smart is more important than how good you can throw a ball.”

“The real power in life is knowledge. The more you have, the better life will be.”

That’s a lesson which has helped guide Peter Charron’s life over the past two decades, as he has transitioned from a stellar high school athlete to a successful businessman and creator.

A 1997 grad from Coupeville High School, where he starred on the football, track and co-ed cheer squads, Charron has gone on to work as everything from a sporting goods store manager to a video game designer to a 3D film converter on films like Top Gun and Man of Steel.

After helping create innovative worlds for others, he’s now in business for himself as a graphic designer/concept artist, while still finding some time to dabble in the world of 3D modeling.

Approaching a decade of marriage (while raising “two silly dogs”), Charron lives in California these days, but Coupeville is never far from his thoughts.

“Lots of memories. I always enjoyed how parenting a lot of the teachers and the administration was,” he said. “Mr. (Rock) White was a cool Principal.”

Charron joined the football and track team his final two years, using his speed (he wore a superhero t-shirt under his gridiron jersey in honor of his nickname “Flash”) and grit to leave a lasting impact.

One of the better throwers CHS has seen, he looks back on his prep sports career fondly.

“One of my favorite sports memories was after a football game, the coach from the opposite team came up to me and told me ‘you played an outstanding game, good job.’,” Charron said. “I was a little floored by that.”

Battling through an injured elbow, he couldn’t resist trying to pull out a win in the javelin at a home meet, leaving everyone around him impressed.

“I was not supposed to compete, but when I heard the numbers coming in, I felt I could win, and got my coaches OK,” Charron said. “I remember coming over to the area and setting up for my approach.

“While standing there getting prepared to throw, I heard kids from the other schools hushing each other and quietly saying things like “oh, it’s this guy” and “be quiet and watch him throw”.

“It was cool to hear; Hell, I know it made me try harder that day.”

In true Charron style, he won the event, then agreed to another toss to make sure a photographer got a good picture, even though his elbow was throbbing.

When he wasn’t trying to rip his arm off as a thrower, Charron was a hard-charging attack man on the football return team (“lots of hitting!,” he said with a big chuckle) who also helped bring home numerous cheer trophies.

In the mid-’90s CHS had a co-ed cheer team with a strong contingent of male athletes, allowing the Wolves to be a full competition squad capable of pulling off much bigger stunts.

Charron also worked with a combined program that was set up with Coupeville and Oak Harbor which went to nationals his senior year.

Looking back, he credits Coupeville football coaches Ron Bagby and Willie Smith for their help and teammates Jomo Simpkins and Pete Petrov for having a huge impact on him.

“On and off the field, those guys were great!”

As time goes by, he admits he hasn’t worried much about what his legacy might be at his alma mater.

“Wow, um, I mean if any of them do still remember me, that’s awesome!” Charron said with a laugh. “I hope that I would be remembered as someone who gave it all no matter what sport or event, and always tried to treat everyone equal and fairly.

“And finally, that I was a good friend.”

His time at CHS, and his time in the arena, helped make him the successful man he is now, and Charron hopes others take advantage of the same opportunities.

“Playing sports did impact my life,” he said. “They gave me the necessary skills to play in community leagues as I got older to try and stay in shape.

“They also gave me drive to work harder, and push myself to be the best I could be in work and life,” Charron added. “I have shocked a lot of people with how far I can throw a football because of throwing the javelin in track.”

If he and his wife have children, he would “love to see them follow my footsteps in playing sports.”

“I believe it helps strengthen a person’s ability to socialize, learning to work as a team, to trust in and be trusted to have each others backs,” Charron said. “Also one of the biggest things, is it helps you learn to deal with loss or disappointment. It’s after a loss that you show your true character.

“Bottom line is, no matter what my future children want to do, I will give them 100% encouragement, never telling them they cannot do something … unless that thing is illegal, then I will tell them not to do that.”

As a new generation takes the field for CHS, Charron has some simple, but very sound advice for them.

“Stay away from drugs. I had many friends lose out on playing sports because of that,” he said. “Get good grades and my advice would be to treat everyone fairly.

“Make the time to get to know everyone at school; it’s not that big, you can do it.”

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Modern-day Bill Riley. (Photo courtesy Riley)

Modern-day Bill Riley. (Photo courtesy Riley)

“I hope that my teammates and coaches that are still alive today would say I was a good teammate.”

Bill Riley remains one of the most talented athletes to ever represent Coupeville High School, the second ever to be named CHS Athlete of the Year, but he was never concerned with being showy or drawing attention.

Instead, he was a highly successful three-sport athlete by focusing on what he could add to a team.

“Stay humble, let your performance on the court or field be all you need to say,” Riley said. “No need to bring any attention to yourself or celebrate excessively after a great play.

“People will know you did well without the theatrics.”

And the 1973 CHS grad did as well as any athlete to ever pull on the uniform, an All-League First-Team pick in basketball and football (on both sides of the ball) who also went to the state track and field meet as a long jumper.

On the hardwood he was on the 1969-1970 hoops squad that became the first in school history to go to state, then later compiled the second-best single-season scoring average in program history.

Put him on the gridiron and he was a monster, or, at the very least, played a position known as “monster,” which gave him the ability to follow the ball (“That was fun!”) at all times.

It worked, as league coaches honored him for his work as a safety and floating linebacker, as well as his offensive game as a running back and flanker.

So it came with little surprise when Riley was tabbed as his school’s Athlete of the Year in ’73, making him the successor to Corey Cross, who won the first two times the award was handed out.

Following in his teammate’s footsteps remains an honor for Riley.

“I had the deepest respect for Corey,” he said. “He was a natural leader.”

As an athlete, Riley soaked up lessons from those around him, and the men who were coaching him, lessons which have impacted him throughout the years.

“No question, Coach (Bob) Barker was a significant influence,” Riley said. “I looked up to the upperclassmen, Randy Duggan, Corey Cross of course, Jeff Stone, Pat O’Grady.

“On the coach front Craig Pedlar (track and JV BB). In football, Coach Steele, Lippincott, Hosek and legendary football coach Sid Otton were all important figures during those development years.”

With the passage of time, athletes of the ’70s, who put together a truly golden era in Coupeville, may not be as well-remembered as they once were, but the town remains largely the same.

“Those memories are long gone for most people that lived in Coupeville when I was playing sports,” Riley said. “What is irreplaceable, and I believe so special about Coupeville, is how the entire town would support the team.

“Small schools and their towns seem to have that closeness with their teams,” he added. “It felt like the movie Hoosiers at Coupeville during basketball season.”

Riley, who fondly remembers the run to state in ’70 (he was a last-minute selection as a freshman when another player was injured), tempers that with a bit of sadness over his highly-rated ’72 squad falling just short and being knocked out a step away from state by La Conner.

But through good times and bad, the sport remains his favorite, and one he is still active in today.

While he gave up playing in 2008 after a hip replacement, he has been involved in sponsoring teams at the 3A/4A state tourneys in Tacoma for many years.

“Basketball was the best sport because it has kindled a love for the game to this day,” Riley said. “I still believe that high school basketball is the purest form of the game.

“For the last 14 years I have been able to be with the players and coaches, at practices, in the locker room and meals when they come to the Tacoma Dome for three days.

“It’s penance for not making it in 1972, I suppose,” he said with a laugh. “In a sense I get to go every year to the state tourney, living it thru the teams I sponsor.”

The one-time prep sports star grew up to get an undergraduate degree in Business Finance and an MBA, and has been involved in real estate brokerage, investment, property management, construction and land development since 1978.

As he’s progressed through the business world, Riley has used sports lessons to shape modern-day decisions.

“So many lessons to be learned from playing sports — competition, leadership, working together for a common goal are all attributes that have helped me in business,” he said. “Having good mentors at an impressionable age was invaluable.

“I specifically remember Coach Barker using the term “we were a poised team” in 1972 after coming back and winning the Kings Garden game,” Riley added. “I believe we were down double digits late in the fourth quarter.

“Winning games, sometimes by small margins, provided a great lesson on remaining calm during times of stress and has helped me in business.”

Riley’s daughter, who followed her dad into the business world, is 30 now, and if he ends up with athletic grandchildren, the former Wolf ace will be quick to help the newest generation.

“I would help them aspire towards competitive sports because it taught me so much about life, but only if they initially show a liking.”

As he looks back on his own fond memories and surveys the modern-day sports scene, Riley has one very important lesson to pass on.

“Soak it in; it goes by fast,” he said. “Never feel that you’re great or good enough; there is always something you can work on to make you and your game better.”

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Former Wolf lineman Nate Steele, a key member of the undefeated 1990 CHS football squad, with wife Shantina. (Photo copyright Peak Performance)

  Former Wolf lineman Nate Steele, a key member of the undefeated 1990 CHS football squad, with wife Shantina. (Photo copyright Peak Performance Chiropractic)

“I will always appreciate the small-town, close-knit bonds that Coupeville produces.”

From his days as a three-sport star for the Wolves to his current life as a chiropractor following in his dad’s large footsteps, Nate Steele has made a huge impact on his town, and vice versa.

Before he helped to anchor the line for the last great CHS football team, the undefeated league champ 1990 squad, he was just a local kid growing up with people he has stayed close to as the years have passed.

“I went K-12 with most of my classmates, admittedly a challenge when it came to dating,” Steele said with a laugh. “But it also forged life-long friendships.”

By the time he graduated in 1992, Steele had starred on the football gridiron, the basketball court and as a “field” athlete.

“Er … track, but no running, thanks. I just threw the heavy stuff around.”

While he enjoyed all of his sports, football stands out, especially his junior year, when the Wolves used a massive line to open huge running holes and give quarterback Jason McFadyen and Co. plenty of time to operate.

Working as part of a cohesive unit was a huge win, even before Coupeville went 9-0 and hosted a state playoff game.

“I enjoy team sports where individual strengths and weakness are all thrown in together,” Steele said. “Personalities and egos may collide, but when the wrinkles get ironed out and players and coaches pull together to produce a winner it’s nothing less than magic.

“We knew going into the ‘90-‘91 season that we had a good chance to be on top of the league,” he added. “The Cascade League held all of our old rivals and those wins were especially sweet.”

That season played out 25 years ago this fall, but it remains crystal clear to Steele, his teammates and a town that faithfully followed their exploits.

“I hope people remember the magic of that season,” he said. “I remember it seemed like the whole town would turn out for games and the crowd kept getting bigger every game.

“Away games began to feel almost like home games as fans caught the fever of our undefeated season.”

While he shared his success with many people, the chance to have his father, Milton Steele, along for the ride, was magical.

“I have good memories of all my coaches, each one having their own impact in developing my character and athleticism. But my greatest coach, hands down, was my father,” Steele said. “He tirelessly coached soccer and little league baseball in Central Whidbey.

“He had fans on the field and in the stands because he was fair and able to motivate while having fun. He encouraged the underachievers, fine-tuned the superstars and played every kid who genuinely wanted to play,” he added.

“In high school, he would video record every game from the crow’s nest high above Mickey Clark Field. He couldn’t wait to review the tape with me on Saturday and we used this tool in the locker room to improve our game as a team.”

Taking advantage of his dad’s lessons on and off the field, Steele followed his pops into the chiropractic profession.

After college, he returned to Whidbey to practice with his father and raise his family, and today owns and operates Peak Performance on Coveland Street with wife Shantina.

Both his time in the arena and in the office have taught Steele the importance of keeping your body well-balanced and tended.

“Consider chiropractic care as a way of offsetting injury and enhancing performance,” he said. “Most professional athletes use chiropractic care to gain or maintain a competitive edge.

“But, in truth, we all need optimal nerve function to be our best. Even armchair quarterbacks can benefit.”

As a new generation of Steeles follows their father’s path, the former Wolf lineman is supportive, without being too pushy.

“I’ve encouraged my kids to participate in sports,” he said. “Of course, it is a calculated risk to expose yourself to injury, especially in contact sports, yet the experience of building camaraderie and working collectively towards a goal are priceless life lessons.”

And the biggest lesson he took away from his time as an athlete?

“Cooperation. This underpins every successful endeavor,” Steele said. “Mediocre teams can achieve great success in synergy; great teams stacked with talent will implode if they can’t work together.”

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