Ella Colwell, a volleyball, basketball and track star, enters Coupeville High School as a freshman this fall. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Colwell sinks a free throw during a summer hoops camp. (Photo courtesy Megan Wise)

Sports often build friendship.

That’s true for Ella Colwell, a three-sport star heading to Coupeville High School as a freshman this fall.

During her middle school days, she played volleyball and basketball, while rounding out the year with track and field.

Staying active and involved on a daily basis has paid off for Colwell.

“Being a part of something (is great),” she said. “It helps you find people that you maybe didn’t think you’d be friends with.”

While Colwell enjoys all of her sports, hard-court life is the life for her.

“My favorite sport is basketball, because I like how you can be aggressive in it and also I love how much of a team sport it is,” she said. “You really can’t have a successful team if you don’t work together.”

Colwell and her hoops teams, both in middle school and SWISH, have been winners, bringing home titles as they build a tight-knit bond.

A tall, strong athlete who could likely develop into a fearsome inside enforcer in the paint, she’s ready for the challenge.

“My strengths as an athlete would be someone who you can look for as help,” Colwell said.

“Like, in basketball, I’m a post/defender, so when a teammate needs help getting around their defender, I might go up and screen them, or yell “defender on your left” or “watch for screens.”

A strong math student (“it’s my favorite, because I love the satisfaction of when you’ve been trying to solve this hard question, and you finally get it right”), Colwell enjoys watching action/thriller flicks in her spare time.

“Movies that get your heart pumping,” she said. “And have you on the edge of your seat, waiting to see what happens next!”

But when it’s time to head to practice or games, Colwell is as committed as they come.

“My goals for my high school sports career would definitely be to make it on the varsity for basketball,” she said. “And to become a better overall volleyball player.”

Regardless of the sport or activity, she knows her biggest fan, mom Megan, will always be there for her.

“My mom has been a big impact because she was the one who first told me to play basketball,” Colwell said. “Actually, at first, I didn’t even want to play, but I’m glad I did, because it is my favorite sport.”

   In 21 seasons of the 1A state cross country meet being a 5K, no one has run the course as fast as Coupeville’s Tyler King did in 2010. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

It’s a new day on the trail.

As Coupeville High School relaunches its cross country program this fall, it’s the first time in two decades-plus that Wolf harriers have been able to compete without having to train and travel with another school.

So, it would be easy to assume CHS doesn’t have much of a history in the sport.

To which I say, au contraire, mon frère.

The Wolves have two individual state champs in the sport, one of whom, Natasha Bamberger (1985), is the new head coach for the runners.

The other top-of-the-podium finisher was Tyler King, who won the boys crown in 2010.

That’s the most-recent state title for any Wolf, in any sport, but his performance that year stands out for another reason.

Since the WIAA bumped the state meet from three miles to a 5K (3.10686 miles) before the 1997 season, no runner at the 1A level, boy or girl, has covered the ground in Pasco as quickly as King.

He stormed to the title in 15 minutes, 16.9 seconds, blitzing runner-up Todd Jackson of Elma (15:47.5) by half-a-minute.

Between 1997 and 2009, the fastest 1A runner had hit the tape at 15:38, while only two of the seven winners since King graduated have broken 15:30.

Both of those have come in the last two years, with College Place senior Kenneth Rooks coming the closest last fall, when he covered the course in 15:18.8.

While Rooks made a significant run at King’s mark, the former Wolf still stands as the best in 1A through 21 seasons of 5K state meets.

And it almost didn’t happen.

Through the first three years of his prep career, King trained, traveled and COMPETED with Oak Harbor, since Coupeville didn’t have a cross country program.

Facing off with 4A runners, he steadily improved, finishing 98th (17:40) at state as a freshman, 22nd (16:05) as a sophomore and 5th (15:33) as a junior.

Then, OHHS dropped from 4A to 3A and busted up its deal with CHS.

King (and any other Wolves) could still train and travel with the Wildcats.

But, once the postseason began, he broke apart and ran in a Coupeville uniform, returning to the same 1A level he normally competed in during basketball and track.

After that revamped deal was later scotched, Coupeville set up a deal with fellow 1A school South Whidbey, allowing a handful of runners to train and travel with the Falcons, but compete as Wolves.

Now that CHS is back in the game full-time, harriers like Danny Conlisk, who, last fall, was the first Wolf to make it to state since King’s title, can try to build on the legacy he left behind.

A legacy that starts with a record no other 1A runner has touched in 21 seasons.


1A boys individual state champs 1997-2017 (the 5K years):

1997 – Ned Miller (Darrington) 16:04.6
1998 – John Russell (Freeman) 15:47
1999 – Todd Arnold (Ocosta) 16:08
2000 – Adam Roe (King’s) 16:47
2001 – Reid Carrell (Freeman) 16:12
2002 – Brandon Thompson (King’s) 16:26
2003 – Tom Wyatt (Charles Wright) 15:38
2004 – Alex Crabill (Charles Wright) 16:09
2005 – Peter Browne (Charles Wright) 16:36
2006 – Rigoberto Jimenez (Royal) 16:17
2007 – Huberto Jimenez (Royal) 16:18
2008 – Quinton Decker (Port Townsend) 15:56
2009 – Bereket Piatt (Port Townsend) 16:10
2010 – Tyler King (Coupeville) 15:16.9
2011 – Hap Emmons (King’s) 15:44
2012 – Dillon Quintana (Mount Baker) 15:50
2013 – Graham Peet (Northwest) 15:50.78
2014 – Ryan Clarke (Port Townsend) 15:37.4
2015 – Tibebu Proctor (Northwest) 15:32.10
2016 – Tibebu Proctor (Northwest) 15:22.3
2017 – Kenneth Rooks (College Place) 15:18.8

Gavin Knoblich had two of Coupeville’s three hits Saturday in the Babe Ruth state championship game. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The dynasty rolls on.

After two close games Friday, Columbia Basin crushed Coupeville 14-2 Saturday in Ephrata to win the Babe Ruth baseball state title.

Having taken the championship series 2-1, Columbia Basin captures its fourth-straight crown in the 13-15 age group, and fifth in sixth years. It now advances to regionals in Portland, Oregon.

Coupeville, which finishes the season at 17-2, heads home after its best season in program history.

Under the guidance of coach Steve Hilborn, the Wolves were perfect in regular-season play before splitting their first two games with Columbia Basin.

They lost 3-2 in eight innings to open the tourney, then won 6-2 in the Friday nightcap.

Saturday’s game, though, was over fairly quickly.

Columbia Basin jumped on the Wolves for four runs in the first, another four in the second and six more in the third.

The champs were super effective in all aspects of the game Saturday, raining down 13 hits in the first three innings, while also taking advantage of three Coupeville errors and six walks.

The Wolves chipped away for a single run in both the second and fourth, but that was it as their bats short-circuited for the first time in three state playoff games.

The first run came home when Gavin Knoblich singled, moved to second when Andrew Score eked out a walk, then stole third and home.

Knoblich, who will be a junior at CHS this fall, also played a big part in his team’s second run, rapping an RBI double to plate Sage Sharp, who led off the fourth with a walk.

Coupeville’s only other hit on the day came courtesy Johnny Carlson, who lashed a third-inning single.

Xavier Murdy, Cody Roberts and Chelsea Prescott shared mound duty for the Wolves.

Coupeville players head to the field Friday in Ephrata, ready for the start of the Babe Ruth baseball state tourney. (Heidi Roberts photo)

They didn’t buckle.

Facing the defending state champs, down a game after suffering their first loss of the season and enduring temps soaring towards 100 in Ephrata, the Coupeville Babe Ruth baseball squad rallied Friday to keep its dream alive.

After dropping a 3-2 heartbreaker in extra innings to kick off the state tourney, the Wolves roared back to blast Columbia Basin 6-2 in the afternoon tilt.

With the win, Coupeville improves to 17-1 on the season and sits one win from being hailed as the state champs in the 13-15 classification.

The two teams will play a third and deciding game 9 AM Saturday (likely in cooler temps), with the victor punching its ticket to the Pacific NW Regional Tournament in Portland, Oregon.

Columbia Basin is one of the biggies in Babe Ruth baseball, having won three straight and four of the last five 13-15 state titles.

That pedigree didn’t scare Coupeville, however, which wants to capture the town’s first state title since the 2010 Central Whidbey Little League Juniors baseball squad achieved that feat.

The Wolves survived a buzzsaw in game one, whiffing 13 times on pitches by Columbia Basin hurler Kevin Rexes, yet never falling out of the game.

Coupeville flame-thrower Daniel Olson was on point himself, putting nine rivals down on K’s, and the game remained close from start to finish.

The defending champs pushed a run across in the second, but the Wolves responded at the last moment, knotting the game at 1-1 with a run in the top of the seventh.

Olson walked, pilfered two bags, then zipped home on a passed ball to send the game to extra innings.

Things got interesting there, with Coupeville taking its first lead of the game on an RBI single off the bat of Scott Hilborn.

The base-knock brought Cody Roberts home, and brought the Wolf faithful to their feet in anticipation of the team’s 17th straight win.

It wasn’t to be, however, as Columbia Basin rallied for the tying and winning runs in the bottom of the inning, using three walks and two Wolf errors to bust open the game.

The loss came despite Coupeville out-hitting its foes, raining down six hits to four.

Roberts, Gavin Knoblich, Ulrik Wells, Hilborn, Olson and Ashton Leland shared the hot bats, each chipping in with a hit apiece.

With their season on the line, the Wolves responded, with their bats heating up under blazing skies.

A three-run second-inning burst, fueled by singles from Olson and Johnny Carlson and fast feet on the base-paths, put Coupeville ahead to stay and it coasted home behind the one-two punch of hurlers Leland and Roberts.

Once again, the Wolves spread out the love, with eight different batters ringing up a base-knock.

Hawthorne Wolfe and Xavier Murdy, who ran wild on the bases, led the way, with Wells, Carlson, Olson, Hilborn, Drake Borden and Leland chipping in to the team effort.

Coupeville, which is coached by Steve Hilborn and also includes Chelsea Prescott, Andrew Score and Sage Sharp on its roster, roared through the regular season, going 16-0.

CHS grad Nicole Becker and an athlete share a moment at the Special Olympics USA Games. (Photos courtesy Becker)

The love flows between Becker and the athletes.

Nicole Becker honors her sister every day.

The former Coupeville High School track star and cheerleader was always very close to older sis Victoria, who passed away in 2013.

Both before and after her sister’s passing, Nicole has been deeply involved in working with special needs athletes.

Victoria was a vital part of the Whidbey Island Special Olympics family, and Nicole, after studying Sports Management at Washington State University, has jumped full-bore into working with Special Olympics.

Becker’s passion and commitment were repaid recently, when she had the opportunity to be a part of the Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle.

The 50th edition of the event, it ran from July 1-6, bringing more than 4,000 athletes and coaches to town.

Competing in 14 Olympic-style sports, the athletes, representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia, had the chance to shine in front of tens of thousands of fans.

Becker was part of the staff for Team Washington, which ruled the awards stands, and she recounts for us what the event meant to her:

Twelve days ago, I walked into Husky Stadium to sit in the field of over 4,600 amazing athletes of their sport.

Basketball, bocce, bowling, golf, track and field, swimming, soccer, unified gaming, powerlifting, softball, volleyball, flag football and for the first year ever, stand up paddle boarding.

4,600 athletes in the room, my breath was taken from me.

I was overwhelmed and so incredibly humbled to have been able to share such an experience with Team Washington.

Team Washington over the past six months has become my baby. I lived and breathed this team to make sure everything was perfect.

The uniform sizing, the ordering of the uniforms, the last minute ordering of different sizing. Huge thank you to Ink Inc for getting that all done in time.

But a huge thank you to Team Washington, who went out on their playing fields and brought home 39 gold medals. Which is more than any other state can say.

I have a much better understanding of why I do what I do now, and much more joy in my life due to the 17,500 athletes we have in Washington.

There is nothing more rewarding then walking into Husky Stadium holding an athlete’s hand, not because she’s afraid and needs you to hold her hand, but it is the genuine reason — because we’re best friends.

In that very moment of walking in and seeing my mom and dad, I knew I had made it; I knew that my sister was not only proud of me but was walking in with me.

The long days and the long nights seem like a blur now, but the laughter and the fun and the pure joy that was created throughout the week will last for a lifetime.

Tim Shriver said it best, “Where others see division, show them love.”

Special Olympics Washington has shown me so much love, and I can’t wait to pour that love right on back!