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Mike Criscuola

And then there were nine.

Well, there’s always been nine. But now I can prove it.

Thanks to recently unearthed stats, we can now credit Mike Criscuola with 52 additional points from his sophomore basketball season in 1957-1958.

That officially (well, as official as anything compiled by me can be…) pushes “Big Mike” over the 1,000-point barrier, leaving him with 1,031 career points.

Which means he’s the fifth boy, and ninth player overall, to score 1,000+ points on the hardwood for Coupeville High School.

Well, actually he was the first to do it, but you know what I’m talking about.

Criscuola, who was on the CHS varsity as an 8th grader, was built like a Mack truck.

Add the glasses he normally wore, and a barrel chest which strained to pop free from his uniform, and, even as a young man, he looked like a dad who had slipped in to the team photo by accident.

The #1 scorer in school history when he graduated in 1960, Criscuola’s numbers have held up amazingly well over the past six decades, even as the three-point shot has ignited high-octane offenses.

And, while we are (slowly) able to pull his scoring stats back into focus, no one will ever know how many rebounds he hauled down, as those stat sheets long ago blew away in the prairie breeze.

Those who played with him vividly remember Criscuola yanking down nearly every loose ball within a five-mile radius.

Barring the successful completion of a time machine, or an Indiana Jones-style discovery of a secret cache of stats in the hidden basement of a 100-year old prairie barn, those rebound numbers will remain a mystery.

But, at the very least, we can continue to fine-tune the numbers we do have, and pay tribute to a true Wolf hoops legend.

 

Coupeville High School basketball 1,000-point scorers:

Brianne King — (1549) — (1999-2003)
Zenovia Barron — (1270) — (1994-1998)
Makana Stone — (1158) — (2012-2016)
Jeff Stone — (1137) — (1967-1970)
Mike Bagby — (1137) — (2002-2006)
Randy Keefe — (1088) — (1973-1976)
Megan Smith — (1042) — (2006-2010)
Mike Criscuola — (1031) — (1956-1960)
Jeff Rhubottom — (1012) — (1975-1978)

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Jim Yake, a three-sport standout at Coupeville High School from 1957-1961. (Photos courtesy Sharon Franzen)

Looking back
On the memory of
The dance we shared
‘Neath the stars above
For a moment
All the world was right
How could I have known
That you’d ever say goodbye…

Garth Brooks was born a year after the Coupeville High School Class of 1961 graduated, and his song The Dance didn’t hit the radio until ’89.

But, as the Wolves of yesteryear plan for their 60th reunion at the end of July, the words carry a certain poignancy.

The Class of ’61 went 32 students deep (26 boys and six girls) — the largest class to graduate on the prairie at that point since CHS officially became CHS in 1900.

While several class members have passed in the years since, current plans call for at least half the class showing up for the reunion.

Like too much of the athletic history of Coupeville, the achievements of the young men and women who walked the hallways at CHS in those days is hard to come by.

The Whidbey News-Times, which always favored Oak Harbor in the early days (he grumbled to himself…), has long since buried their archives, packaged up and shipped off-Island by the paper’s Canadian overlords.

What we do have is the school’s yearbooks, which, depending on the year, are either incredibly rich in detail, or not so much.

The 1961 edition of the Leloo Cly sort of falls in the middle, with photos and names, but not much info on win/loss records or stats.

Of the four boys sports (Title IX was still a decade away), baseball, coached by the legendary Bob Barker, is the only one to report its results in the yearbook.

Coupeville’s diamond men, led by seniors like Vin Sherman and Jim Yake, as well as stars of the future such as Dale Sherman and Denny Clark, finished second in a six-team league in the spring of ’61.

Granite Falls topped the conference at 7-1, followed by the Wolves (5-4), La Conner (5-5), Sultan (5-5), Darrington (4-4), and Tolt (1-8).

While earlier annuals listed baseball stats — ’61 grad John Larson smacked a team-high 20 hits the season before — this time around yearbook editors went the mysterious route.

So, seniors like Ed MacDonald and Bob Dennis pop up in a team photo, but their stats? Possibly lost to time, and fading memories.

The same goes for the tennis and football squads.

From other sources, I do have complete scoring stats for the basketball team, which featured five seniors on an 11-man unit.

Yake led the Wolves in scoring, pumping in 247 points, while fellow seniors Vance Huffman (203), Noel Criscuola (162), Pat Millenbach (126), and Roy Mattox (83) all chipped in to the effort.

Setting the net on fire.

The 60-61 basketball team, led by coach Bob Boushey, might not have known it at the time, but a skinny freshman with a big grin would actually prove to be the most-accomplished player of the era.

Denny Clark rippled the nets for five points as a (presumably) wide-eyed frosh while sharing floor time with Utz Conard, Steve Smith, and Co.

Then he promptly added 864 more over the next three seasons, which is why Clark currently sits as the #9 scorer all-time across 104 seasons of CHS boys basketball.

On the tennis court, senior Ray Edwards was among the players hefting wooden rackets, while eight Class of ’61 grads led the football team.

Vin Sherman, Yake, Larson, Mattox, and Millenbach were joined by John Wofford, Frank Tinius, and Jim Engle.

And what about the girls, you ask?

Back in ’61, in the absence of female sports teams, CHS had what was known as the GAA — the Girls Athletic Association.

Bob Barker, who capped his coaching career by working with Wolf girls basketball teams in the late ’80s, remembers it being a sort of hodge-podge.

“Now, if my memory is correct, (and there is some possibility that it isn’t 100%), the interested girls would get together after school once or twice a week and indulge in some type of sport activity under the direction of a supervisor, which was usually their physical education instructor,” he said.

“I vaguely remember field hockey, and volleyball as a couple of those sports.”

Five of the six female students to graduate in ’61 participated in the GAA at some point in their high school career, with Junelle Bohnsack the lone senior in the program photo that year.

Junelle Bohnsack

She was ever-busy, a member of the school’s drill team and Girls Club, part of the newspaper and yearbook staff, and a scorekeeper for both football and basketball.

Bohnsack’s senior bio also includes a notation for playing tennis her final three years, though there’s nary a girls netter photo to be found in the ’61 Leloo Cly.

Another mystery for another time.

Piece by piece, the tapestry of Coupeville athletics comes into focus, and this time out we offer up a big thank you to Sharon Franzen, Homecoming Queen, Honor Roll stalwart, and also the owner of the yearbook from which this info spilled.

Raise a glass for the Class of ’61 — still setting the world afire six decades after they earned their diplomas.

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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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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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Lyla Stuurmans will be a Coupeville High School freshman in the fall, yet already has a varsity letter. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

“She lives to play sports!”

Once upon a time, Scott Stuurmans was a high-flying Coupeville athlete, but now he’s largely content to drape his lanky body over a seat in the bleachers and watch his children, like oldest daughter Lyla, grab the spotlight.

An incoming freshman at CHS, she’s bursting with talent, yet remains humble and hard-working, a team-first athlete in a me-first world.

Combining skills handed down by dad, and mom Sarah, a very-successful multi-sport Tenino prep star back in the day, Lyla has been at the forefront of every sport she’s played in Coupeville.

A soccer ace as a youngster, Stuurmans participated in volleyball, basketball, and track at the middle school level, and she plans to continue down that path in a CHS uniform.

A uniform she’s actually already worn for 12 games.

With numbers dipping for the Wolf girls basketball program this past season, 8th graders were allowed to step up and play for the high school team.

Two of those girls — Stuurmans and Savina Wells — made the varsity team, and both had an immediate impact.

Stuurmans was a whirling wonder on defense, a ball hawk who, while young, already exhibits a refreshing willingness to mix it up with rivals.

Firing off the floor on springy legs, eyes ever-alert, both on the floor and when leaning in to the huddle to hear her coach’s words, Stuurmans let her fire show on the floor.

She can also fill up a bucket, leading the Wolves in scoring in their season finale, and finishing eighth on the varsity team in scoring, while topping the JV unit in points.

While she and Wells will have the chance to be the first CHS girls to letter five times in any sport thanks to basketball, don’t sleep on Stuurmans in her other activities.

She’s got mad skills on the volleyball court, and was a blaze going by while competing in middle school track.

Stuurmans fires out of the blocks like a jet. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

While she loves all her sports, plus time spent riding quad and dirt bikes and joining family and friends in every water activity possible, it’s spikes and sets which currently call the loudest to her heart.

“I think at the moment my favorite sport is volleyball,” Stuurmans said. “I really like my teammates, and having alumni there helping has been really motivating to build my skill-set.”

The chance to interact with her teammates has always been one of the big draws for the young star, who takes great delight in seeing her running mates do well.

“Some of the things that I really enjoy about being an athlete are being a part of a team, and having people around that support me and vice versa,” Stuurmans said.

“I also really love the competition aspect and it really drives me to better my game and improve.”

“Oh, they’re gonna need that first aid kit when I get done with them!!” (Corinn Parker photo)

As she heads to high school, Stuurmans is committed to achieving all she can on a personal basis, but it’s team success which sits at the top of her wish list.

“I really think going to state and excelling would be amazing for the program (in all sports),” she said. “And it would really boost the energy for more upcoming classes to want to play at that level.

“Now, as an individual, the goal has always been to play at the collegiate level, and honestly as long as coaches will coach me.”

Stuurmans has natural talent, springing from a family with athletic stars ranging from her parents, to her aunts and uncles, to her cousins, but there’s more to her game.

Even at her young age, she comes across as a very cerebral player, and you can see her mentally digesting advice, then putting words into action.

It fits, for a young woman who already shows a great appreciation for those helping her achieve her full potential.

“Well, my parents have obviously had a large impact on what I am exposed to as an athlete and setting me up for success when it comes to the programs I am involved in,” Stuurmans said.

“My friends and their family have also been a big part when it comes to making me who I am, because they are the ones that are beside me, growing as well as helping me become a better person on and off the court.”

Her time on the soccer pitch brought her into contact with one guru who has had a marked impact on her, regardless of the sport.

“I think that one of my old soccer coaches, Kristan Powell, really showed me how working and putting in time outside of practice or class to build your skills will always help you out,” Stuurmans said.

Reflecting on her own skill-set, the Wolf frosh acknowledges she’s a work in progress.

“This is a little bit hard for me to answer, but I think my strengths as an athlete are that I enjoy being coached, and that I am consistently putting in full effort,” Stuurmans said.

“I am really trying to work on communication on the court, and also trying to not overthink my actions and just let the game flow.”

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