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Former Coupeville High School track and soccer star Marisa Etzell is studying abroad in Australia. (Photo by Dawn Spilsbury Pucci)

Four down, three to go.

Former Coupeville High School athletic supernova Marisa Etzell, she of the fleet feet on the track oval and soccer pitch, is out to conquer every continent.

Etzell, currently a junior at Pacific Lutheran University, is spending a chunk of time in Australia, operating as a student abroad.

As she enjoys her time Down Under and experiences continent #4 on her check list, she’s documenting her adventures on a blog.

Want to keep up to date with one of the most talented, selfless, remarkable young women on the planet?

Of course you do.

So, here you go, a handy, dandy link to Marisa’s words and pics, as they arrive by carrier pigeon from the land of Crocodile Dundee.

Well … I’ve just been informed that’s not how the internet works at all. Apparently no carrier pigeons, just a bunch of tubes and … what, still not right?

Maybe just ignore me, and pop over here:

https://studyabroad.arcadia.edu/blogs/student-bloggers/author/marisa-etzell/

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   Journalism, like this backboard and net, may be a bit worn, but it’s still hanging in there. (Amy King photo)

I write.

Of course, over the years, I’ve had a lot of jobs.

Fast food flunkie to dish washer, lawn care “specialist” to liquor slinger, carpet shampooer to the day care guy who got kids so wound up they didn’t take a nap for a week, my working days have been varied.

I’m still haunted by my stint harvesting mussels for a low-rent operation (so, NOT the guys currently working Penn Cove’s waters…), while my 13 years at Videoville was a true rarity — being paid to do something I would have done for free.

But, through it all, I have written.

Since moving to Whidbey midway through my senior year of high school, I have written thousands of stories in local newspapers.

Sports, a movie column which ran without missing an issue for 15 years, epic house fires which made page one, school board meetings which definitely did not, dead starfish stinkin’ up the beach.

A little bit of everything and a lot of it.

The past five years my words have lived here on the internet instead of in the pages of a newspaper.

It was, for me, the best decision I ever made with my writing.

I’m not here to trash newspapers.

They are where I started, and I still remember what it was like to see that first byline in the News-Times when I was 18, refusing to go to college and working in the press room at night and badgering Fred Obee for freelance assignments during the day.

The current group at the News-Times is a stellar collection of journalists, made up of good people who are in the job for the right reason.

The Sports Editor, Jim Waller, and the Publisher, Keven R. Graves, are two of the biggest reasons I got into journalism and have somehow managed to bounce around on the fringes of that world for almost three decades.

They, and their co-workers, are fighting the good fight, at a time when the very nature of newspapers seems to change on a daily basis.

I respect what they do, and why they do it.

Of late, I’m trying to be a little more open about my support, and a little less of a sarcastic pain in the keister.

But, I also realize, life inside a newspaper doesn’t work for me anymore, and hasn’t for a while.

When I started Coupeville Sports Aug. 12, 2012, I’m sure there were some who thought it would be a short-term affair. That I would eventually fall away like the loonies at Island Politics and similar short-term blogs.

Instead, here I am, publishing my 5,399th article, less than a month away from my five-year anniversary.

I still tick people off from time to time (simmer down, Klahowya…) but I’m less prone to poking for the sake of poking. Most days.

Coupeville Sports isn’t perfect, but it is perfect for me.

It means I can post at 2:30 AM, I can write 700 words about a JV game, I can have final say on anything and everything I write (with my readers as the final word on whether I made the right choice or not).

Do I abide by the Associated Press style book at all times? No. They’re not big fans of exclamation points, for one thing.

But while I have freedom in how I write, when I write and why I write, I still view myself as a brother in arms with my newspaper brethren.

I don’t publish smear pieces. I don’t make up stories. I fact check and use sources, and have from day one.

I may publish quicker and more prolifically than most newspapers, but I don’t shortcut to get there.

If you choose to lump me in with the patently fake “news stories” which mushroom all over social media, you do me a disservice.

While I use Facebook and Twitter to promote links to my work, the same as newspaper do, those links exist to send readers to where I actually publish — on my blog.

Journalism has had to adapt in an ever-changing world.

In 1989, there was one way to be a journalist. In 2017, there are many.

Some writers choose to stay within the framework of a conventional newspaper. Some don’t.

We are not enemies. We are on the same journey, just taking different routes.

I respect those still in the trenches at newspapers. Their commitment to the cause is worthy of praise.

I hope the feeling is mutual.

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This photo of Wolf cheerleaders Emily Clay (left) and Katie Kiel, taken after a paint war, was one of the first I ever ran on this blog. (Pam Headridge photo)

   One of the first photos I published featured Wolf cheerleaders Emily Clay (left) and Katie Kiel in the aftermath of a team paint war. (Pam Headridge photo)

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   The most popular pic in blog history — Wolf hoops players celebrating the win which sent them to state last season. (John Fisken photo)

Coupeville Sports started in anger.

And, while a bit of that still lingers — though it’s more mild frustration than outright anger these days — I’d like to think things have largely changed for the better.

When I launched this blog Aug. 15, 2012, I really didn’t know I’d churn out 4,497 articles in the next four years.

That my readership numbers would vastly top what I anticipated and continue to grow each year.

Most of all, I didn’t realize it would offer me a chance to make a real, hopefully lasting, impact on a community in which I’ve lived for the past two decades-plus.

Back then, I was just peeved. Seriously peeved.

The Whidbey Examiner, a proudly independent paper I had written for on a consistent basis for 15+ years, had been sold to the same Canadian kajillionaire who already owned all the other publications on the Island.

One moment, we were “fighting the good fight against the Evil Empire,” and the next we were just another minor line item on a business report produced by that same “Evil Empire.”

Which might have been OK, if all my bylines (way too often the only “payment” I received) hadn’t promptly vanished, never to be seen again, erased by a giant corporation that couldn’t have given less of a crap if it tried.

So, I was mad.

When I kick-started my blog, I set out to be a major pain in the ass to the Whidbey papers.

If you look back at some of the early days, when I frequently ridiculed Canada and picked fights with South Whidbey, King’s and ATM fans, I was a bit of a turd.

A partially-justified turd, but still a turd.

Aggrieved South Whidbey fans even launched their own rival sports blog, which sputtered and died after a mere two articles.

But then things changed, not 100% (losing hundreds of by-lined stories forever still chafes me), but a good, let’s say, 83.2%.

Little bits and pieces of change came from a lot of people, though Kim Andrews probably deserves the most credit.

She was the sports scheduling magician at CHS in the early days of Coupeville Sports, and more than once she gave me good-natured grief about some of my choices.

“You can do better. You could make a real impact if you’d stop being such a butt-head all the time,” she’d say, and I’d roll my eyes.

But, over time, I began to realize how right she was, and I began to (slowly) change.

Four years later, I still tweak South Whidbey from time to time (King’s and ATM moved out of my line of fire when Coupeville changed leagues) and I’m still not totally copacetic with Canada.

But Coupeville Sports, by and large, has gone in a much more positive direction, and both my readership numbers, and what I personally get out of running the blog, have benefited.

When I look back on nearly 4,500 articles, there are some that really worked, a few that probably didn’t, and a lot in the middle.

Hearing a story made an impact on someone, getting positive feedback, in person or through the internet, has driven me more than money (though every last donation is immensely appreciated).

As we take that first step into year five, there are two areas, both still works in progress, of which I am most proud.

When I started my own Hall of Fame, which lives at the top of the blog under the Legends tab, it was a way to give myself something to write about on Sundays.

Now, 60 induction ceremonies later, it’s become something much larger, in spirit at least.

It’s a way to remember the people who have come along and left a mark, who have made Wolf Nation bigger, brighter and better, whether as athletes, coaches or contributors.

To tell them, at least for a moment, “We remember what you did. We will not forget you.”

And now, any day, a more concrete version of that sentiment will rise on the CHS gym wall.

It’s taken a good year, of research (which gave me an opportunity to forge an alliance with the Whidbey papers, thanks to the generosity of Keven R. Graves and Jim Waller), of fundraising, of fast-talking and cajoling, of believing deeply, but my title board project is almost reality.

When it goes up, the handful of banners in the gym will be replaced by a display which recognizes 112 titles won over the past 56 years in 11 different sports at our high school.

For the first time, athletes, fans and coaches will see the highly-successful Wolf teams of the ’70s remembered along side the new golden age Coupeville’s female athletic stars crafted in the early 2000’s.

A sport like cross country, no longer active at CHS but bearing a proud past, will step back into the spotlight again.

Tennis, which has never gotten its fair share of the credit, will rise up and finally be acknowledged, with track, as the most successful athletic programs in school history.

Those who came before will know “We remember what you did. We will not forget you,” and those participating today will have something to aim for, a chance to join their parents and grandparents on Coupeville’s Wall of Fame.

It’s a huge moment, for the school, for the community, as we embrace a vital part of our history, and it will mean a lot to me, to know that one idiot with a blog was able to help pull it all off.

As I head into year five of Coupeville Sports, it would be easy to slip back into poking the Falcons with cheap-shots or lament what Canada took from me.

But I’d rather look forward and try to build on what the Hall of Fame and the title board project have helped accomplished.

Somewhere, Kim Andrews is smiling.

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