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Posts Tagged ‘Hall of Fame’

Suzanne Marble (second from right, back row) built La Conner into the premium volleyball program in the region. (Photo property WIAA)

It’s a nice parting gift.

Suzanne Marble, who retired after winning seven state titles in a 30-year run as La Conner High School volleyball coach, is being inducted into the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Hall of Fame.

With everyone playing catch-up thanks to the pandemic, the WIAA is honoring both the Class of 2021 and Class of 2022 at the same time, with the event set for May 3 in Renton.

The 11 inductees from the two classes include administrators, contributors, athletes, coaches, and officials.

Marble fills the coach slot for the class of 2022, while Phil Lonborg, who coached five sports in his career while working at Timberline and River Ridge, is the ’21 selection in that category.

The WIAA Hall of Fame includes such heavy hitters as professional athletes John Stockton, Ron Santo, and Kate Starbird, as well as the state’s winningest football coach, Sid Otton — best known for being my 9th grade health teacher at Tumwater High School.

Marble, a graduate of Mead High School in Spokane, led La Conner to 574 wins, bringing home state titles in 2002, 2006, 2007, 2018, 2019, 2021, and 2022.

The Braves are four-time defending 2B champs, as there was no state tourney in 2020 because of pandemic restrictions.

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Nezi Keiper, Superstar. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The first time I saw Yetlanezi Keiper play a sport, she was busy making a boy seriously rethink his life choices.

Clad in a Coupeville Middle School football uniform, she had unloaded on a dude who thought he was going to block her, sending her rival sprawling to the grass.

Standing over him, long hair flowing from beneath her helmet, Nezi’s face was a study in calmness.

She wasn’t outwardly mad, but she also wasn’t going to smile at the fellow player she cut in half and left to (metaphorically) bleed out on a muddy patch of grass.

It was one of the most striking moments I have witnessed in three decades of on and off writing about prep sports.

Not because Nezi was a girl, dominating in a sport where girls are rarely made to feel welcome.

But because, in that moment, it was obvious she was a truly special athlete.

She showed no fear.

She asked for no quarter.

She was going to kick your butt on every play.

End of story.

Young Nezi, dominating the gridiron. (Sarah Saunders photo)

Now, over the last six years, as Nezi moved through middle school, then left football behind and played soccer and basketball during her high school days, I’ve seen a different side of her.

In her dealings with others, close friends or casual acquaintances, she remains one of the kindest people you will meet.

And one of the strongest.

Plus, and this is huge, she always answers my messages, sending me tidbits of info after games while bumping along the backroads of America in a school bus.

Whether her team wins big or gets roughed up on the scoreboard, Nezi is solid gold as a sideline reporter.

For someone such as myself, who can be a bit obsessive about wanting to get stories printed the same day a game is played, she has been invaluable.

Being hailed on Senior Night. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

On the field or court, she has never wavered, never made me rethink that first appraisal of her inner fire.

She is relentless as a soccer defender, taking on the best goal scorers in the region time and again, always making sure they will remember the time they unwisely chose to tangle with her.

Nezi is not a dirty player, by any means.

In fact, she goes out of her way not to hurt others and often shows concern for the physical well-being of those she clashes with.

But she is not going to back down. Like ever.

Capable of clearing the back line with a booming kick, Nezi believes every 50/50 ball belongs to her, and legs churning, she will not surrender her patch of turf, no matter how quick or large the foe may be.

If a collision is required, she never shies from contact.

But, at the same time, she’s just as likely, if not more so, to strip the ball and send it flying far away from her net before the shooter realizes they’ve lost control of the play.

“Get outta here!” (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

When she’s on the hardwood, Nezi brings the same style of play to basketball as she does to soccer.

A ferocious rebounder, when she plants herself under the hoop, good luck on moving her from her appointed position.

One of my favorite photos from Coupeville Sports is one of Nezi going toe-to-toe with a much-taller South Whidbey hoops player during her 8th grade season.

She will not be moved. You can try, but it ain’t happening, skippy.

The Wolves went undefeated that year, and Nezi was a major contributor on both ends of the floor.

Other players may have been set up to be scorers, but she showed a deft touch with the ball in her hands and could sting rival defenses.

But, as on the soccer pitch, Nezi was an absolute rock on defense and that was where she rightfully earned her fame.

Locked in from the line. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

So, here we are in early December, and she doesn’t graduate until June, and yet I’m skipping ahead of the normal schedule a bit. As you’ll see in a few moments.

Nezi chose not to play basketball this season, focusing on school, work, and life, and while her absence saddens me, it’s not about me.

If she’s happy and fulfilled, good on her. That’s what matters.

There are rumors in the air Nezi might pick up a tennis racket this spring and cap her high school days on the court or migrate to track for one go-round.

I hope it’s true, either way.

But if it’s not, Nezi deserves the peace of being allowed to make her own decision, so I’ll go be quiet in the corner after this.

As I do, however, I want to take a moment to put an official stamp on things.

Whether she still has high school sports highlights to craft or not, Nezi long ago punched her ticket to the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame.

She is a special athlete, and an even better human being, and putting her in our digital shrine makes the joint a lot classier.

So, let’s do this now, and not wait until summer.

After this, when you slide past the Legends tab at the top of the blog, that’s where you’ll find Nezi hanging out.

Was there ever a doubt?

No, no there was not.

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Nolan Ryan, American folk hero.

I used to have a Nolan Ryan t-shirt back in the day, not surrendering it until it finally fell to pieces.

Like the man whose image was emblazoned on it, that shirt lasted a VERY long time, and I miss it greatly.

Does the modern generation even know who Nolan Ryan is?

They should, because the dude is the real deal.

He was born in 1947, made his Major League Baseball debut at 19, played 27(!!) seasons, retired in 1993, and went into the Hall of Fame with 98.8% of the vote in 1999.

That year’s induction class, with George Brett and Robin Yount joining Ryan in Cooperstown, is the high-water mark for my own personal relationship with the diamond game.

Those three, who soared so high in the ’80s, when I was an impressionable teenager, were larger than life figures — old school folk heroes who looked like real dudes, not steroid-inflated cartoons, and their exploits still seem so much bigger than many who have followed them.

Ryan, in particular, was the guy.

He was old man strong, going bald and doing his arm curls in his dad shorts while drawling good-natured wisdom to his own sons in the TV clips we saw.

Then, every fourth or fifth day, he took the ball, went to the mound, and buzzed fools until the game was over.

Pity the manager who dared to think about pulling him early.

Nolan Ryan pitched like the rancher he was — you do the damn job, and you don’t ask, expect, or want, anyone else to come moseying along talking about “hey, do you need some help?”

He threw two of his MLB-record seven no-hitters after age 40(!!) and struck out 5,714 batters — almost 900(!!) more than his closest challengers, Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens.

Today, starting pitchers get pats on the head and orange slices for going five innings, then managers run 300 relievers through the game.

Ryan, death grip on the ball, wasn’t moving off the mound.

Not when Bo Jackson cranked a ball off his face, leaving the hurler (and his uniform) splattered in blood, as shown in the photo above.

Today everyone hyperventilates at the sight of a single crimson drop. Ryan retired 17 more hitters, without changing his uniform.

And not when Robin Ventura, a rock-solid third baseman in the ’90s, charged the mound one August day after being plunked.

Stop. Hammer time.

Ventura was 26, Ryan 46, and the rancher collared the upstart, pulling him in with one arm and raining blows down on the interloper with the other.

There are a ton of fake “fights” in MLB history, and then there is the one where Ryan, who was nearly wrecked after being bum-rushed by man-mountain Dave Winfield 13 years earlier, upheld his vow to protect himself at all costs if the situation ever repeated.

Enter Ventura, exit Ventura — ejected from the game, forever to be remembered more for getting beat down by an old man than for his own strong 16-year MLB career.

And Ryan? He wasn’t even ejected, cause no ump wanted to mess with the old man, either.

So, what’s this all about, other than me getting misty-eyed over a long-gone t-shirt?

It’s about how you all need to go to Netflix and watch the 2022 documentary Facing Nolan.

It’s a reverent look at the kind of baseball player who rarely exists in the modern game, but it’s also a love story.

Between Nolan and Ruth, his wife of 55 years, a champion in her own right, and the true power figure in the family.

Between Nolan and his children and grandchildren, who tease him about his old TV commercials and bring out the softer side in a tough man.

Between Nolan and the state of Texas, and Nolan and ranching.

And between Nolan and the game he played for three decades; a game he dominated in a way few others ever have.

It’s a great film, about a true American folk hero, a man who did his job one 100 MPH fastball at a time, then went home to his family and the ranch, content.

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Jessica Boling, one of the best and brightest ever to walk the Coupeville High School hallways. (All photos poached from Miss Boling’s Facebook)

In a world of stars, Jessica Boling is the bright, blazing sun.

A talented athlete (and sometimes Videoville renter in her early days), the Coupeville High School grad has gone on to a truly impressive post-Wolf career.

Two college degrees are just the start, as Jessica earned a bachelor’s and master’s from renowned universities.

The first degree, which came in Social Work with a focus on International Development, is from Seattle University.

Her Master’s in Social Work, with a focus on Community Organizing, Policy and Administration, was issued by Boston College.

Ready to unleash volleyball excellence.

While some of us were content to hang around small towns renting DVD’s, Jessica journeyed to Cameroon, where she completed a Fulbright Fellowship.

From there, she’s spent years making Wisconsin a better place.

I mean, go down a list of her accomplishments, which includes her current position as Assistant Deputy Executive Director for the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.

Jessica is also the co-chair for the Asian American and Pacific Islanders Coalition of Wisconsin, which allows her to help others embrace and celebrate their cultural heritage.

With Coupeville’s superstar driving the train, the AAPI launched “a first-of-its kind statewide coalition to amplify the AAPI voice, build awareness, lead advocacy projects, and raise funding for key initiatives.”

Jessica and Co. also worked to achieve their goal of seeing the Wisconsin Association of School Boards develop an AAPI history and culture curriculum for the state’s public schools.

And we can keep going and going, as Jessica seemingly fills every one of her hours with work in her community.

The former Wolf is a member of the Governor’s Equity and Inclusion Council.

A commissioner for the City of Milwaukee Equal Rights Commission.

A board member for Doyenne, a nonprofit that provides professional development for female entrepreneurs.

Plus, she’s a board member for the National Association of Asian American Professionals and was previously the Director of Operations for an “angel investment” group which helped secure investments for Wisconsin-based startups.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Jessica has been at the forefront of fighting for voter rights and has provided a strong voice in advocating for more help as anti-Asian hate crimes have risen.

The bright, super-talented young woman who once suited up for CHS volleyball and tennis squads has gone on to reach success in the real world that is truly astounding.

That her life’s work has been for the benefit of others is even more impressive.

Coupeville might have been just a small slice of Jessica’s story, but we can still claim her as one of the best to ever grace our community.

Induction into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame — a digital shrine which exists largely in our minds — will probably rank fairly low on the awards meter compared to some of the hardware she has rightfully earned.

But it’s what we have, a way to let Jessica know we still remember her and we’re very, very impressed watching from afar as she soars.

It’s also a way to put Wisconsin on notice — better appreciate what you have, because what you have is the absolute best.

After this, in our digital world, you’ll find Jessica at the top of the blog, hanging out under the Legends tab with others inducted over the past decade.

Back in the real world, look for where positive change is being made on a daily basis, where all cultures are embraced, and where committed souls fight for a better world.

That’s where you’ll find Jessica Boling.

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Wolf legend Scout Smith helps out at a Coupeville volleyball practice. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Showing the current generation how it’s done.

Oh, she’s gonna love this…

During her run as a three-sport star at Coupeville High School, Scout Smith was about as low-key as you can get.

She worked her butt off in practice and games, was more likely to celebrate success with a quick fist-bump than any prolonged look-at-me chest-thumping, and lived the credo of a true coach’s kid.

Do your job, do it well, be smart, and put your team first.

That carried Scout to the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame, and firmly cements her near the top of any list of my favorite former Wolf athletes, up there with big brothers CJ and Hunter.

Knowing that, I also realize that when she sees I posted an article devoted to photos of her, she’ll likely roll her eyes a bit.

But hey, build your rep the right way, then come wandering back through the gym you once owned, and cameras are gonna click.

Scout will soon be back at college, nailing down great grades, but for now she’s helping CHS spiker coaches out for a few days, spreading knowledge to the current players in her own low-key manner.

Listen to her words and emulate her actions, Wolves. She’s the real deal.

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