Posts Tagged ‘Jim Waller’

COVID-19, still the biggest story as 2020 ends. Here, a mask-clad Taylor Brotemarkle goes through a basketball practice. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Well, we’ve seen better years.

In the Age of Coronavirus, there’s little suspense as to what was the biggest story of 2020.

No Coupeville High School sports team has played a game since the Wolf girls basketball team fell to Meridian February 11 in a loser-out playoff game.

Even with the arrival of the first vaccines, that probably won’t change for awhile.

Spring sports were cancelled, fall sports were postponed, and winter remains a question mark.

But, in between the two times I tried to walk away from the blog this year, there were other stories which arose.

So, since the “retirements” turned into “vacations” both times, I’m still here to take a look back at what was what.

20 stories to define 2020, in fairly random order:


20 — Geoff Kappes named Principal at CHS, replacing Duane Baumann, who circles back around to rejoin the school as Special Services Director.


19 — Former Wolf spiker Ashley Menges, a 2019 CHS grad, hired as Wolf JV volleyball coach, replacing Chris Smith, who moves off-Island.

Ashley Menges makes the transition from player to coach.


18 — Jim Waller, my high school journalism teacher, retires from the Whidbey News-Times, ending his second run as Sports Editor at the newspaper.

I am now the “elder statesman” of Whidbey sports journalism, which will give a lot of people, myself included, the cold sweats.


17 — Island Greens, the reasonably-priced nine-hole golf course which welcomed thousands of duffers to Clinton, sold and (seemingly) shut down.

After 33 years, no more tee shots. (Photo property Island Greens)


16 — Coupeville grad Kyle King, a five-time state champ during his high school track and field days, runs the marathon at the US Olympic Team Trials.

He finishes a very-respectable 47th out of 222 runners, with his fastest mile coming late in the race.


15 — Seventh-grader Savina Wells makes her hardwood debut for Coupeville Middle School and outscores the other team by herself.

Dropping in 20 points through three quarters, while also cleaning the boards and running the point, she paces the Wolves to a 41-15 rout of Northshore Christian Academy.

Savina Wells leads the charge. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)


14 — Ally Roberts caps her college equestrian career with a regional championship in Advanced Western Horsemanship.

While COVID prevents her from attending nationals, she exits Western Washington University with her degree — the biggest award of them all.


13 — Coupeville loses a pair of legends, as Larrie Ford and Jack McFadyen pass away.

The former was a Hall of Fame coach with CHS track, the latter one of the most loyal fans Wolf athletes have ever had.

Jack McFadyen with his grandkids. (Photo courtesy Carmen McFadyen)


12 — Wolf grad Nick Streubel closes his football career at Central Washington University with a pair of honors, being named to the All-Super Region team, and to his school’s All-Decade squad.


11 — Lauren Grove, one of just two athletes in the CHS Class of 2017 to play a sport in all 12 seasons, is badly-burnt in a grease fire.

In her recovery fight, and her willingness to share the painful journey with others at lauren (@the.burnt.bitch), she remains one of the strongest women I know.


10 — Maya Toomey-Stout, Scout Smith, and Sean Toomey-Stout tabbed as CHS Athlete of the Year winners. It’s the second-straight time Sean takes top honors.

Scout Smith wheels ‘n deals. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)


9 — College sports are calling, as Mica Shipley (Eastern Washington University – cheer), Mallory Kortuem (Western Washington University – track), Ja’Tarya Hoskins (St. Martin’s – track), and Ben Smith (Culver-Stockton – football) find their next destinations.


8 — CHS boys basketball avenges a series of losses to its personal boogeyman, finally taking Port Townsend down.

With sophomore sensations Xavier Murdy and Hawthorne Wolfe banging away for 22 and 21 points, respectively, the Wolf varsity romps to a 79-66 win at home, a sign of good things to come.

Brad Sherman has a word with his team.


7 — Call ’em the comeback kings. The Wolf JV boys basketball team pulls off several stunning come-from-behind wins, but two stand out.

Trailing Granite Falls by three points headed to the final frame, Coupeville explodes for a 56-42 win as Daniel Olson dumps in 13 of his game-high 26 over the final eight minutes.

The most-satisfying victory, however, might have come against arch-rival South Whidbey, when the Wolves scored 27 fourth-quarter points to nail down a 70-63 win.

Going Olson one better, Murdy nets 14 in the final quarter.


6 — Coaching jobs start multiplying, with Chris Smith (baseball, volleyball, boys basketball), Erin Locke (middle school volleyball), and Luke Samford (cross country) all leaving Whidbey.

Meanwhile, Kyle Nelson is still hanging around as Wolf girls soccer coach, but lets go of his boys soccer gig.


5 — After years of being one of the smallest schools in 1A, Coupeville officially moves back to 2B and its old stomping grounds in the Northwest 2B/1B League.

COVID has delayed the transition, but some day it will become reality on the playing field as well.

Mollie Bailey (32) and Audrianna Shaw will move from 1A to 2B.


4 — End of an era, as longtime CHS teacher/coaches Randy King and Ron Bagby retire, along with registrar Marie Bagby.


3 — CHS grad Makana Stone caps a splendid four-year run of basketball excellence at Whitman College, graduating as the #2 rebounder and #5 scorer in program history.

She plays in 110 games for the Blues, including making a record 92 starts, and earns All-American and All-Region honors to go with the Northwest Conference MVP award.

Makana Stone, swishin’ hoops and dazzlin’ folks in Jolly Olde England. (Photo property Loughborough University)


2 — Not content to stop with America, Stone moves to England.

Six games into her first season at Loughborough University, she’s been tabbed twice as the Women’s National Basketball League Player of the Week, and has made the Team of the Week four times.


1 — COVID. It was, and is, a whole thing. But tomorrow is another day.

They will be back in action at some point. Believe it.

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Whidbey News-Times Sports Editor Jim Waller (right) listens as CHS coach David King talks basketball strategy. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The adult is leaving the room.

After a lifetime on Whidbey Island, years spent as a stellar athlete, teacher, coach, and journalist, Jim Waller is out the door Friday.

Retirement from his second stint as Sports Editor at the Whidbey News-Times sends him and wife Sandee off on a new adventure to North Carolina, where the grandkids await.

Over the years, as I’ve bounced around the world of Whidbey journalism, writing thousands of stories for multiple publications while never really settling down, one constant has been true.

When he was writing, Waller was the dad sitting in the big leather chair, peering over his paper every so often to tell us, in dulcet tones, the news of the world.

And I was the Dennis the Menace-style kid, even at 49, tottering atop the fence outside his house, screaming “Hey, you wanna know what I just heard?????,” before falling off and landing on my head.

We made a good Mutt and Jeff team, especially in postgame interviews with coaches.

Waller would ask a deep question about in-game strategy, drawing on decades of knowledge and the gravitas which comes with being a member of a real coaches Hall of Fame.

Then, I would follow up by channeling Chris Farley hyperventilating while interviewing someone like Paul McCartney on SNL.

“So, yeah, that one time, when Ethan Spark went flying out of bounds chasing the basketball, and he like completely wiped out the water jug, and liquid and bodies went flying everywhere, and people were screaming like the alien invasion was underway, that was kinda cool, wasn’t it???”

And now you want me — ME???? — to be the elder statesman of Whidbey sports journalism?

Yeah, that’ll give Willie Smith the cold sweats at night…

To think, if it wasn’t for Waller, all those words I’ve typed (and a few that I was paid for) probably wouldn’t have happened.

When my dad moved the family to Whidbey, I was in the middle of my senior year at Tumwater High School, with vague thoughts of becoming a chef.

Which is odd, since I wasn’t especially talented at anything other than joining my friend Ray Jacoby in eating “liberated” cookie dough from the freezer at the New Market Vocational Skills Center.

Forced to take an extra semester at Oak Harbor High School, I signed up for journalism — even though you were supposed to have been pre-approved, which I certainly wasn’t.

I had all of two stories from my time at the super-unfunded THS newspaper (Terry Pullen, our principal, forever an ass), and they probably didn’t scream future sports writer or film critic.

One was an editorial calling for Ted Bundy to be fried in the electric chair, the other was an in-depth look at child porn and sex abuse.

Because we were baiting the principal, who promptly erased the rest of our $1.12 worth of funding.

Best/worst memory of that second story was conducting an interview with a naturally-suspicious police detective as I began to suffer incredibly bad food poisoning after eating from the skills center’s salad bar.

Somehow, I didn’t hurl until right AFTER the interview, but I like to think anyone else in the Thurston County Sheriff Department Office parking lot that day will never forget the horror and the wonder.

But anyway, using my two newspaper clips, I somehow convinced Waller to let me stay in his class, inadvertently launching a 30-year “career.”

He was the one who let me irritate the student body by writing self-righteous angry young man editorials in the OHHS newspaper — which was well-funded — and the one who got me my first story in the News-Times.

From there, Waller was always around, as a sounding board, a mentor, and someone to emulate.

There have been moments when I have come close to honoring his serene, smart style — and a lot where I ranted and raved and burnt bridges (while I was standing on them), testing the patience of many an editor.

When I moved into doing Coupeville Sports, with no one to stifle me (or save me from myself), he was there, having returned to the News-Times for a second run after retirement as a coach and teacher.

Since I often attacked the Canadian owners of the local papers, after they inspired me to launch this blog by erasing hundreds upon hundreds of my bylined stories from their publication web sites, there were some who thought I viewed Waller as a rival.

Not in the least.

He was my mentor, journalistic idol, friend, and the man who always paid when we went out for our semi-regular lunches at The Pizza Factory.

I brought gossip, he brought reason and insight, and, when I have allowed his patient guidance to sink in, it has always made me a better writer, reporter, and person.

My arc through the world of journalism has never been an easy one — I am very likely the only Sports Editor of a twice-weekly paper to leave that job to go work on … mussel rafts in Penn Cove.

Stupid at 23. Stupid at 49. Notice a trend here?

Through it all, through the News-Times, the Examiner, Coupeville Sports, the various movie columns and fly-by-night papers, careening from giddy highs to moments when I’ve been (rightfully) kicked out of Coupeville’s press box and banned from the gyms of rival schools, Waller was the calm voice of reason.

He never tried to change my writing style, or my antisocial tendencies.

But he was always there, with knowledge, with reason, with subtle guidance, if I would take it.

Days before his departure, our final pizza party came at an outdoor picnic table thanks to the pandemic.

While the surroundings were different, the meal wasn’t.

I told dumb stories, to which he gave a smile and nod. And he answered questions, filled in gaps in my knowledge, and offered encouragement, all without ever pushing too hard.

My journalism career has been its own weird thing, but it never would have happened without Jim Waller.

He was the spark, the support crew, and the audience, all rolled into one.

And, for that, I will always be grateful.

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Coupeville High School girls hoops coach Scott Fox (back) swaps tales with Whidbey News-Times Sports Editor Jim Waller. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Waller discusses strategy with Wolf hoops guru David King.

The elder statesman of Whidbey Island sports journalism is leaving the building.

And the state.

Jim Waller, my Oak Harbor High School journalism teacher, and the man most responsible for my writing “career,” retires in two weeks.

His last day at the Whidbey News-Times is December 18.

After that, the lifelong Whidbey resident and his wife are moving to North Carolina to be closer to their sons and their families.

Waller has been at the core of Whidbey Island sports since his birth, as a player, teacher, coach, and writer.

He was born into the life, one of the sons of revered local coach Mert Waller, who led four Coupeville High School sports programs (football, basketball, baseball, and track), before moving to similar positions in Oak Harbor.

Jim Waller was a standout prep athlete at OHHS, who returned to teach and coach multiple sports at his alma mater.

Of the two people actively writing about sports on Whidbey, he is the only one to be a member of a real Hall of Fame, honored in 2001 by the Washington State Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Waller led the OHHS baseball program for 30 years, taking the Wildcats to the Class 3A state title game.

A graduate of the University of Washington, he was in his second go-round with Whidbey’s newspapers.

Waller first wrote for the News-Times as a youngster, then returned to the post after retiring from the Oak Harbor School District.

As he prepares to depart, several Coupeville coaches, past and present, offered their thoughts on the easy-going legend.


Mike Etzell:

He is quality, character, with a twinkle in his eye, and one of the constants on fields/courts across Whidbey.


Scott Fox:

I was fortunate to meet Jim this past year as it was my first year as a head coach and little did I know it would be his last as a sports writer. 

The one word that comes to mind when I think of Jim is dedication. Jim is the guy who loved what he did and it showed.

We had some great conversations about Coupeville sports and how they have evolved throughout the years.

His enthusiasm for local sports and working with kids really comes through starting with his coaching for many years to now covering them as a newspaper journalist.

He always approached his job as a sports writer with the utmost professionalism and I really enjoyed our post game conversations.

We are losing a local legend in the sports world but at the same time I am happy for him in retirement and being able to spend more time with his family.

He is a great guy and will be truly missed!


David King:

I’ve known Jim since 1982 or 1983 when he was teaching and coaching at Oak Harbor. At the time I was just finishing high school.

Sadly I didn’t play baseball for him.

I really got to know Jim on the basketball court.

Back in the ’80s and into the ’90s the teachers from Oak Harbor would get together on Sunday evenings and play. I was lucky enough to have an invite and played.

Back then on the basketball court, Jim wasn’t flashy, but he seemed to always make the right plays or be in the right spot.

What I should have realized then, but came to realize later in life, Jim was a student of the game.

That goes for basketball, baseball and softball. I’m sure other sports as well.

Fast forward to my time coaching softball and basketball. During this time Jim was the sports guy for the Whidbey News-Times.

Many times after a home game, we would talk stats and sports article material that he could use.

Then he and I would talk the in-depth details.

I could sit and talk these details with Jim any day of the week. The X’s and O’s.

He was able to see things a normal fan or parent may not recognize.

Early on, he wouldn’t push his thoughts, but asked questions based off of what he saw during the games.

As the years went on, the conversations evolved, more open and we actually would talk strategies and Jim would share his experiences and still ask why certain things happened like they did.

Because he is a student of the game and a successful coach, these conversations helped me as a coach.

I believe he and I would see the same things, his experiences I could relate to.

And I feel like I was doing the right things as a coach and for the teams based off of our conversations.

After Amy and I got out of coaching I found I missed the conversations and interaction with Jim.

He is someone I respect and I’m grateful for the friendship that evolved over time.


Brad Sherman:

I’ve always really enjoyed getting to chat with Jim after games. 

He knows the game well, knows our athletes, and is really skilled in the way he recaps games.

I think the sports community in Coupeville is very lucky to have had Jim covering our teams. 

Over the years he’s taken the time to spotlight certain kids who have worked extremely hard to get where they are, or community members that have given so much to our programs.

He truly is a class act. We will certainly miss him!

With that said, I wish him the best in his well-deserved retirement, and hope to still see him up in the stands at a few games in the future.  


Willie Smith:

Personally, as a baseball coach, there were few coaches that I ever really strived to have a “Your program is going in the right direction or your kids really seem to understand the game and play hard every single day” type of a comment from, and, along with Stan Taloff, Jim was always one of those guys.

His knowledge of the game and his willingness to share, first while he was coaching, then as a reporter, was always welcomed by me.

It was great listening to his stories and experiences in his 30+ years career and I certainly appreciated the moments that he and I just got to visit about everything around athletics.

I was also very fortunate to have him open up the summer baseball program to the Coupeville kids, which, for me, was a bit of an arrival moment for me in the world of coaching.

Both of my sons got to play for Jim and they had such a positive, fun experience with him and his players (and I got to just sit back and just watch them play, which was really fun!).

Jim has always been a man of high integrity, has had great insight, truly loved coaching and being around the players and I would hope that when I retire, I can be half of what Jim has been!

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Whidbey News-Times Sports Editor Jim Waller (right) shares a chat with CHS girls basketball coach David King. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The adults are back.

After three months-plus with no sports coverage, the Whidbey News-Times and South Whidbey Record have returned the dean of local sportswriting to his desk.

Longtime Sports Editor Jim Waller was one of several employees who accepted a furlough back in March as the COVID-19 pandemic threw the newspaper industry into turmoil.

His last stories, a profile of Coupeville three-sport star Scout Smith and a piece on South Whidbey soccer announcer Crispin Roberts, posted to the internet March 24.

After that, my former high school journalism teacher lived the home life of “honey to-do lists”, leaving Whidbey sports fans with only my hyperventilating to get by on.

That changed as of Monday.

Waller has been at the core of Whidbey Island sports since his birth, as a player, teacher, coach, and writer.

He was born into the life, one of the sons of revered local coach Mert Waller, who led all four Coupeville High School programs (football, basketball, baseball, and track), before moving into similar positions in Oak Harbor.

Jim Waller was a standout athlete who went on to teach and coach multiple sports at OHHS.

Of the two people writing about sports on Whidbey, he is the only one to be a member of a real Hall of Fame, honored in 2001 by the Washington State Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Waller led the OHHS baseball program for 30 years, taking the Wildcats to the Class 3A state title game.

A graduate of the University of Washington, he is in his second go-round with Whidbey’s newspapers.

Waller first wrote for the News-Times as a youngster, then returned to the post after retiring from the Oak Harbor School District.

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Barbi Ford enjoys quality grandma time during a recent basketball game. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

CHS girls hoops coach David King (left) offers Whidbey News-Times Sports Editor Jim Waller tips on his jump shot.

Wolf cheerleader Kaley Grigsby enjoys her evening.

Four shooting stars momentarily sitting still – l to r, it’s Koa Davison, Derek Leyva, Natalie Hollrigel and Sarah Wright.

Defensive dynamo Tia Wurzrainer replenishes her body’s nutrients after a night of terrorizing her foes on the hardwood.

Heidi Meyers, a hot second away from breaking free and dropping the greatest flute version of “Welcome to the Jungle” you’ve ever heard.

Sherry Roberts, forever keeping an extra eye in the back of her head to monitor lil’ brother Danny Bonacci, in case shenanigans break out.

Volleyball stars (l to r) Emma Smith, Maya Toomey-Stout and Ashley Menges, the first people to ever make Coupeville’s bleachers look semi-comfortable.

Sometimes John Fisken is almost too productive.

Almost. I said almost.

Whidbey’s top-ranked paparazzi gave me so many glossy pics the first time he hit a Coupeville High School basketball doubleheader last week, I wasn’t able to use all the side pics immediately.

So, here you go, a few days down the road, some more snappy pix capturing Wolf fans, the band, cheerleaders and cute babies.

Always with the cute babies, cause page views.

Probably should have started a blog called cutebabies.com and not Coupeville Sports back in 2012…

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