Posts Tagged ‘Spring Sports Preview’

After the pandemic stole away the 2020 season, Catherine Lhamon is one of the few Coupeville High School track stars with prior experience. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

From young guns to old pros.

Thanks to the pandemic, the last time Coupeville High School track and field athletes competed was nearly two years ago.

Way back on May 25, 2019, as the state tournament wrapped up, Ja’Kenya Hoskins and Logan Martin were freshmen.

Now, after a lost spring and a long wait, the duo are juniors and have gone from supporting crew to frontline stars.

Hoskins is the only active Wolf track athlete to have a state meet medal — she was part of a 4 x 200 relay squad which finished 3rd in Cheney in ’19.

Now, with all of her former relay mates having graduated, she’s likely to be running sprints and doing jumps, said longtime CHS track guru Randy King.

Ja’Kenya is back and eager to begin competing again!”

Martin, who spent many of the 650 days between track seasons working on his skills, is primed to have a breakout as a thrower.

Older brother Dalton, who won four state meet medals during his CHS days, holds the school discus record.

Now lil’ bro is coming for big bro’s best marks.

Logan has worked both last spring and this fall and winter to improve his throws, and looks destined to do extremely well,” King said.

“The discus is jumping out of his hand and he appears to have mastered a new technique in the shot put,” he added. “I expect his discus throws to have improved by over 30 feet since his freshman year.”

Logan Martin is coming for all of older brother Dalton’s throwing records.

Hoskins and Martin lead a squad which has 24 athletes as it preps for its debut in the Northwest 2B/1B League.

In this pared-down season, Coupeville is set to host the season-opening meet March 4, and the season-closing rumble April 3.

Other returning athletes include Megan Behan and Aurora Cernick in the throwing events, and cross country state meet vet Catherine Lhamon in the distance races.

On the boys side of things, the move from 1A to 2B pushes soccer from spring to fall, allowing Wolf booters to join the track squad.

That has netted the squad at least three cross country-hardened runners in Sam Wynn, Mitchell Hall, and Aiden Wilson.

“We are excited to have them out,” King said. “Kudos to Coach (Elizabeth) Bitting and Coach (Jon) Gabelein for their work with our distance runners this school year.

“They have been training for quite a while and are hitting the track season “in stride”!”

With the missed season, a fair amount of the team is made up of newcomers, some of whom intended to compete last spring before COVID shut down Washington state schools.

On the girls side, Maylin Steele (jumps and javelin), Erica McGrath (javelin), Camryn Clark (hurdles and sprints), and Cristine McGrath (jumps and hurdles) are all brand new to high school track.

The most-promising youngster may be basketball brawler Carolyn Lhamon, a sophomore who was a top-notch track performer in middle school.

Carolyn looks great in the shot put for us, and can be counted on to give a gutsy performance in the 400-meter run,” King said.

Freshman Tate Wyman and Josh Guay, sophomore Dominic Coffman, Alex Murdy, and Reiley Araceley, and senior Ben Smith are all expected to have impact for the boys team, as well.

During this pandemic spring, Coupeville will compete against league mates, and won’t have a chance to attend any invitationals or large meets as in years past.

That means the Wolves will mainly vie with La Conner, Concrete, Mount Vernon Christian, and Friday Harbor.

Darrington doesn’t field a track team, while Orcas Island is skipping spring sports and waiting until its students are back in class before competing.

MVC track, especially on the boys side of things, is a state-title-winning powerhouse in 1B, while La Conner is always tough.

But for King, who retired as a teacher last year but stayed on as the school’s longest-tenured coach, the chance to get back out to the track oval is about what his athletes can accomplish, not who they have to face.

“They have been a fun group to work with!,” he said. “Our team is young, so it will be great to see how our season develops.”

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After COVID-19 stole a season from him, Hawthorne Wolfe returns to the baseball diamond. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

New coach, new league, new schedule.

Everything is a little different for the Coupeville High School baseball squad as it gets ready for its first games since 2019.

The pandemic erased prep sports last spring, then coach Chris Smith departed Whidbey Island after the graduation of his youngest child.

Now, Will Thayer steps into the dugout as the head man and his first Wolf team is scheduled to play a pared-down, conference-only slate of games.

That will give Coupeville a strong introduction to their new foes, at least, as CHS moves from 1A to 2B, returning to its old stomping grounds in the Northwest 2B/1B League.

While the schedule seems to shift each day, as of Thursday the Wolves are set to play fellow 2B schools Friday Harbor (4) and La Conner (3) the most, with a single game against 1B rivals Darrington, Mount Vernon Christian, and Concrete.

Orcas Island (1B) opted not to play spring sports as long as its students were not back in class, while Chimacum (2B) is slated to join the NWL for the 2021-2022 school year.

Having a chance to go toe-to-toe with Friday Harbor should give Thayer and his crew a solid idea of where they fit in the new hierarchy.

“Perennial power in this league seems to be Friday Harbor; they are a very well-coached team and consistently at the top of their league,” Thayer said. “This is our first year in this league and we will have to learn the teams on the fly.

“It is kind of nice being a first-year coach in a new league so I can learn with the team,” he added. “We will be able to measure ourselves against our league for the first time together.”

With the unexpected gap year, the Wolf roster has seen a fairly large turnover.

Of the 15 players listed on the roster posted on the league web site, only four have ever played in a CHS baseball game — senior Daniel Olson and juniors Hawthorne Wolfe, Cody Roberts, and Sage Sharp.

Olson and Roberts provide a one-two combo at the top of the pitching staff, while Wolfe is back to hit leadoff and prowl center field.

Cody Roberts joins Daniel Olson at the top of Coupeville’s pitching rotation. (Photo by Karen Carlson)

Three sort-of newcomers, all with plenty of hardball experience, are expected to have immediate impacts, as well.

Xavier Murdy, a junior, joins Olson and Wolfe as a team captain, while sophomores Scott Hilborn and Jonathan Valenzuela will start at shortstop and third base, respectively.

“We are anchored on the left side of our infield,” Thayer said. “This will be their first year of high school baseball and they have proven themselves ready to rise to the occasion and lead us in to the future.”

Murdy spent his freshman year on the soccer pitch, but with the move from 1A to 2B, boys soccer slides from spring to fall.

Rounding out the preseason roster are junior Miles Davidson, sophomore Coen Killian, and a pack of freshmen — Nathan Ginnings, Cole White, Nick Guay, Andrew Williams, Seth Woollet, and Zane Oldenstadt.

It’s a group which will have to learn on the fly.

“Just coming together as a team, as we haven’t had much time to bond as a tight group; but every practice we become a tighter group,” Thayer said.

“We are learning from each other as we go in a very short time.”

However the lineup eventually breaks down, Thayer is excited to get on the field.

“Our goal for this season is to compete for a league title,” he said. “Since there is no state tournament this year, our team goal is league title, and let everyone know that we are a state-worthy team next season.

“We are a very young team so our future is very exciting, and I believe we will be in contention for league and state for the foreseeable future.”

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After a year off due to COVID-19, Izzy Wells and Co. are back to reclaim the diamond. (Karen Carlson photo)

It’s been a long time coming.

Coupeville High School softball players are back on the field and ready to play games again for the first time since the 2019 state tournament.

The COVID-19 shutdown cost the Wolves the 2020 season and prevented four-year players such as Emma Mathusek and Scout Smith from experiencing their senior season.

But, while that hurts, the focus when players opened practice Monday was a positive one, said CHS coach Kevin McGranahan.

“I have 22 girls as of today and ALL of them have been practicing when we could throughout the last year,” he said. “They have all stuck by the program and are anxious to get the season going.

“I could not be more proud of this team,” McGranahan added.

“I am always proud of my teams, but this particular set of girls have endured through the last year and finally get to showoff a little bit.”

Leading the way will be five players from that 2019 team, which won a North Sound Conference title, finished second at districts, then advanced to state for the third time in program history.

Seniors Chelsea Prescott, Mollie Bailey, and Coral Caveness are joined by juniors Izzy Wells and Audrianna Shaw.

Wells was Coupeville’s #1 pitcher as a freshman, while Prescott has been one of her team’s most-dangerous hitters since day one of her own 9th grade season.

Bailey held down third base for the 2019 state team, and also has plenty of experience as a catcher, while Caveness and Shaw played multiple positions.

The five-pack are key as the Wolves move into their home in the Northwest 2B/1B League.

“Gonna need all of them to step up and lead the younger players that have never seen varsity time due to COVID,” McGranahan said.

Coral Caveness, one of three Coupeville seniors, last played at the 2019 state tourney. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Among key newcomers for the Wolves are a group of “redshirt freshmen” — sophomores who never got to play last spring and are “talented, but very inexperienced at this level.”

These include Gwen Gustafson (pitcher/centerfield), Jill Prince (infield), and the deadly duo of Allie and Maya Lucero (infield).

Outfielder Lacy McCraw-Shirron, who transferred to Coupeville before last season, but never got on the field, is also expected to contribute.

Regardless of which of the 22 players get on the field, and in what positions, McGranahan will be there to preach hard work and improvement.

“We have strong leaders in our seniors, and our defense will be pretty solid with a scrappy offense,” he said. “(But we need to work on) softball IQ – we have to get better with our softball knowledge of the game and strategies.

“This is only because we are getting so young and inexperienced due to COVID; not a knock on the girls at all,” McGranahan added. “They just have to be able to learn quickly.”

Along with the time off, Coupeville is making the transition from 1A to 2B, with a new group of foes.

With schools playing shortened seasons as they return from the pandemic shutdown, the Wolves are scheduled for 12 games, all against league opponents.

They’ll play five games against fellow 2B schools La Conner (3) and Friday Harbor (2), with seven against 1B foes Orcas Island (3), Darrington (2), and Concrete (2).

Mount Vernon Christian (1B) doesn’t play softball, while Chimacum (2B) delayed its move to the NWL until the 2021-2022 school year.

There won’t be any playoffs this season, with the hope that things will be back to “normal” in the spring of 2022.

In particular, McGranahan, who enjoys having his team “play up,” is looking forward to when CHS Athletic Director Willie Smith can return to adding extra games to the schedule.

“I hope in future seasons we can play the 1A schools out of conference to challenge our girls, because they respond to a challenge.”

Which doesn’t mean the Wolves aren’t swinging for the fences this time out.

“Our goals are to win the league and develop the younger talent that lost a very big developmental year last season,” McGranahan said.

“Friday Harbor will be our biggest challenge from what I can tell,” he added. “They were getting pretty good before COVID, so I expect them to be our new rival.

“But with everyone having a year off, anyone could have gotten better.”

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Four-year starter Matt Hilborn is one of five returning letter winners for Coupeville High School baseball. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

The Wolves enjoy rare blue skies as they prep for their season opener.

Let’s shake things up.

Coupeville High School baseball soared through much of the 2018 season, winning its second Olympic League title in three years and falling a single win shy of advancing to the state tourney.

Jump forward to this spring, and many things have changed for third-year head coach Chris Smith.

He needs to replace an especially strong group of seniors from last year’s 15-6 squad, having lost eight to graduation, including league MVP Hunter Smith.

And, while doing so, the Wolves are bouncing into the new North Sound Conference, a league headed up by Cedar Park Christian, which has finished 2nd and 4th at state the past two seasons.

After playing a scattershot schedule during their four-year run in the Olympic League, Coupeville returns to a more traditional schedule in their new surroundings.

Much like the Wolves did in their old stomping grounds in the Cascade Conference, NSC teams will play three-game series in a single week.

Instead of a game here, a game a month later, and then a final match-up sometime after that, the new league operates with a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule.

So, when the Wolves open their league schedule, against the aforementioned CPC, they’ll go to Bothell Monday, host the Eagles Wednesday, then travel back to Bothell Friday.

The new schedule more closely replicates what college and pro teams play, while giving coaches more of a chance to use strategy as they set up their pitching and adjust to changes as each week plays out.

While he won’t have his son ready to take the mound this year, Smith can lean on a pair of veteran hurlers.

Seniors Matt Hilborn and Dane Lucero top the mound rotation, and are joined by three other returning lettermen, seniors Jake Pease and Shane Losey and junior Gavin Knoblich.

“All are expected to start this year and make a strong impact,” Smith said. “We have strong returning pitching and a strong senior core, but we will be a very young team.”

Among the younger players expected to play key roles include juniors Ulrik Wells and Mason Grove, sophomore Daniel Olson, who got the strikeout to clinch last year’s league title, and freshman Hawthorne Wolfe.

The roster will lean towards players making their varsity debuts this time around.

“(There are) some other up and coming players that will definitely have the opportunity to help out when called upon,” Smith said.

While his team may not be the most-experienced, the eternally-upbeat Wolf coach is aiming for success, as always.

With the season opener at home Mar. 12, against non-conference foe Friday Harbor, Smith is rarin’ to get going.

“Our number one goal is to make a run at the league title; our number two goal is to qualify for the state tournament,” he said.

“It will be a successful season if we play good baseball, and maintain a high level of motivation, energy and effort regardless of the outcome.”

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CHS softball coaches Kevin McGranahan (left) and Ron Wright run players through practice drills. (Photos by JohnPhotos.net)

Mollie Bailey is one of nine returning players from a team which came a win shy of advancing to state.

Third time’s the charm.

At least that’s the hope for the Coupeville High School softball squad, which has fallen a single win shy of the state tourney two years running.

And, while the Wolves will miss a trio of graduated All-Conference players in Hope Lodell, Lauren Rose, and Katrina McGranahan, the roster is loaded with experience.

Seniors Sarah Wright, Veronica Crownover, and Nicole Laxton top a lineup with brings back nine letter winners.

Joining them are juniors Scout Smith, Emma Mathusek, and Mackenzie Davis, as well as sophomores Coral Caveness, Mollie Bailey and Chelsea Prescott.

Having that kind of experience, and having it so precisely balanced between the classes, is huge.

“Returning nine of 12 varsity players will be key to our run this season,” said Coupeville coach Kevin McGranahan.

“My goals for this season are that the team comes together as a fast-pitch family and trusts in the process,” he added. “If we can do that, we should have no problem competing for a league title and going to districts.

“Sky is the limit for this little team that could.”

Rounding out the varsity roster will be junior Chloe Wheeler, coming off a strong JV season, and freshman Izzy Wells.

The Wolves need to replace Lodell in center field, Rose at shortstop, and, maybe most importantly, Katrina McGranahan in the pitcher’s circle.

Smith was Coupeville’s #2 pitcher last season, while Prescott and Wright also saw time flingin’ heat. Wells arrives at the high school level after being a top hurler in little league.

As the pitching situation firms up, the Wolves will be a force to reckon with when they’re up to bat.

Wright and Crownover, who anchor the team at catcher and first base, respectively, can mash with any diamond duo, Prescott combines power and speed, and the rest of their teammates have shown discipline and skill at the plate.

“Strengths will be our speed and ability to push the opposing defense,” Kevin McGranahan said. “Also our mental toughness will get us through the inevitable bad days.

“Things to work on will be just gelling as a team and our communication on the field.”

Coupeville is coming off a league title in a depleted Olympic League, after narrowly missing the crown a year before against a conference at full force.

The past two seasons the Wolves played in a winner-to-state game, but came up a single strike shy of upsetting Bellevue Christian in 2017, then were stung by Klahowya’s bottom-of-the-order hitters in 2018.

Now, CHS is part of the new North Sound Conference, which pits them against Cedar Park Christian, Sultan, Granite Falls, and South Whidbey.

King’s doesn’t field a softball team, so the Wolves will play 12 league games, clashing three times with each conference foe.

South Whidbey has advanced to state in back-to-back seasons, and might appear to be the league favorites, except…

The Falcons lost all-universe pitcher Mackenzee Collins to graduation, and, even with her flingin’ heat, Coupeville crushed the Falcons 12-0 and 10-0 in non-conference games last season.

With a 6-5 win in 2017 and a 4-1 victory in 2016, CHS has won four straight against SWHS under Kevin McGranahan.

Seniors Crownover, Wright, and Laxton have never lost to their Island rivals, and you have to go back to the regular-season finale in 2015, during Deanna Rafferty’s one season of coaching, to find the last time the Falcons beat the Wolf sluggers.

For Kevin McGranahan, though, it doesn’t matter which team is in the other dugout.

He’s been trying (unsuccessfully) to get Whidbey’s third team, 3A Oak Harbor, on the schedule, and looks forward to match-ups with 1A bruisers like Forks and Lynden Christian.

“Teams that stand in our way … well this is a tough question, as you know we will play anyone, anytime, anywhere … unlike our friends to the North, who keep ducking us year after year.

“I think this year we will not take any of our league opponents lightly; never should take anyone lightly,” McGranahan added. “This year in the new league we need to feel it out and put a choke hold on it early.”

Having four league rivals, and 12 conference games, after making do with just arch-rival Klahowya last season after Chimacum and Port Townsend suspended their programs, is just a bonus.

“I like the idea of being in the new league,” McGranahan said. “It gives us a real chance to earn a league title, not that we didn’t last year, but this year we have a better league schedule and not just three games for the title.

“Also the district tournament is A LOT closer!”

Coupeville kicks things off with a home game against non-league foe Friday Harbor Mar. 12, and currently has a 19-game regular season schedule.

After ending March with a four-game road trip, the Wolves get to close with seven of their last 11 games on their own field.

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