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Sports provided a spark for Natasha Bamberger (left), launching her to a life rich in personal and professional success. Current Wolves like Alana Mihill (center) and Catherine Lhamon follow in her footsteps. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

I believe in you.

One week from today, on the morning of Monday, August 26, a new high school sports year officially begins. And I want to see every single Coupeville student in grades 9-12 at a practice.

EVERY … SINGLE … ONE.

OK, technically, football kicks off practice five days earlier, on Wednesday, Aug. 21, but let’s not get caught up in technicalities.

Anyway, a week from today, Wolf boys tennis, volleyball, girls soccer, cheer, and cross country athletes join their gridiron compadres, and the countdown to the beginning of fall sports is fully underway.

But let’s get back to my point, which is a simple one.

If you are a student at CHS, I want to see you play a sport.

Whether you’re a life-long athlete, or have never stepped onto a field or court before, opportunity abounds in Cow Town. Take advantage.

Your school has a small student body, one of the tiniest in 1A (which is why CHS will likely move down to 2B next school year), and it’s set up for everyone to shine.

For one thing, there are no cuts at this school. You show up, you stay around, you are on the team.

You play, you — and your parents, and your grandparents, and all your Instagram followers and on and on — will see your name on the internet.

Often.

Coupeville Sports is unique in that it covers every level of athletics in this town plopped on the prairie in the middle of a rock anchored in the water in a far-flung corner of the Pacific Northwest.

You play varsity? You’ll see your name (and probably your photo).

You play JV? You’ll see your name (and probably your photo).

You play C-Team? You’ll see your name (and probably your photo).

State champion or role player? You will be celebrated, you will have something to read today, something to look back at years from now (unless the internet implodes).

Sports build confidence, they help/force students to stay on top of their classroom work (if you want to stay eligible), and they offer a unique way to interact with others.

With CHS having increased its fall sports offerings by bringing back cross country last year after a two-decade absence, there is something for everyone.

If you look at me and say “I have no skills. I can’t play volleyball, or football, or soccer, or fly through the air and do double back-flips like a cheerleader,” I would say two things back to you.

First, “You’d be surprised what you can do with no skills.”

I have seen CHS tennis coach Ken Stange take countless players, girls and boys, put a tennis racket in their hand for the first time in their lives, and transform them.

They walk on the court not knowing how to keep score, or the proper way to swing, and, four years later, they walk off with athletic letters, awards, and a confidence which has bloomed ten-fold.

Let the magic man do what he does.

And second, if you can put one foot in front of the other, or at least come reasonably close, cross country offers a safe harbor.

Of all sports, cross country and track and field offer maybe the easiest access point for someone who claims to be a non-athlete.

You essentially compete against yourself, each PR along the way a personal validation.

Whether you’re the quietest, smallest, library-lovingest young girl or boy, or the student who got an eight-inch growth spurt over the summer break who is trying to adjust to their new height, the trail was meant for you.

There’s no contact, you don’t have to suddenly learn a bunch of rules, no one expects you to digest a playbook.

You run, and you’d be amazed where it will take you.

We have had two NCAA D-1 scholarship college athletes emerge from Coupeville in the 2000’s, and Kyle and Tyler King landed at Oklahoma and U-Dub thanks to running.

No less impressive, in its own way, is listening to the kid who finished 97th in a high school race, the kid who rarely talks, light up like a Christmas tree when they realize they beat their previous-best time by two seconds.

But this conversation isn’t just for the first-time athlete.

I’m also talking to the Wolves who aren’t going to play because they want to get (or hold) a job, want to take driver’s ed, or offer a billion other “reasonable excuses.”

Don’t. Just don’t.

You will get to spend a great deal of your life working. Work is overrated.

You will get to spend a great deal of your life driving. Driving is overrated.

But you only get four years of high school sports. Twelve seasons total. It will be over faster than you expect.

At this point of your life, my words won’t mean the same as they will in 10 years, in 20, or 30.

It’s then you will have regret, then that you will wish you could go back.

You’ll be stuck in traffic on a freeway somewhere, on a way to a job you don’t want to go to, and it will hit you then.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

When you’re sitting in that car, on the way to that job, you could instead reflect on all your memories from a better time, a time when you were a high school athlete.

You are young right now, somewhere in the 13-18 age group.

The decision is yours to make. Choose wisely.

There are a million reasons to play sports during your high school years. Find the one which means something deeply personal to you.

But play. Just play.

I believe in you. Believe in yourself.

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Allison Wenzel is the only CHS athlete in at least a decade-plus to make it to state in three separate sports. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

A master of many instruments, she also went to the state championships in music.

“Let the bodies (and the braids) hit the floor!!”

Allison Wenzel can do everything.

And, if not, give her a day or two and she’ll master whatever new task you try and throw her way.

A Japanese-born American bad ass, Allison combines blistering talent with a serene spirit.

She’s one of the most genuinely kind people you will meet.

Unless you’re trying to take a basketball away from her, then she will get all up in your business and leave you to bleed out in an alleyway.

Metaphorically.

Or, possibly for real…

During her days at Coupeville High School, Wenzel, a 2018 grad, was a non-stop whirlwind.

She was one of four students in her class to play a sport in every season of her prep career, putting in four campaigns apiece in volleyball, basketball, and track and field.

A role player who sacrificed for the team, she had her greatest achievement at the very end of her high school career.

Standing alone after so many years of playing for others, Wenzel advanced to the state track and field championships in the discus.

Once in Cheney, she let fly with the best throw of her career in her swan song, ripping off a PR and claiming 9th place in all of 1A.

That solo run in the spotlight allowed Wenzel to achieve something very few Wolves have, reaching the state tourney in three separate sports.

She’s the only Coupeville athlete to pull off the trifecta in the last decade-plus.

You’d have to go back to the early 2000’s, when Wolf girls basketball and volleyball squads went to state on a regular basis, to find a time when there might possibly be another three-timer.

In recent years there have been a number of talented Coupeville female athletes who made it to state in two sports.

Makana Stone. Skyler Lawrence. Emma Smith. Maya Toomey-Stout. Lindsey Roberts. Sarah Wright. Kyla Briscoe. Emma Mathusek. Payton Aparicio. Chelsea Prescott. Lauren Rose. Scout Smith. Lauren Grove.

Ferociously successful, one and all, but the needle stopped at two, and hasn’t made it to three for any of them.

Yet…

Four of those Wolf girls still have at least a school year left in their careers, so hope lives.

Coupeville boys? Yeah … there’s been a bit of a dry spell.

We’re talking the late ’80s as the last time there’s the possibility of finding a male Wolf who went to state in three sports.

Chad Gale, certainly, and, after that, we’d need to do some more research.

Today, though, we know Wenzel stands at the top of the peak for recent athletes, alone and untouched.

Chalk it up to talent, commitment, and drive.

Others skipped seasons, took time off, stayed on the sidelines.

Not Wenzel.

As a sophomore, she was on the girls basketball team which squared off with perennial powerhouse Cashmere, falling just short of making it to the final eight.

Then, as a senior, she went East with the volleyball squad, where the Wolves tangled with heavy hitters Castle Rock and Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls), before capping things during track season.

Actually, Wenzel made it to state four times, as she also was the queen of the music set.

A master of many instruments, she went to the big dance as a musician, qualifying both as a solo artist (interpreting Mozart on the French Horn) and as part of a duo with Jakobi Baumann.

So, it comes as little surprise that the effortlessly-talented Wenzel is currently pursuing studies in musical education at Central Washington University, wowing a whole new crowd.

For her hustle on the court, her displays of power in the throwing arena, and her artful musical noodlings, plus her kindness, her huge heart, and her love of Star Wars (bonus points!), it’s time to acknowledge all she accomplished, and all that is yet to come.

Allison Wenzel is a bright star streaking across the night sky, one who lights up everything in her path and inspires all of us down here on planet Earth.

Putting her in the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame, which we do today, is something she richly deserves.

After this, you’ll find her up at the top of the blog, under the Legends tab.

Out in the real world?

She’ll be winning real awards left and right, quietly being awesome, cause she couldn’t be anything else.

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Jordyn Rogers, heaving the shot put as an 8th grader, was a three-sport athlete at Coupeville Middle School. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Rogers put in strong work at a summer volleyball camp at the University of Florida.

There’s another one on the way.

When Jordyn Rogers hits high school in September, she’ll be following in the footsteps of older siblings Chris and Ashleigh Battaglia, who have both been successful in multiple sports.

But the little sister is intent on making a name for herself, and recently spent a chunk of her summer getting ready for her debut as a freshman volleyball player.

Rogers took part in a summer spiker camp at the University of Florida, a school she’d like to attend once she hits college age.

While there, the incoming Wolf freshman was selected as a camper of the day while fine-tuning her volleyball skill set.

A three-sport athlete at CMS, where she played basketball and competed in track and field to go with volleyball, Rogers plans to shake things up a bit at the high school level.

She currently plans to drop basketball, and switch out track and field for softball when spring rolls around.

The one thing staying the same is volleyball, which she has played at both the school and club level.

“Volleyball is my favorite sport because it makes me happy and it’s fun learning the different things about it,” Rogers said.

“I would like to focus mainly on volleyball and try my best to be a part of every function they have, but stay active throughout the school year.”

Away from the court, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, while, in the classroom, she’s fascinated with what’s happening in the atmosphere.

“I love to learn about weather and would like to have a future in that field,” Rogers said.

While her brother and sister have set a positive example for her, on and off the playing field, her parents, Brian and Amanda Rogers, have played a crucial role in her life.

“My parents have always believed in me,” Jordyn said. “And when I wanted a bigger challenge, they would help with that.”

Like all young volleyball players, she’s working hard on every aspect of her game, from serves to sets to spikes.

But she’s also focusing on the smaller, but sometimes even more important skills, such as meshing well with her teammates. Having a well-rounded game should translate to future success.

“Being an athlete challenges me to always do my best and helps me to be more of a team player,” Rogers said. “I think my strengths are sportsmanship and dedication.

“I would like to work on keeping my head up and always striving to be a better team player.”

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Even as a freshman, Ashley Menges loved being on the volleyball court. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

“Smashley” rises up to flick a winner.

The end of the road, as Menges and Emma Smith bring a close to a successful run with Coupeville High School coach Cory Whitmore.

Ashley Menges was the glue.

During her four-year run at the heart of the Coupeville High School volleyball program, “Smashley” gave the Wolves a bit of everything.

She could smoke service winners, flip end-over-end to save balls which looked like goners, soar into the heavens to smash spikes, and deliver perfect lil’ set-ups for her teammates to get the glory.

Through it all, the transcendent young woman who ended her career as a team captain, as a key player on back-to-back league title teams, as a state meet veteran who helped CHS to three straight 10+ win seasons, was pure class.

Menges is talented, is a firecracker on the floor, and worked as hard as anyone.

But it was her willingness to take on whatever role was necessary for the betterment of the team which made the biggest impression on those in the stands.

Want her to be a setter? Check.

Want her to be a big-time hitter? Check.

Want her to dominate from the back-line, sacrificing her body (and her stats) to do the dirty work? Check.

Through it all, Menges played with great joy.

Teaming up with Emma Smith and Maddy Hilkey, or Maya Toomey-Stout and Chelsea Prescott, or any of a thousand other teammate combinations, the versatile Wolf ace lived and breathed for volleyball.

Well, when she wasn’t riding her horse and taking all the medals in equestrian competitions, at least.

Menges balanced her love for horses and spikes through a torrid four-year high school run that was all about winning.

As a sophomore, she was part of new CHS coach Cory Whitmore’s first team, which finished 11-6 overall, claiming the Olympic League title with an 8-1 mark.

A year later, Menges and Co. went a flawless 9-0 in conference action (winning all 27 sets they played against Klahowya, Port Townsend, and Chimacum).

After finishing 12-2 in regular-season play, the Wolves split matches at districts, knocking Cascade Christian out in a winner-to-state rumble.

It was the first time Coupeville volleyball had punched a ticket to the big dance in 13 years.

While the Wolves fell to powerhouses Castle Rock and Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls), it remains a huge turning point for the CHS program.

That carried over into Menges’ senior season this past fall, as she and Smith accepted the roles of team captains as Coupeville moved to the tougher North Sound Conference.

Along with stepping to the forefront, Menges also slid into a new position late in her career, moving out from setter to patrol the floor on the right side.

That allowed the team greater flexibility, while giving “Smashley” a chance to live up to her nickname.

And she did, helping the Wolves survive and thrive.

Coupeville (11-5 overall, 7-3 in league) claimed second-place in their new six-team surroundings, twice smushing arch-rival South Whidbey in key matches and giving undefeated league champ King’s some of its toughest bouts.

In her final moments in a Wolf uniform, Menges fought on every play, helping the Wolves make a run which came up just short at districts.

The CHS spikers pulled off a stunning come-from-behind win over Cedar Park Christian, however, avenging a late-season loss and eliminating their league rivals.

Then, Menges and Co. went five brutal sets against Nooksack Valley the day before Halloween, their season ending on a miracle, bloop shot which somehow worked its way through a maze of Wolves and found the floor.

The loss hurt at the time, but it never took a bit of the shine off of Menges, of how hard she played, how much she honored herself and her teammates through four years with her attitude, her skills, and, most of all, her heart.

Ashley’s mom, Jennifer, was always one of the most-enthusiastic Wolf fans, and her daughter deserved every one of those cheers.

Today, the dynamic duo have something more to celebrate, as the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame opens its doors to welcome “Smashley” into its hallowed halls.

After this, you’ll find her hanging out at the top of the blog, up under the Legends tab.

It’s a fitting residence for a young woman of great talent, strength, and grace, a killer on the court and an even-bigger winner in real life.

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CHS volleyball ace Maya Toomey-Stout returns for her senior season. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

James Wood (left) and Mason Grove are among the netters who can return this fall.

There’s less than seven weeks.

We’re still very much in the midst of a Whidbey summer, in all its 55-degree glory, but Coupeville High School fall sports teams start practicing in August, with games launching the first week of September.

As you plan ahead for volleyball, cross country, tennis, soccer, and football, now is the perfect time to peruse the schedules and make some early plans.

As always, changes can, and often do happen, especially for tennis, the one sport which can be drastically affected by rain.

So, keep an eye on the league and/or school web sites as we move forward.

And always bring a coat. Always.

PS — If you haven’t been paying close attention, you may wonder why some sports seem to have radically different foes.

The short breakdown is this – volleyball, cross country, and girls soccer play in Coupeville’s primary league, the North Sound Conference.

But, since CHS and South Whidbey are the only NSC schools to field boys tennis teams, the Wolves and Falcons join the Emerald City League for that sport.

And, finally, football is taking a one-year break from league play and playing an independent schedule while trying to build the program.

PPS — Cross country’s schedule may look a bit off.

Spoiler alert – it is, as the school has yet to post anything resembling a complete schedule on the league site, the school site, or athletic.net.

What’s below is the best I’ve been able to pull together so far.

So, there you go, and as you scan what’s below, a * denotes a league contest.

 

BOYS TENNIS:

Wed-Sept. 11 — South Whidbey (3:30) *
Fri-Sept. 13 — Eastside Prep (3:30) *
Mon-Sept. 16 — @University Prep (3:30) *
Wed-Sept. 18 — @Bush (4:00) *
Fri-Sept. 20 — Overlake (3:30) *
Mon-Sept. 23 — @Bear Creek (4:30) *
Wed-Sept. 25 — Seattle Academy (3:30) *
Fri-Sept. 27 — @South Whidbey (3:30) *
Tues-Oct. 1 — @Eastside Prep (3:30) *
Wed-Oct. 2 — University Prep (3:30) *
Fri-Oct. 4 — Bush (3:30) *
Mon-Oct. 7 — @Overlake (4:00) *
Wed-Oct. 9 — Bear Creek (3:30) *
Mon-Oct. 14 — @Seattle Academy (3:45) *

 

CROSS COUNTRY:

Sat-Sept. 14 — @Sehome Invitational (4:00)
Sat-Sept. 21 — @South Whidbey Invite (TBA)
Thu-Oct. 10 — @South Whidbey (4:00)
Sat-Oct. 12 — @Nike Hole in the Wall Invitational (Lakewood) (TBA)
Thu-Oct. 17 — @King’s (4:00)
Sat-Oct. 26 — @North Sound Conference Championships (Lakewood) (TBA)
Sat-Nov 2 — @Districts (South Whidbey) (10:00)

 

FOOTBALL:

Fri-Sept. 6 — Port Townsend (6:00)
Fri-Sept. 13 — @Vashon Island (6:00)
Fri-Sept. 20 — @Friday Harbor (6:30)
Fri-Sept. 27 — LaConner (7:00)
Sat-Oct. 5 — @Kittitas (3:00)
Fri-Oct. 11 — @Northwest Christian (7:00)
Fri-Oct. 18 — South Whidbey (7:00)
Fri-Oct. 25 — Anacortes (TBA)
Fri-Nov. 1 — @Interlake (7:00)

 

GIRLS SOCCER:

Sat-Sept. 7 — Meridian (1:00)
Thur-Sept. 12 — @Friday Harbor (TBA)
Tues-Sept. 17 — @King’s (6:00) *
Thur-Sept. 19 — @Sultan (7:00) *
Sat-Sept. 21 — Chimacum (1:00)
Tues-Sept. 24 — Cedar Park Christian (6:00) *
Sat-Sept. 28 — Mount Vernon Christian (1:00)
Tues-Oct. 1 — South Whidbey (6:00) *
Thur-Oct. 3 — @Granite Falls (6:00) *
Tues-Oct. 8 — King’s (6:00) *
Thur-Oct. 10 — @Port Townsend (6:00)
Tues-Oct. 15 — Sultan (6:00) *
Thur-Oct. 17 — @Cedar Park Christian (6:00) *
Mon-Oct. 21 — @South Whidbey (6:00) *
Wed-Oct. 23 — Granite Falls (6:00) *

 

VOLLEYBALL:

Thu-Sept. 12 — @Friday Harbor (TBA)
Tues-Sept. 17 — @Anacortes (7:00)
Sat-Sept. 21 — Chimacum (2:30)
Tues-Sept. 24 — Cedar Park Christian (7:00) *
Sat-Sept. 28 — @South Whidbey Invite (10:00)
Tues-Oct. 1 — South Whidbey (7:00) *
Thur-Oct. 3 — @Granite Falls (7:00) *
Sat-Oct. 5 — @Orcas Island (TBA)
Mon-Oct. 7 — King’s (7:00) *
Wed-Oct. 9 — Sultan (7:00) *
Thur-Oct. 10 — @Port Townsend (6:15)
Tues-Oct. 15 — @Cedar Park Christian (7:00) *
Thur-Oct. 17 — @South Whidbey (7:00) *
Tues-Oct. 22 — Granite Falls (7:00) *
Thur-Oct. 24 — @King’s (7:00) *
Mon-Oct. 28 — @Sultan (7:00) *

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