So many great efforts marked a terrific 2018 for the region’s athletes.
The top 3 in the year in review find Sadie and Erik Bjornsen of Winthrop competing in their second Winter Olympics, little Almira/Coulee-Hartline bringing home a ton of 1B championship hardware and Tonasket’s Dave Mitchell being inducted into the Washington chapter of the national wrestling Hall of Fame.
They edged out the Tonasket wrestling team winning its second straight state 1B/2B state championship and Liberty Bell teams, including the girls’ cross country team, winning for the third straight time and the soccer team finishing fourth in state.
So let’s get to remembering this past year:
Siblings Sadie and Erik Bjornsen of Winthrop competed in their second Winter Olympic Games last winter in South Korea.
They were there to cheer on Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randal to a gold medal in team sprint.
That was the first-ever gold for the U.S. in cross-country ski team and the second medal ever. The other medal came 42 years ago when Bill Koch won silver in 1976.
Sadie Bjornsen’s best finish was on the 4x5K relay, which finished fifth.
Erik Bjornsen’s best finish was in the team sprint with Simi Hamilton, where they finished sixth.
Dave Mitchell of Tonasket, who coached high school wrestling for 39 years, was named to the Washington State chapter of the National Hall of Fame this fall.
“This is quite an honor,” said Cole Denison at the time.
He’s the current Tonasket wrestling coach and long-time assistant with Mitchell.
“Wrestling has always been a big part of my life,” Denison said. “Dave has had a big impact on my whole wrestling and coaching career.”
Mitchell touched the lives of many Tonasket athletes.
“He was my wrestling coach when I first started in the first grade and coached me all the way through high school,” Denison said. “As I went into college to wrestle, he still had a huge impact on my success on the mat. Then when I came back home from college, we coached together for 14 years.
“Over 39 years he has coached a state championship team, 33 individual state champions and a lot of state placers. These are some very impressive accomplishments. But the most impressive and important accomplishment is the number of young individuals that he had a positive impact on.
“I know that there are lots of people out there who are extremely grateful for everything he has done and glad to see him be recognized for it.”
The induction ceremony will be June 2 next year in Olympia.
Larry Gibson of Omak is also in the hall as a medal of courage recipient.
The Tonasket High School wrestling team returned from state with 14 medals, including five gold ones in winning with a state record point total a second 1B/2B wrestling championship at the Tacoma Dome.
“What our boys just accomplished this season hasn't really sunk in yet,” Tonasket coach Cole Denison said afterward. “This is the first time we had two Tonasket guys wrestle each other in the state finals. We brought home 14 medals with five of them being gold. We set the record for most team points (286.5) at state in any division. The previous record was held by Warden at 237.”
Pre-season polls find the Tigers way out in front for a possible three-peat come February.
“Our success this season was a combined effort from all of the coaches, parents, administrators, and fans to make sure that we had the support system necessary for our program,” Denison said after the second title. “I can't put into words how thankful I am to have this kind of support.”
Tonasket state champions included Riley Vanatta (106), Colin Silverthorn (113), Dawson Bretz (120), Chris Rivera (126) and Garrett Wilson (145).
Second place went to Lane Bolich and Seth Baugher
Third place went to Jose Cortes, Austin Wood Isaac Gomez Chavez
Fourth place went to Carsen Walton
Fifth place went to Rycki Cruz and Enrique Long,
Brandon Baugher was sixth.
Lake Roosevelt, which finishes seventh, included champions Kaleb Horn at 132 and Tony Nichols at 152.
“We had a great state championship weekend with four of our five qualifier’s placing,” Lake Roosevelt coach Steve Hood said after state. “Kaleb had a great state tournament, winning his second state championship. He is lake Roosevelts third two-time champion (others are Shane Innes and Orrin Gross). Kaleb was also the academic champion for his weight class.
“Tony Nichols won his first championship after placing third his freshman and sophomore years. Robert Thomas and Sherwin Vargas, both freshmen, placed fifth and sixth.”
Brewster’s Alex Garcia won at 285 and Liberty Bell's Finlay Holston was champion at 195.
Central Washington 1B/2B League teams claimed championships in nine of the 14 weights at state.
Oroville’s Zane Scott finished second at 182 pounds.
In the 1A tournament, Okanogan’s Dalton Swayze, a junior, finished fourth at 195 pounds.
Allie Eastridge of Okanogan competed in the girls’ state tournament.
Liberty Bell High School brought home several trophies this past year, including its third-straight girls’ 1B/2B crown this fall.
The Mountain Lions were led by Novie McCabe, who won her third consecutive state individual title.
McCabe, a junior, won covered the 5K course at Sun Willows Golf Course in 18 minutes, 27.40 seconds.
Taking medalist honors by being in the Top 16 overall were senior Icel Sukovaty (6, 20:09.80) and freshman Jori Grialou (9, 20:31.00).
Rounding out the team were senior Ella Kuzyk (23, 21:13.60), freshman Mahali Kuzyk (50, 22:29.20), senior Ava Mott (67, 23:12.60) and sophomore Keeley Brooks (78, 23:34.30).
The Mountain Lion girls finished with 56 points, easily surpassing Asotin in second (93) and Rainier in third (122).
Lake Roosevelt’s Hannah Wapato, a senior, earned a medal by taking 11th (20:39.00).
The Republic team, led by junior Korin Baker (43, 22:15.70), finished 12th with 256 points.
The rest of the Tigers included freshman Courtney Starr (69, 23:17.70), sophomore Emma Reiss (83, 23:48.30), senior Anna Reiss (103, 25:52.90), sophomore Megan Thomas (109, 26:40.70), senior Tandice Fletcher (111, 26:54.20) and freshman Kayla Tonasket (116, 29:50.20).
The Liberty Bell boys’ cross country team received its state academic championship trophy at state, where the boys finished ninth.
The Mountain Lions’ girls’ soccer team finished fourth in the 1B/2B/1A state tournament.
“What a great season,” said Mountain Lions’ coach Lincoln Post after state and his team finishing at 18-2. “The team improved so much both individually and collectively.”
Liberty Bell reached the Final Four in the state tournament with a 2-0 win over Onalaska on a cold night Oct. 9 at home.
The Mountain Lions could not stay with St. George's of Spokane, falling 4-1 in the semifinals.
Josephine Cole scored Liberty Bell’s goal.
In the match for third- and fourth-place, the Adna Pirates prevailed 3-0 over Liberty Bell.
“We had a lot of fun at the tournament but have some work to do to take our game to champion level,” Post said.
“We played with a lot of heart and created some quality opportunities but had trouble finding the back of the net.”
The Mountain Lions graduate Larkin Lucy, Sally Thornton-White and Spencer Hoffner.
The Almira/Coulee-Hartline 1B trophy case will have to expand after the Warriors success in 2018.
ACH won the state 1B softball title (Inchelium was third) and baseball crown last spring.
The Warriors finished second in state football and volleyball.
The boys’ basketball team was second and the girls’ team was seventh.
The Warriors softball team destroyed opponents 31-4 over three games, two of which were shortened due to huge leads.
ACH opened state May 25 with a statement, pounding Rainier Christian, 16-0 in three innings.
In the second game, Colton proved to be ACH’s toughest opponent.
The Warriors led 2-0 after the first inning and 4-2 into the top of the seventh when the Wildcats (struck for two runs to tie the game.
In the bottom of the eighth, No. 9 hitter Ocean Parrish walked, stole second and went to third on a single by Mckenna Oliver.
Tiff Boutain had walked and reached second on Oliver's single.
That set up Sarah Bradshaw, who drove a hit to right centerfield to drive in Parrish with the winning run.
ACH finished with 12 hits while Colton had 13 hits.
After the close semifinal win, the championship proved a breeze with an 11-0 win over Quilcene.
The Warriors baseball team topped Colton, 8-4, to claim the state 1B baseball championship.
ACH jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first before Colton tied the game at two-all in the top of the fourth.
The Warriors responded with two runs in the bottom of the fourth, then added three runs in the fifth and another run in the sixth.
The Wildcats (18-8) made a comeback in the top of the seventh, scoring two runs.
ACH (27-0) finished with nine hits and two errors to Colton's six hits and five errors.
Dalton Kentner pitched into the sixth, throwing 107 pitches to strike out 10, walk one and give up two earned runs on six hits.
Ryan Sample struck out the final batter to end the game.
ACH opened state with wins of 7-1 over Sunnyside Christian and, in the semifinals, 2-0 over Pomeroy.
The Brewster High School baseball team finished second in the state 2B tournament.
Tri-Cities Prep got some revenge against the Bears in a 14-7 pounding in the game.
“Obviously, not the ending we wanted,” Brewster coach Todd Phillips said after the game. “But have to be proud of what we accomplished this year. We still have a fairly young team (one graduate, Caiden Riggan). We should be even stronger next year, looking to take that next step.”
The Bears, which brought home a second-place 2B state trophy, had beaten Tri-Cities Prep, 12-6, in the District 5/6 championship game two weeks earlier.
Brewster opened state May 19 winning 5-3 over St. George’s and 4-0 over Asotin, with both being loser-out games.
On May 25 in the semifinals, Brewster won 7-1 over Adna, while Tri-Cities Prep won 11-6 over Kalama.
Jay Nearents and Max Cheeseman of Okanogan became two-time state 1B/2B/1A doubles tennis champions.
“What a wild tournament for our boys,” Okanogan coach Jeff Cheeseman said after state. “The match-ups were almost the same as last year except our first-round match was against Goldendale instead of Zillah. But the rest was the same.”
Nearents/Cheeseman topped John Hanna and Alden Bothamley of Goldendale, 6-1, 6-0, to open state.
The Bulldog duo then knocked off Wilson Mosier and Michael Yang of University Prep, 6-3, 7-6 (2), in the quarterfinals Friday.
The boys were down 2-5 in the third set before getting the set to a tiebreaker, which they won.
“I was ready to talk to them about how to win the third set when they started coming back,” coach Cheeseman said.
In the semifinals Saturday, Nearents/Cheeseman powered past Cole Harrington and Micah Wilbowo of Charles Wright Academy 6-0, 6-3.
The Okanogan teammates brought home the state championship trophy with a 7-6 (7-3), 2-6, 6-4 win over Christian Keanui and Jasen Mansfield of University Prep.
Eagle Boy and jockey/owner Scott Abrahamson found a way to enter the record books after claiming the second fourth-straight overall World-Famous Suicide championship in August.
“Winning four times means a lot to my family,” said Abrahamson after four days of racing. “This horse is amazing. He’s the greatest horse. Last year Eagle Boy had sewed up the title on Saturday. This year we had to go for it.”
Abrahamson, 20, dedicated the victory, as he has in past wins, to his dad, Leroy Abrahamson, and grandma, Sue Palmer.
“They were the only reason I started racing,” he said.
Eagle Boy entered Sunday’s final race of four with nine points and a one-point lead in the standings over Onyx, which is owned by Shawnnae and Oliver Pakootas and ridden by Pakootas.
There were three other horses within striking distance if Eagle Boy faltered and did not score Sunday.
They included Lonesome with seven points, Black Shay with six points and Jackpot with five points.
Scoring for the four races competed after each performance of the Omak Stampede from Thursday to Sunday was five points for first, four points for second, three points for third, two points for fourth and a point for fifth.
The horse with the most points after four races earned the overall championship.
That’s what Eagle Boy and Scott Abrahamson did, earning the top prize by grinding out a third-place finish Sunday. The three points parlayed with a second on Thursday and first on Friday produced 12 points.
Abrahamson said Eagle Boy was skittish the first three races before settling down Sunday.
“Sunday was the only day he stood on the line. We are usually bad on the line,” Abrahamson said. “Today he stood like a rock. We flew off the hill like I wanted, too. He was smooth.”
Christina Gibson of Carlton competed in several sled dog races last year and, with her team she’s raised, plans to do more this winter.
That includes races in Wyoming and Idaho.
And you never know, she might return to Alaska’s Iditarod.
Gibson, formerly from near Riverside and now living near Carlton, competed in the 150-mile, two-day Iditarod Junior in Alaska last February.
“To work so hard to meet a goal is to pour your heart and soul into what you do,” said Gibson then 17 after the race. “To accomplish that goal, is beyond incredible. The human vocabulary does not have a word that describes it, because it cannot be put into words.”
The race is for those age 14 to 17 and runs from Knik Lake to Yentna Station Roadhouse and to the finish in Willow.
When the teens reach Yentna Station located on the big bend of the Yentna River, they’ll camp with their dogs for 10 hours before hitting the trail early in the morning for the final leg of the race. The start differential is added to the 10-hour required rest.
“I first heard of the Junior Iditarod when I was twelve and didn't yet have dogs, though I had run a friend’s dog once,” Gibson said. “He told me about the race, and it sparked an interest for me. I had wanted to run Iditarod since I was four but had never heard of a race for teens. This bumped my goal of having a team up. A year later we moved to the Lime Belt in Omak, and at thirteen, I got my first dog.”
The next four years she competed in many races to prepare for Alaska
That included starting her Whiteout Racing Kennel.
“I know all of this could not have been accomplished without some very, very experienced adult mushers helping me every step of the way,” she said. “The act of running a dog team is incredible complex and takes fine tuning that no one will ever master. I am eternally grateful to my friend and mentor Laura Daugerau, who I could not have done this without.”
First, Chandler Smith of Brewster and Jill Townsend of Okanogan are on the nationally ranked Gonzaga women’s basketball.
Both are contributed with lots of minutes for the Zags.
Second, Jim Townsend of Okanogan and Ryan Nilles of Omak are on Eastern Washington University’s football team that will play in the FCS national championship Jan. 5 in Frisco, Texas.
The No. 3-ranked Eags will take on No. 1 North Dakota State (13-0).
In the semifinals, EWU eliminated No. 7 Maine (9-4), 50-19, and North Dakota topped No. 5 South Dakota State (9-3), 44-21.
Leithan Gillespie and Clancy Andrews of Okanogan competed in national cross country races last summer. Andrews competed at nationals this fall.
Myra Rasmussen, Lexi LaDoux and Renea Taylor of Okanogan competed this summer in USATF Junior Olympic competitions. LaDoux competed at the national meet in North Carolina where she
Kesla Fry of Omak will be part of a national contingent performing over the holidays in the London New Year’s Day Parade.
She was one of more than 800 high school cheerleaders from across the U.S. who will be representing varsity spirit in the world-famous parade.
Fry will be part of an All-American program selected from Universal cheerleaders Association and National Cheerleaders Association at summer camps across the country.
Conner Ashworth of Brewster pitched this summer in a national baseball tournament with a U16 Northwest national team.
Rian Ellis and Jordan Jessee of Okanogan plus Payton Nielsen of Almira/Coulee-Hartline played in the 24th annual East-West Earl Barden Classic football game. Okanogan’s Erick Judd and Dory Jones coached.
Sarah Works, an Okanogan grad, was named director of player development for University of Mexico men’s basketball team.
The Okanogan boys’ team took second and the girls fourth, and Omak girls were third (with four lifters) at the Washington State Powerlifting Championship.
Edwin, Kristi and Steve Marchand of Omak won medals playing at the Huntsman World Senior Games.