Landmark accomplishments — if a lower-than-usual quota of state championships — dotted the Twin Harbors sports landscape in 2018.
Raymond senior Karlee Freeman closed out her prep track career in typically spectacular fashion. Montesano’s girls captured a surprising state high school golf championship, Hoquiam’s football team took an unbeaten record into the state quarterfinals and several area teams ended long state-qualifying droughts,
Inevitably, there was some heartbreak as well, such as Elma’s state runner-up finish in softball.
Here’s a look back at some of the area’s top sports stories of 2018.
Basketball: Monte boys end state drought
For all its success in other sports, Montesano has seldom turned many heads in boys basketball. The well-balanced Bulldogs, however, ended two long droughts last winter.
Montesano captured its first league championship since 1980 by winning the Evergreen 1A League title with a rout of Forks in a regular-season finale. Coach Doug Galloway’s crew later earned its first state berth in 36 years by placing third at district and winning a loser-out regional contest.
The latter feat came the hard way. After a district semifinal loss, the Bulldogs needed two loser-out victories to punch their tickets to regionals.
L.J. Valley scored 24 points as Montesano advanced to state with a 61-48 victory over La Center. Monte’s stay at state was brief, however, as it fell to the Northwest School, 47-38, in the single-elimination opening round,
State appearances have been more commonplace at Taholah. The Chitwhin boys won the district 1B championship and earned their fourth successive state berth with a regional victory over Riverside Christian.
Taholah’s girls, second at district, joined their male counterparts at state with a regional win over Northwest Yeshiva.
Neither Taholah team survived the single-elimination opening round at state. Taholah senior Zach Cain, who averaged more than 23 points per game, was named to the Associated Press Class 1B all-state team.
Otherwise successful seasons ended in frustration for Elma’s and Montesano’s girls.
State-ranked for most of the season, Elma lost a thriller to La Center in the district 1A championship game. The district runner-up finish, however, did not guarantee the Eagles a regional berth. Due to a change in state allotments, District IV received only two regional slots in girls basketball.
That meant East County rivals Elma and Montesano were forced to face off for the final regional berth. Although they had split with the Eagles in league play, the Bulldogs — a club essentially rebooted after extensive graduation losses from the previous season — entered the rubber match as decided underdogs. But they shut down Elma’s high-powered attack and survived an hour-long power outage at Hoquiam Square Garden for a 46-30 win.
That earned Monte its sixth successive regional appearance. But the Bulldogs, still yet to win a regional game since the state format was changed several years ago, fell victim to cold shooting and turnovers in a regional loss to Freeman.
Community college sports: Chokers ascending
In both wrestling and women’s basketball, this was an unusually productive winter sports season for Grays Harbor College teams.
The Chokers registered all sorts of milestones in women’s basketball. Led by NWAC Conference scoring leader Alexia Thrower but featuring only a nine-woman roster, they won their first-ever division championship. At one stage, they put together a 22-game winning streak — undoubtedly also a school record.
Their success, however, didn’t extend to the NWAC tournament in Everett. The Chokers lost to Big Bend, 70-59, in the opening round.
Thrower finished the season with a 26-point per game average.
Grays Harbor College wrestling teams, successful since the relatively recent revival of the program, continued to cut a wide swath in the Northwest regional ranks.
Winning eight individual titles, the Choker men captured their third successive conference championship by finishing 43 1/2 points ahead of Washington State University (which, like most four-year Northwest colleges, offers wrestling as a club sport).
The Chokers went on to finish 10th at nationals in Texas. Josh Pine, the nephew of GHC coach Phil Pine, was the highest GHC finisher at the national level by taking fourth at 157 pounds.
The GHC women fared even better at the national level with a seventh-place team finish. Grays Harbor’s Paige Baynes won the 191-pound championship and was one of five All-Americans on the team.
Track and field: Triple Crown for Freeman
Already one of the most decorated athletes in Twin Harbors history, Raymond’s Karlee Freeman concluded her prep career by capturing the throwing “Triple Crown” at state.
Freeman won her fourth successive state Class 2B girls discus championship with a throw of 167-2. She also successfully defended her shot put title — and her 48-6 mark in that event represented an all-classification state meet record. Freeman also notched her first state title in the girls javelin (130-11).
For her career, Freeman wound up with eight state championships and a handful of national Junior Olympic age-group titles. Her personal-best 173-3 in the discus (set at the Chehalis Activators meet) was the second-best mark in state history.
After being selected as the Gatorade State Female Athlete of the Year, Freeman joined the USC track team.
Aberdeen senior Bryan Sidor authored one of the year’s top feel-good stories with a state title of his own.
Edged by an eyelash at the state meet as a junior, Sidor ended his high school career in style by winning the state 2A 400-meter run. His time of 49.16 at state was a personal best. Sidor plans to continue his track career at Central Washington University.
Other state champions included Raymond’s Jimmy Thepsoumphou and North Beach’s Tawni Blankenship and Ben Poplin.
By clearing 11 feet, Blankenship repeated as the girls 2B pole vault champ. Poplin threw 48 feet to take the boys 2B shot put and Thepsoumphou prevailed in the boys 2B high jump.
Girls golf: Monte earns state crown
An impressive display of depth enabled Montesano to win its first state championship in girls golf.
The victory was unexpected, since the Bulldogs have seldom contended at the state level and lacked the ace traditionally associated with golf champions. No Monte golfer, in fact, cracked the top 10 in the state individual standings.
But Monte’s Mylaina Parker broke 90 in both state rounds at Spokane to place 13th overall. Her par on the final hole proved to be the difference as the Bulldogs edged Annie Wright of Tacoma by two points in the team standings.
Montesano’s Glory Grubb and Macey Wecker also finished in the top 25 at state. Five Bulldogs survived the 18-hole cut.
The Bulldogs had provided a harbinger of things to come by winning the District IV title earlier in May. Montesano did not win the district individual title, but swept the next five places.
Softball: Near miss
What would have been a Cinderella story lacked only a happy ending for Elma’s youthful Eagles.
A team without a senior on the roster, the Eagles played second fiddle to traditional state power Montesano throughout the league and district campaigns. While Monte won the league and district championships, Elma settled for the district’s third and final state berth.
The script abruptly flipped, however, on the opening day of the state 1A tournament in Richland. While the Eagles were advancing to the semifinals with wins over Cascade of Leavenworth and Cle Elum-Roslyn, Monte was stunned in eight innings by Chewelah, 7-5, in the opening round.
After Quin Mikel pitched her third victory of the tournament by beating Chewelah in the semis, Elma suddenly emerged as the favorite over Lakeside of Nine Mile Falls in the championship game. Lakeside, however, sandwiched 20 hits around an uncharacteristically high number of Elma walks and errors to end Southwest Washington’s domination of this tournament with a 19-9 triumph. Elma actually owned a 7-6 lead in the fourth inning.
Montesano didn’t entirely waste its 21st consecutive state appearance. Shrugging off the disappointment of their early loss, the Bulldogs came out of the losers bracket with five straight victories to claim a third-place state trophy.
Montesano center fielder Abbi Parkin and Hoquiam catcher Maddie German were all-state selections.
Pe Ell-Willapa Valley saw its bid for a second straight state 2B title end with a quarterfinal loss to Northwest Christian. The Titans also rebounded to take third.
For the second straight year, Ocosta made the 2B semifinals only to come home without a state trophy. Wishkah Valley was a state qualifier in the 1B classification but also failed to place.
Girls swimming: Bobcats win three state titles
On different weeks, Aberdeen demonstrated both its depth and first-place punch.
Despite not winning a single individual swimming event (they took two relays, while Mary Lang won diving), the Bobcats easily notched their sixth straight district 2A team title in a meet hosted for the first time by the YMCA of Grays Harbor. The Cats beat runner-up Tumwater by more than 200 points.
A change in swimming apparel worked wonders for Aberdeen’s individual fortunes at state at Federal Way.
Junior Annika Eisele, who had missed her entire sophomore season due to injury, took the state 100-yard butterfly in a photo finish, Her sophomore teammate Anna Weber repeated as the state 2A 100-yard breaststroke champion.
Eisele and Weber joined Kayleia Sias and Katie Lewis on a title-winning 200-yard medley relay team. The Bobcats barely missed a state team trophy with a fifth-place finish.
Wrestling: State semifinal washout
For Twin Harbors schools, this was one of the strangest of all Mat Classics,.
No fewer than six area wrestlers advanced to the semifinals of the multi-classification tournament in the Tacoma Dome. They wound up going 0-6 in that round.
The highest state finishes came from North Beach wrestlers. Garrett Armbruster was third in the boys 126-pound classification. Natasha Fruh also placed third in the 235-pound girls division.
Football: Hoquiam’s run to state quarterfinals
In what turned out to be an ultra-competitive 1A Evergreen League football season, it was the Hoquiam Grizzlies that emerged unscathed.
Hoquiam downed the upstart Elma Eagles on a blocked field goal with seconds left on Oct. 5 followed by a 12-point win over perennial league-power Montesano a week later.
Hoquiam finished the season 10-1, its lone loss coming in the state quarterfinals to Lynden Christian, capping off one of the more memorable seasons in the program’s history.
For their efforts, multiple Hoquiam players were named to all-league and all-state teams, including quarterback Payton Quintanilla, who was named the league’s MVP and defensive back Jackson Folkers, who was named First Team All-State.
Volleyball: Quite a season for Ocosta
The Ocosta Wildcats had quite a historic season in 2018, rolling to an undefeated league record and a run to the state playoffs.
The Wildcats impressed with a 14-0 regular-season record, a 2B Central League title and a run to the 2B District IV title game, where they lost to Kalama.
The Wildcats also picked up a win over Manson in the consolation round of the state tournament.
To top it off, outside hitter Kaylee Barnum was named league MVP and First Team All-State as she broke the Ocosta school record for kills in a prep career.
Teammate Erin Snider also earned all-league and all-state accolades and broke the all-time school record for assists in a career.
The Grays Harbor News Group’s Ryan Sparks contributed to this report.