Surgery keeps Yelm coach in the game

For a brief time, Mark Tate considered not coaching the Yelm High School boys soccer team this season.

Knowing the players and talent coming back from the Tornados’ state playoff team, it would hard for him not to want to be on the sidelines. But ultimately, the decision needed to come from the heart.

Not even a major surgery to restore a regular heart rhythm was going to keep the 41-year-old from coaching the sport he loves.

“I wasn’t sure if I could coach this year,” Tate said. “But I have good kids. The boys are awesome. It’s been pretty easy with those guys.”

Tate hasn’t skipped a beat since undergoing a successful heart procedure in January. He’ll lead the Tornados (11-2 overall) in what could be their biggest game of the season against Capital at 6 p.m. today at Yelm High School. The winner most likely will claim the Class 3A Western Cascade Conference title with one week remaining in the regular season.

Yelm won the first matchup against Capital, 2-1, in a shootout.

For the past 10 years, Tate has suffered from atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat. During that time, he had seven electrical cardioversions – a procedure in which an electric current is used to reset the heart’s rhythm back in its regular pattern. Even three ablations didn’t work to correct the atrial fibrillation and restore a regular heartbeat.

“They didn’t seem to hold,” Tate said.

In January, Tate finally got the relief he’d been hoping for. He underwent a maze heart surgery at Tacoma’s St. Joseph’s Medical Center. The procedure can restore a regular heartbeat by creating scar tissue that acts as barriers to the electrical pathways in the heart’s upper chambers.

“My wife and I thought it’d be similar to ablations,” Tate said. “It was much more major.”

Tate, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Nisqually Middle School in Lacey, took a month off from teaching and returned to the classroom in mid-February.

Tate said the only effect the surgery has had on his coaching is that he gets tired more easily.

“It was a major deal,” Tate said. “There were no complications. Everything was perfect.”

Navigators continue to roll

It’s as if Northwest Christian baseball coach Don Heinze predicted the Navigators’ 2009 season three years ago. When the five seniors on the team were freshmen, Heinze saw the potential of what they could bring to the team.

“I kind of figured this would be the year for us,” Heinze said.

“I figured this would be a good year but never expected to be undefeated.”

At 15-0, the Navigators have steamrolled many of their opponents. Ten of their wins have come by the 10-run mercy rule. They’ve played three teams who were one or two classifications higher than them.

With only a handful of difficult games remaining, the Navigators are optimistic about another postseason berth.

Last season, they won the fourth-place trophy at the Class 2B state tournament – the school’s first state trophy in baseball – behind the play of reigning 2B player of the year Nathan Burres.

“I’m hoping we get pushed into the postseason,” Heinze said.

Olympia cracks state rankings

The Olympia baseball team (15-1) made its season debut in the state baseball poll this week by being ranked No. 7 in Class 4A.

The Bears clinched their second consecutive Narrows League Bay Division title with an 11-8 win over Bellarmine last week. Olympia’s only loss came in a nonleague game against Yelm.

Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473