It was a year filled with hurrahs, cheers and excitement in South Sound sports.
Five schools won state titles.
At Tumwater, Sid Otton and his band of green and gold-clad boys won a state football title, Otton’s fifth.
River Ridge’s Tom Kelly, Yelm’s Gaylord Strand and Black Hills’ Tom St. Clair all won their first.
Northwest Christian was no stranger to state titles as it picked up its fifth straight in girls cross country.
NO. 1: Champs again
Tumwater put an exclamation point to a memorable season by winning the 2A state football championship, beating Archbishop Murphy, 34-14, in the final.
Tumwater coach Sid Otton raised a state championship trophy above his head for the fifth time in his 37 years as the T-Birds coach. It was Tumwater’s first state title in 17 years.
“I told them 17 years has been too long,” Otton said after the game. “I knew they were going to do something special tonight and they did.”
Tumwater finished the season with a 12-1 record, losing only to Olympia. The T-Birds won state titles in 1987, ’89, ’90 and ’93.
NO. 2: River Ridge’s dream season comes true
Nearly perfect, the Hawks won the 2A girls state basketball championship, finishing with a 26-1 record.
“I don’t have words for it,” said Kelly, who was in his first year as River Ridge’s coach. “It’s unbelievable.”
River Ridge won its third state title in four years by defeating Prosser, 57-46, in the state final.
The Hawks beat Ellensburg in the 2008 final and Tumwater in the 2007 final. River Ridge’s Jennifer Cole was the tournament MVP and scored a game-high 16 points in the final.
The win capped a season that saw River Ridge win conference and district titles.
NO. 3: Simply by taking a knee in the end zone and pointing upward after scoring a touchdown, Tumwater’s Ronnie Hastie draws national attention
He was flagged for unsportsmanlike contact. And people across the country, upset by the call, saw the penalty as an attack on prayer and Christianity.
“It’s my way of giving glory to God, not to myself,” Hastie said about his brief end zone prayer in the 2A state semifinals. “I want to give God the credit.”
Hastie scored on a 23-yard run in the second quarter in a 63-27 win over East Valley of Spokane. As Hastie was getting up from taking a knee in the end zone, the official threw the flag, hitting Hastie.
A video of the play went viral on the Internet and Hastie was interviewed on national radio.
“I am surprised how much attention it’s gotten,” he said.
NO. 4: With a basketball in his hands, Quincy Wilder was a sensation, capable of popping the 3-pointer or driving to the hoop for a monstrous dunk
It was off the court that the former All-American guard at The Evergreen State College struggled.
He’s now serving a 25-year sentence in an Idaho prison for selling drugs. He went from hoops hero to fallen star.
“You’ve got to be careful who your friends are,” Wilder said. “That’s what I tell kids today.”
If he’s not paroled – he’s eligible in 2018 – he’ll be released Dec. 26, 2030, at age 52.
“Quincy’s story is a tragedy,” said Keith Cooper, Wilder’s high school coach and now the head coach at Saint Martin’s. “No one has fallen further.”
NO. 5: Tyler Sundberg wasn’t an easy tackle
Rarely did Capital senior running back Tyler Sundberg go down after the first hit. He’d keep his feet and plunge for extra yardage .
“He’s a tough kid. A tough competitor,” Capital coach J.D. Johnson said. “That first hit doesn’t stop him.”
He rushed for 2,475 yards, averaging 9.5 yards per carry. He scored 29 touchdowns and was named the state’s 3A player of the year. He was a big reason why Capital won a league title and reached the state quarterfinals.
“Tyler doesn’t like to lose,” Johnson said.
But a calf injury in Capital’s 13-12 win over O’Dea in the quarterfinals ended Sundberg’s season. Without him, the Cougars lost to Kamiakin in the semifinals, 45-18.
NO. 6: Blake Poole, a tireless rebounder
Last season, Saint Martin’s Blake Poole was third in the NCAA Division II rebounding with 12.2 per game. He led the Great Northwest Athletic Conference in rebounds, scoring average (21) and field goal percentage (60.7).
“With his work ethic, I expect even better things are ahead for both him and the team,” Keith Cooper said.
A preseason All-American, the 6-foot-5 forward doesn’t necessarily out-jump opponents in snagging rebounds. His secret is to outhustle them for the rebound.
“He doesn’t give up,” Cooper said.
Poole’s relentless play helped lift the Saints to a 14-13 record, giving SMU its first back-to-back winning seasons in nearly 20 years.
NO. 7: Greg Santora loved coaching golf
For 30 years, golf and Greg Santora were a perfect fit. He coached Capital’s golf from 1980 to 2010, until he retired in May at age 60.
He record in duals was 253-37. He sent at least one golfer to state for 31 straight seasons. He was inducted into the Washington State Golf Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1999.
He never finished with a losing record.
“It’s going to be hard not to be the Cougars’ golf coach,” Santora said. “I spent half my life coaching golf at Capital. It’s time for a change.”
NO. 8: Their motto was “unfinished business&rdquo
After placing second at the 3A state wrestling championship in back-to-back years, Yelm finished the job by winning its first state title.
“I can’t put it into words,” coach Gaylord Strand said afterwards. “Really, I’m so happy for everyone.”
Dylan Hyder was Yelm’s lone state champ. But he was one of eight state medalists for the Tornados.
Dillon Harris and James Bradley both finished second for Yelm. After placing second at 103 pounds as a freshman and third at 112 as a sophomore, Hyder became Strand’s 10th state champ in 36 years at Yelm.
“This feels amazing,” Hyder said. “It’s the best feeling ever.”
NO. 9: With Cody Peterson guts out a pair of seconds in the hurdles and Trent Alsin comes from behind to win the 100 meters as Black Hills wins its first state title in track
“I just wanted them to focus on their events,” Black Hills coach Tom St. Clair said.
Black Hills got plenty of help from a strong supporting cast, grabbing two firsts, three seconds and two thirds. All 10 of Black Hills’ athletes who qualified for state scored.
Alsin helped give Black Hills its other first by coming from behind to help win the 400-meter relay in a season-best 43.25.
NO. 10: Overcoming injuries to their top runner, Northwest Christian girls cross-country team makes history
The Navigators won their fifth straight state championship.
“They’ve had some challenges, some injuries this year,” Northwest Christian coach Larry Weber said. “This was a real team effort.”
Joanna Sowers ran a lifetime best race, finishing the hilly 3.2-mile course in 19 minutes and 37 seconds to finish fourth overall and first on her team.
Elizabeth Weber, NW Christian’s top runner coming into the season but slowed by an iron deficiency and asthma, finished ninth in 20:21, third on the team.
Gail Wood: 360-754-5443 firstname.lastname@example.org