The IssaquahPress Sports B4 Wednesday January 8, 2014 Issaquah boys go 1-3 in national tournament By Greg Farrar Liberty High School freshmen varsity athletes, swimmer Sydney Hartford, cross country twin sisters Brigette and Kelsey Takeuchi and football player Noah Pritchett, stand by a poster in the Liberty High School commons proclaiming ‘We Are One,’ the motto of Patriot athletes and their student body fans. FRESHMEN PHENOMS Liberty’s fall sports underclassmen take the stage By Christina Corrales-Toy firstname.lastname@example.org Less than a year ago, Brigette and Kelsey Takeuchi, Sydney Hartford and Noah Pritchett roamed the halls at Maywood Middle School. Fast forward to their first year at Liberty High School. Three of them have competed among the top athletes in the state, while the fourth has found a place on a varsity squad that rarely makes room for freshmen. Liberty sports teams found a lot of success this fall, due in no small part to these budding stars. Brigette and Kelsey Takeuchi — cross-country Liberty coach Mike Smith knew of the talented twins on Maywood’s cross-country team, he just didn’t know what sport they would choose in high school. Luckily for him, the Takeuchis chose crosscountry instead of soccer. They were integral parts of the Liberty team that finished sixth at state. Brigette became the school’s first cross-country state medalist when she took fourth overall with a time of 18 minutes, 31.79 seconds. “It was really fun, because everyone supported each other no matter how they did,” Brigette said. “I also really like the course.” It’s a good thing, too, because if the Takeuchis have their way, they’ve got three more visits to the state competition in their future. Kelsey completed the state course in less than 20 minutes, putting her among the state’s top 30 runners in the 3A division. High school cross-country is different than anything she saw at Maywood, Kelsey admitted, but it’s a lot more rewarding. “We used to think that our 2-mile runs were really long, but we don’t even do 2-mile runs anymore,” she said. Smith said he’s excited about the girls’ potential. “We look at increasing pace, mileage and leadership every year, so over the next couple of years, they’ll hopefully have progressively faster times and serve as role models for the other runners,” he said. Brigette, in particular, has the talent to compete on a national stage, Smith said. He added that the Takeuchis’ work ethic and parental support separate them from the pack. “How you do in cross country is based on how hard you work,” Brigette said. “So, if you put in a lot of hard work, then you will be more successful.” Both girls said they hope to continue to drop times as their careers progress, with the ultimate goal of running in college at a place with warm weather, such as California or Hawaii. Sydney Hartford — swimming Sydney Hartford feels at ease in the pool. “I love swimming because I’m actually more graceful in the water than I am walking or running,” she said. There is no doubting Hartford’s prowess in the water, where she was a member of Liberty’s statemedalist 200 freestyle relay team. That team took fifth place and Hartford recorded a season-best split. Liberty coach Kris Daughters, who knows a thing or two about top freshman swimmers after the early successes of Mackenna Briggs, Lauryn Hepp and Ellie Hohensinner, said she was pleasantly surprised about Hartford’s contribution to the team. “Sydney has competed on a club team for the past few years, so she comes with more experience and endurance than most ninth-graders,” she said. “She is also very tall and lean, and that makes a difference in swimming.” Hartford admitted she was a little nervous joining the Patriots squad, but she was quickly welcomed by her teammates. “I was blown away just by how much they accepted the freshmen into the group,” she said. “On the first day, I had multiple people walk up to me and introduce me to other people on the team.” Hartford likely isn’t done growing, Daughters said, which helps in a sport where height is valuable. “I loved seeing her get more confident this year,” Daughters said. “I’m not sure she knew she would have the impact she did when the season began.” Hartford said she isn’t sure if she wants to purse swimming in college, but her goal is to make it to state in an individual. Noah Pritchett — football It’s rare for a Liberty freshman to crack the football team’s varsity roster, let alone start; if he does, he must be pretty special. In coach Steve Valach’s 15 years at the school, he said he can count the number of freshmen to start on varsity on one hand. One of those is ninth-grader Noah Pritchett. “Noah has size, strength and aggression,” Valach said. “He’s also a humble kid who’s willing to work hard and be coachable.” Pritchett is a soft-spoken lineman, with an unrivaled determination and work ethic. He began training and watching film last year, hoping to make varsity. “I went to the summer workouts and I would walk to Liberty if I couldn’t get a ride,” he said. “I’d also go in the weight room in my free time at home.” When not at school or doing homework, he’s working out, even in the offseason, with an eye toward getting the chance to play in college. Like most Liberty football players, Pritchett got his start in the Five Star football program. It was quite a leap, he admitted, from the youth leagues to KingCo. “The game speed is a lot faster in high school football, but after a few games I got used to it,” he said. “I’m getting the hang of it.” Valach said he’s eager to see how Pritchett develops in the next few years, but he knows that effort will never be an issue for the freshman. “Noah has tremendous potential, and I am excited to see how a year of varsity experience and an offseason in the weight room impacts his play on Friday nights,” he said. “Hard work in the weight room and game experience do so much for a player’s confidence.” Pritchett is rather humble about his lofty accomplishment in seeing the field at such a young age, but more than anything, he said he is extremely grateful to Valach for giving him the opportunity to play for the Patriots. “I’m really fortunate to be able to play on this team and I’ll do anything I can to help the team,” he said. “I’m going to work out and just try to be the best lineman I can be going forward.” The Issaquah High School boys basketball team spent a portion of its winter break competing in the prestigious, invitation-only MaxPreps Holiday Classic in Palm Springs, Calif. The Eagles went 1-3 in the four-day tournament, featuring top teams from across the country. Issaquah opened the competition with a 56-51 loss to Westchester, of California, last year’s tournament champion. The teams followed that performance with a 62-51 loss to Arizona’s Sunnyslope High School on Dec. 27. The Eagles captured their only victory of the tournament with a 68-56 win over Beverly Hills High School on Dec. 28. Issaquah lost to California’s Harvard Westlake 61-58 in its final game. Liberty boys place fifth at Surf ‘N Slam The Liberty High School boys basketball team traveled to sunny San Diego during winter break to compete in the annual Surf ‘N Slam high school basketball tournament. The Patriots went 1-2 in the three-day competition, good for fifth place in its eight-team bracket featuring schools from Washington, California and Utah. Liberty began the tournament with a 74-41 loss to Copper Hills, of Utah, Dec. 28. The team bounced back the next day, though, with a convincing 74-18 win over Yosemite, of California. Senior Kellen Birdsall, who was also named to the all-tournament team, was the player of the game for Liberty’s only win. The Patriots wrapped up the tournament with a 50-42 loss to California high school Casa Roble. Former Issaquah QB earns awards Former Issaquah High School quarterback Ryan Bergman broke school records and earned league honors as he wrapped up his junior campaign at Western Oregon University. Bergman passed for 3,225 yards and 27 touchdowns, both singleseason records for the school. He was also named first team All Great Northwest Athletic Conference, third team Don Hansen All Super Region 3 and the 2013 Western Oregon University team MVP. Bergman graduated from Issaquah in 2010. Spartans produce solid results at holiday tournament By Neil Pierson npierson@ sammamishreview.com Basketball teams that shoot 11 of 31 at the freethrow line don’t typically win, but the Skyline High School girls managed to do it during their most recent outing. In the championship game of the Emerald Division at the West Coast Jamboree in Dublin, Calif., Skyline shot 35 percent at the charity stripe. Yet the Spartans managed to outlast host Valley Christian, 57-54, on Dec. 30. The Spartans (6-3 overall) built a 45-35 lead after three quarters, but had to fend off a late challenge from a Valley Christian team sporting a 9-0 record and playing in front of its home fans. After Valley Christian cut its deficit to one point, Skyline made three pivotal plays down the stretch, coach Greg Bruns said. First, the Spartans picked up a defensive rebound and made a couple of transition passes that resulted in a layup for Taylor McKerlich with 30 seconds left. Then, after another Valley Christian basket again made it a one-point game, Maddy Adamson sank two free throws to put Skyline up by three with 10 seconds left. Adamson blocked Valley Christian’s potential gametying 3-point attempt at the other end of the court, sealing the win. “It got pretty frantic at the end,” Bruns said. Skyline started the Bay Area tourney — a 100team, 13-bracket spectacle — with a 71-33 blowout of Washington, Ga. Eleven Contributed The Skyline High School girls basketball team celebrated Dec. 30 with a division championship at the West Coast Jamboree in California. The Spartans upped their record to 6-3 with three wins at the tournament. of the 12 Spartans scored, led by Shelby Kassuba’s 16 points and Promise Taylor’s 13. Skyline advanced to the title game with a 42-26 tri- umph over Pleasant Grove, Utah. The Spartans’ defense held Pleasant Grove to single-digit scoring in each quarter, and Kassuba paced the offense with 10 points. McKerlich had 14 points, 17 rebounds, two blocks and two steals to lead the way against Valley Christian, and the sophomore earned the tourney’s Most Valuable Player award. Bruns said McKerlich made only two of 12 freethrow attempts in the final, but she made up for it with some big rebounds and her overall tenacity around the hoop. “It’s kind of the makeup of our team. We don’t have a superstar,” Bruns said. “She’s been consistent, and she carried us through the tournament.” Kassuba — a senior who averaged 12 points in the three games — was an all- tourney selection, as was senior post Bryn deVita. The trip included plenty of team-bonding activities. The Spartans went sightseeing around San Francisco, took in a women’s collegiate game at Cal-Berkeley, and attended a practice session with the Saint Mary’s College women. Skyline returns to action Jan. 8 with a 7:30 p.m. start at Woodinville. The Spartans will try to avoid a 1-4 start in KingCo Conference play. Bruns said his players are good free-throw shooters in practice, but that needs to start translating to games. The team made some noticeable defensive improvements on the California trip. “Little by little, I think, they’re understanding what team defense is all about,” he said.