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HIGH SCHOOL SPRING SPORTS 2019 A special section of The Columbian

Golden Arms Softball pitching has evolved in the past decade, and Southwest Washington has two masters of the craft

Inside ➤

Preview stories for each local baseball and softball league

Previews and key dates for boys soccer, track and field, girls golf and girls tennis

The Columbian, Sunday, March 17, 2019

Ridgefield’s Kaia Oliver, left, and Woodland’s Olivia Grey

Art & Science of Pitching


Prep softball pitchers develop more than speed to put spin on success

A Special Section of The Columbian


Columbian staff writer

■ Stories by Meg Wochnick,

Andy Buhler, Micah Rice, Tim Martinez and Jeff Klein. ■ Cover photo

by Alisha Jucevic ■ Page design

by Micah Rice

TABLE OF CONTENTS Cover story 4A GSHL Baseball 4A GSHL Softball 3A GSHL Baseball 3A GSHL Softball 2A GSHL Baseball 2A GSHL Softball 1A Trico Baseball 1A Trico Softball Boys Track and Field Girls Track and Field Boys Soccer Girls Golf Girls Tennis


2-3 4 6 7 8 9 11 13 14 15 16 17 18 19


or high school softball pitchers, it’s all about the spin. Woodland’s Olivia Grey and Ridgefield’s Kaia Oliver — two of the state’s top pitchers bound for NCAA Division I softball programs next year — say pitching is just as much sweet science as it is art. “It’s an amazing thing,” said Oliver, a Syracuse signee. The long reign of hard-throwing hurlers might’ve ended when the high school softball pitching rubber moved back 3 feet — from 40 feet to 43 — nationwide in 2011. The move came from the National Federation for State High School Associations to help create more offense in a game that favored dominant pitchers. Initially, it made things tougher on pitchers and easier on hitters in the years that followed. But lately, pitchers have regained some of that dominance with an increase in strikeouts, and fewer hits and runs allowed. In other words, pitchers have mastered 43 feet. Oliver and Grey are no exception. They happen to be two of the state’s best. They also happen to compete in the same league and, again in 2019, will duel it out for 2A Greater St. Helens League supremacy. Grey, a Portland State signee, helped Woodland win its second softball state title with an undefeated 2018 season, striking out 380 batters, including 69 in four state games, and finishing with a 0.80 earned-run average. Grey threw a complete-game, no-hitter in her Beavers debut last spring. Oliver is in her fourth year as the Spudders’ starting pitcher. She struck out 115 batters and had a 1.49 ERA leading Ridgefield back to the state tournament last spring. With Oliver and Grey in particular, batters can always expect the unexpected.

The Columbian, Sunday, March 17, 2019


Ridgefield senior Kaia Oliver, left, and Woodland senior Olivia Grey have each signed to play collegiate softball. Oliver is headed to Syracuse and Grey will pitch for Portland State. about making that adjustment. The same goes for the hitters: Ridgefield coach Dusty Anchors adjusting their swing seeing the is in his third year coaching the ball for what Anchors said is oneSpudders, and has coached softball tenth of a second longer for that at the club and high school levels additional 3 feet to the plate. for 20 years. He was in favor of the The current generation of high pitching circle moving back 3 feet, school pitchers is accustomed to a move made voluntarily in 2010 by the Washington Interscholastic throwing the 43-foot distance to home plate. Activities Association one year In youth softball, the pitching before the mandatory date nationcircle is 30 feet from home plate wide. Anchors was head coach of Bremerton’s Olympic High softball at 8-and-under, and moves back 5 feet for the next two age groups. team at the time. By 14U, they’re throwing from 43 “Anything to make the sport feet, the current distance for high better,” the coach said. Anchors said small adjustments school, college and professional were made by both sides — hitters levels. For pitchers like Oliver, throughand pitchers — but the additional 3 feet didn’t make much of a differ- out youth ball adjustments took a bit of time to acclimate to the new ence. pitching distances, she said. “If you can throw 40 feet,” he said, “you can throw 43 feet. It’s Until 14U, Oliver overpowered

‘Making that adjustment’

hitters with two pitches — fastballs and change-ups. Eventually, batters caught up, and she added new spins. The drop ball came next. It’s one she says is her favorite pitch to throw. “It’s probably my most efficient pitch,” she said.

Speed and movement For hitters, that fraction of a second, the final 3 feet to home plate, also can make all the difference, said Jessica Flanagan, now a junior utility player at Portland State. “They’re jumping up just as much as you’re jumping up,” she said. Flanagan was a four-year all-league high school player at Woodland from 2013-16 and a PITCHING, Page 3

Pitching From Page 2 three-year starting catcher. At Woodland, she caught for pitchers Madi Sorensen, Nicholette Nesbitt and Haylee Michaud, a trio who had their own styles, she said. Now hitting better than .300 for the Vikings, Flanagan notes how big that final 3 feet is when a pitch comes to the plate that combines velocity and spin, especially facing pitchers from the Pacific-12 Conference, she said. Portland State hosts Oregon State in a doubleheader April 3 in Hillsboro and travels to Oregon later in April. “They have speed,” Flanagan said, “but they also have movement and that movement is huge. If you have a pitch coming in fast and moving, it’s a lot harder to hit.”

and it’s been a whole other level of love ever since.” More pitchers hone their Grey calls herself a craft year-round through finesse pitcher. She’s 6 feet club ball and private tall, throws between 60-65 instruction, and Oliver mph, and can throw seven and Grey are no exceppitches: fastball, change tions. And once a fastball is up, curveball, riseball, mastered, next is learning backdoor curveball, drop how to make the ball spin, ball, and off-speed drop or move. Those are the ball. deceptive pitches: curveWhile she doesn’t ball, change-up, rise ball, emphasize throwing hard drop ball. — “I see myself as more Even at the 12U level, of someone not knowing Oliver at Ridgefield overwhat’s coming next (to powered hitters with her batters),” she said — fastball’s velocity, but also Grey focuses on what she had an equally effective calls throwing top three changeup. ALISHA JUCEVIC/The Columbian pitches. “To this day,” Oliver said, “That’s all you really Kaia Oliver, left, and Olivia Grey each have powerful “I throw the same one. need,” she said. “As long fastballs. But what makes them elite pitchers are off-speed That pitch was so nasty. as you change the plan and pitches that mess with timing of opposing hitters. I’d get girls on it all the the view of the ball and time.” ment and to keep batters the infield. The pitching change speed, honestly, Not much has changed guessing. circle quickly drew her in. you’ll get any batter. for Ridgefield’s four-year For Grey at Woodland, “I was one of those peo“You have to set yourself pitcher, who committed she didn’t get her start at ple that thinks everyone apart.” to Syracuse her freshman pitcher while growing up should have an equal shot,” Oliver agrees. year. She throws 64 mph, in California. Grey was a Grey said, “and I never got “I focus on a couple of and relies a lot on her offmy shot. I wanted to try it speed for movement, place- catcher, then saw time in pitches,” she said, “to be

Dominance came early

really good at those pitches compared to have a lot of pitches and not being very good at them.” At one time, Oliver and Grey were teammates for the Portland-based NW Bullets softball club team. The two also bring out the best in each other, now facing off at least twice a year in the regular season. Last year, they split their two regularseason meetings, including Ridgefield’s 4-3 10-inning thriller behind Oliver’s 17 strikeouts. Expect more of the same in 2019. The two teams face off at Woodland April 17 and at Ridgefield May 3. And with pitchers who go beyond throwing by perfecting the art and science of pitching. “At the end of the day,” Grey said, “anyone can catch up to speed.”

The Columbian, Sunday, March 17, 2019


4A GSHL BASEBALL PLAYERS TO WATCH Daniel Joner * Tanner McDonald


Jake Blair Grant Heiser * Gideon Malychewski Eastyn Culp Damen Gilmore


Cooper Barnum * Noah Guyette Liam Kerr * Alex Miller Ryan Pitts Carter Sutton * Mason Hill Micah Foskett



Skyview reloads after two straight trips to state final four

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Photos by ALISHA JUCEVIC/The Columbian

Skyview infielder Liam Kerr is one of five seniors on the team who have signed to play baseball in college.


Skyview’s Ryan Pitts.

4 The Columbian, Sunday, March 17, 2019

hether it’s the state championship game or an early season practice, one thing stays the same for the Skyview baseball team. The intensity. Skyview has advanced to the 4A final four the past two years, reaching the title game last year and placing third in 2017. How have the Storm competed at such a high level so consistently? “I think for sure it’s our intensity at practice,” said senior infielder Noah Guyette. “We practice how we play, so we’re always going really hard.” Guyette, who will attend the Air Force Academy, is one of eight seniors looking to fill big shoes left by last

year’s graduating class. That group included 4A state player of the year Daniel Copeland, along with firstteam all-Greater St. Helens League players Michael Lundgren and Max Rose. But the cupboard is hardly bare. The Storm return first-team all-leaguers Cooper Barnum (pitcher/ outfielder) and Liam Kerr (infielder). This year’s team also has a roadmap to success laid by previous classes. “It’s pretty easy because the guys who were ahead of us last year did a really good job of coaching us up and helping us along,” Guyette said. “Now that we’re the seniors, we just have to follow in their footsteps.” Sometimes that guidance

included some tough love. “If we weren’t doing something right, they all really got on us,” said senior Ryan Pitts. “I look forward to doing the same thing to the younger guys because we are really young this year. It will be fun to get on them and challenge them a lot and do the same thing the older guys did for us.” Pitts, a power-hitting infielder and pitcher, is one of five Skyview seniors set to play college baseball. He and Kerr have signed with Lower Columbia College. Outfielder Alex Miller is headed to Tacoma Community College. Guyette signed his letter of intent to Air Force in November. Barnum offers leadership as well. A first-team all-leagu-

er as a sophomore, he aims to guide six fellow juniors and four underclassmen. “We’re young this year,” he said. “With that experience from last year, it’s nice to be able to have some guys look up to me and be able to help out.” Skyview is again the favorite in a competitive 4A Greater St. Helens League. Camas, Battle Ground and Union all bring back enough talent to knock off anybody on any day. So before Skyview begins to think about a third straight run to the final four, there’s plenty of business to handle. “We’re going to try and win a league title first before we even think about playoffs,” Kerr said.




Camas senior Grant Heiser was a first-team all-league catcher last season.






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The Columbian, Sunday, March 17, 2019 5 Westlie_Ford_4.94x10_Camas_High_School_030519

4A GSHL SOFTBALL PLAYERS TO WATCH Grace Stillman * Alexandra Traffalis Jennifer Westrand * Katie Hancock * Malloree Neely Carrigan Foster Bre Arambula Mikelle Anthony * Ashlyn DeBoever Izzy LaFata Emma Raz Kaelani Gamble * Lauren Cockrell Brianna Fehrer Morgan Kron



New-look Camas aims to stay on top in tough league

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Camas players gather after an out against Woodland on March 11. The Papermakers have finished fourth place at the Class 4A state tournament in three of the past four seasons.


Camas senior Carrigan Foster.

6 The Columbian, Sunday, March 17, 2019

ne thing the Camas softball team has shown in recent years is consistency. The Papermakers have placed fourth in the Class 4A state tournament in three of the past four seasons. Will Camas make another state playoff run? If so, it will be with a focus on team togetherness. Without one dominant player, the Papermakers will all be counted on a little bit more. “There’s a lot of individuals, but they’re working really well on how to play as a team,” first-year coach Miranda Cervantes said. “That’s going to be

our focus this year, that camaraderie. We have a bunch of talented athletes, but if they can’t play well together, then they’re not going to do well.” A big reason for Camas’ recent success was Kennedy Ferguson, a two-time 4A Greater St. Helens League pitcher of the year who now plays for New Mexico. Ferguson’s impact can still be seen on this year’s senior class. Infielder Katie Hancock was well prepared to take over as one of the program’s guiding forces. “(Ferguson) taught our senior class how to be leaders and role models,” Hancock said. “We learned

what to do as seniors to help the underclassmen and keep the program strong.” That leadership starts with communication. “She made it so we know we can talk to our teammates,” Hancock said. “The seniors help the underclassmen.” There will be little time for small talk once the 4A Greater St. Helens League season arrives. Skyview, Battle Ground and Union all believe they can challenge Camas for the league title. Skyview returns plenty of talent. Junior infielder Mikelle Anthony earned first-team all-league honors her first two years.

Battle Ground might have the best battery in the league. Senior catcher Grace Stillman is a Western Oregon signee who supplies plenty of power at the plate. She will receive pitches from Jennifer Westrand, who earned first-team all-league honors last year as a sophomore. Union has an experienced squad led by senior catcher Kaelani Gamble, a first-team all-leaguer last year. The Titans also return key contributors in outfielder Lauren Cockrell and infielders Brianna Fehrer and Morgan Kron. Heritage is looking to build after going 2-10 in league play last season.

3A GSHL BASEBALL PLAYERS TO WATCH Ty Livingston Carter Monda * Jared Morser Blake Whitehead * Zeke Block Nick Laurenza * Tyler Runkle


Alan Merrill * Carter Morse *


Trevor Torpa Nate Lonner Andrew Gulliford * Garrett Moen * Isaiah Parker * Quinn Rooks Andrew Selden Caleb Jones Connor Smith




Evergreen catcher Blake Whitehead is the glue behind the plate

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STEVE DIPAOLA/for the Columbian

Mountain View infielder Andrew Gulliford.


vergreen’s baseball roster is comprised of 12 players, and none may be quite as important as the guy behind the plate. Blake Whitehead is the lone catcher on the depth chart entering a season where the roster is as low as it’s ever been in Evergreen coach Chad Burchett’s tenure. As the only catcher on the roster, Burchett posits that without Whitehead — a first-team all-3A Greater St. Helens League utility player as a junior — the Evergreen Plainsmen would be in big trouble. “If I lose him, I’m in a world of trouble,” Burchett said. Those expectations are perfectly fine for Whitehead. The to-himself, unassuming senior is behind the plate for his second season after popping around as a utility player. Does Whitehead, perhaps the player most directly effected by the lack of depth, see it as an issue? “No, not at all,” Whitehead said. Neither does Burchett. When Whitehead’s behind the plate, the longtime coach puts any worries aside. “He embodies what I like out of a player: a quiet, confident kid that just goes out and takes care of business,” Burchett said. “Doesn’t have to tell anybody how good he is or isn’t. He’s respectful, not a kid who talks crap to the other team.” Whitehead began to fill in at catcher last year, but was needed more in various other positions. But over the summer, to Burchett’s surprise, catcher is where he blossomed. Sure, the roster isn’t long.

ANDY BUHLER/The Columbian

Evergreen senior catcher Blake Whitehead, the glue guy on a small roster, winds up to throw a ball to coach Chad Burchett at Evergreen High School. But Whitehead believes the Plainsmen possess the talent to make some noise in what could figure to be a top-heavy league. With league MVP and one of the area’s top pitchers Tommy Snyder graduated, along with five seniors, that puts Evergreen right where Whitehead wants them: overlooked. “I think we’re underrated this year,” Whitehead said. He’s not setting any overly lofty goals for the team. The senior, rather, is set on taking the season one game at a time. And in his role, he’s taking one task at a time.

He worked on blocking. He honed in on his footwork. Mastered pitch calling. And, he says most importantly, learned how to be a leader amongst his teammates. If a player is overly upset, Whitehead is there to help them remain composed. “(I’m) keeping track of everything,” Whitehead says. But with his quiet demeanor, an average person passing by might not even notice everything Whitehead is doing. Particularly when the Plainsmen field junior Carter Monda, one of the area’s top returning players.

But other coaches certainly do. “Most people are like, ‘who’s that little guy? He’s a hell of a player,’ ” Burchett said. As Burchett recognizes, that success hinges on Whitehead staying healthy at one of the sport’s most physical positions. Perhaps a reason for that is it’s the nature of his position. Whitehead says catcher is more of a mental battle for him than a physical battle. “You’re focusing on other people as well as yourself,” Whitehead said. “You’re thinking ahead.”

The Columbian, Sunday, March 17, 2019


3A GSHL SOFTBALL Prairie outfielder Ashley Shelton finds her voice

PLAYERS TO WATCH Rebecca Cuypers * Emma Lopez Dakota Piovesan Camryn Jurcich


Erica Morley Kennedy Williams * Capri Franzen * Saydee Christensen Maelyn O’Campo * Hailey Paull Olivia Meyers * Ashley Shelton Carley Wentworth



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Dakota Piovesan, Evergreen

8 The Columbian, Sunday, March 17, 2019


shley Shelton has never been the first person on her team to speak up. In fact she typically keeps to herself, both on the softball field and at school. But in the wake of five key departures to Prairie’s softball team, the four-year varsity player knew she had to make a change. And that change would require her to test the boundaries of her comfort zone. First, Shelton, a second team all-league selection as a junior, moved over to center field to fill the absence of Kylee Snider, who graduated. Perhaps more importantly: she was determined to become the Falcons’ vocal leader. That presented an opportunity Shelton says is empowering. “I’m not really looked at as a big powerful person,” Shelton said. “So it’s like, OK, I’m controlling this team right now. It’s a lot. It’s empowering. I feel good because I want to be someone that they look up to and I want them to remember me for being a good leader.” Her coach concurred. “This year she’s taken it in her head that if we want to be successful, this is what it’s going to take,” Prairie head coach Mariah Dawson said. Prairie replaces five starters and multiple allleague selections, highlighted by Snider, an All-Region team selection, from a team that turned a third place 3A Greater St. Helens League finish into a second place finish at districts and a state tournament appearance. Snider’s presence, Shelton said, was far more than

Photos by ANDY BUHLER/ The Columbian

Prairie center fielder Ashley Shelton gathers herself after catching a pop fly during an indoor practice in Prairie High School’s gym. her high batting average, or command of center field. “Being loud, being under control in center field,” Shelton said. “You run the whole field and I have to help the players beside me. “Definitely stepping into some pretty big shoes, because Kylee was a fantastic player and she’s definitely going to be missed this year, but it’s our time now, so we’ve definitely got to pick it up.” Dawson said her and Shelton had a brief conversation about leadership before the season, but the senior has really taken the

reigns. Ask Shelton, and that starts with getting the team together for stretches when everyone is standing around and talking. Or weighing in to the group at the end of practices about how things went, and what to improve on. During games, it’s covering everyone’s blind spots from center field. If it’s a pop fly, she’s yelling “back, back, back,” or “you’re in! You’re in! You’re in!” Playing center field gives her a unique vantage of the field. “I want to let them know

I’m not here to boss them around,” Shelton said. “I’m here to guide a team to a good finish and that’s what I want. I want to see the best in everybody’s potential.” Plus, walk down the halls of Prairie High School in the weeks leading up to the season, Shelton says they’re filled with celebratory buzz honoring the girls basketball team’s recent 3A state championship. She feels that pressure for the spring. “We’ve got some big shoes to fill,” Shelton said.


Cole Delich Parker McNeil Derek Metler Xavier Ulrich


Sawyer Racanelli Ryan Warnke


Noah Jenkins * Jack Shipley * Noah Mejia


Elias Farland Jacob Childers Mitch Berquist Spencer Andersen * Kellen Bringhurst * Brock Harrison * Josh Mansur Camden Ryder Jimmy Wallace * Ethan Bausch Brevan Bea Zach Collins Preston Thornton Wyatt Autrey Wyatt Wooden Christian Yager




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Ridgefield’s Spencer Andersen pitches against Kalama at the new Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex.


New field isn’t only reason Ridgefield is riding high

pirits are high in the Ridgefield dugout these days. The shiny new Ridgefield Outdoor Recreational Complex (RORC) is officially open. Plus, the baseball team has spent the entire school year with unfettered access to the school’s new weight room, which excited the Spudders, who return a big core of their team from a year ago. That includes senior pitcher/first baseman Spencer Andersen, senior catcher Brock Harrison, senior pitcher Kellen Bringhurst and junior Jimmy Wallace — all returning first team all-league selections. All considered, the Spudders feel as though they are riding a wave of momentum entering the season. “I feel like it’s going to

set us up for a really good season,” senior outfielder Camden Ryder said. “We’re a lot more prepared than past seasons and I feel really good about what’s to come.” Head coach Nick Allen concurred: “Our whole program has had a great offseason.” The Spudders have a core of returning talent in a league that has seen a lot of programs reload. Only two teams, Ridgefield and Mark Morris, return two or more first team allleaguers. For many of them, the preparation for this season started during the second week of school in early September. While other sports were underway, the baseball players got the first crack at the new weight

room (Just how big, you ask? Andersen described it as big enough for 26 people to be doing pull-ups at the same time). And Ridgefield weight training teacher Ted Beyer, a National Strength and Conditioning Association and USA Weightlifting-certified member, was there to present the challenge. “I think that was huge for us,” Ryder, one of the eight Spudders who consistently worked out together, said. “We had one-on-one time with him just working on our stuff, get stronger, more physical, get bigger.” By winter time, workouts that were optional in years past were required. Bringurst didn’t play basketball to focus on the baseball season. So far, the players say, the

extra work has made all the difference entering the season. Players’ measurables — exit velocity, launch angles, etc., which the team records with iPad sensors — have improved. Now they hope to back it up on the field. Last year’s season-ending district loss to Centralia left lots to be desired. “We kind of let ourselves go in that last district game,” Andersen said. “I hope that the guys know we’re good enough to beat the team we lost to last year, leave right where we left off.” To the Ridgefield players, the advantages in facility cannot go wasted. “A lot of momentum. A lot of schools are threatened by us, I guess, so we just have to go and prove it,” Andersen said.

The Columbian, Sunday, March 17, 2019











Delivered Fresh Every Morning.


The Columbian, Sunday, March 17, 2019 10Westlie_Ford_4.94x10_Washougal_High_School_030519

2A GSHL SOFTBALL PLAYERS TO WATCH Hannah Dyer * Chase Eisenhauer


Jenna Remenar * Abby Runyon * Ellie Skinner


Morningstar Littleleaf Morgan Turner Saige Kochis McKinzie Todd * Emma Jenkins * Sarah Jenkins * Kaia Oliver * Karli Oliver Kekai Schultz * Madison Gehrke Paige Hungerford Hannah Toops




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Kaily Christensen * Jr. SS Chloe Eddy Sr. 1B Justice Holcomb Sr. C Olivia Grey * Sr. P Kelly Sweyer Jr. 3B * = First-team all-league in 2018 Emma Jenkins, Ridgefield.

Ridgefield’s Kaia Oliver, left, and Woodland’s Olivia Grey have both signed to play NCAA Division-I softball.


FILES/The Columbian

Woodland vs. Ridgefield rivalry has state championship flavor

ast year, the 2A Greater St. Helens league came down to a the battle for the top spot between Woodland and Ridgefield. Both possessed the firepower of two of the top teams in the area, regardless of classification. Both made deep runs in the state tournament. Woodland won the state title. New year. Same story. “We view them as our biggest competition,” Woodland coach Tom Christensen said. “We talk about it. We’re excited (to play them).” Last season, the teams finished locked atop the league standings, as they were each other’s only league loss in a 1-1 series split. But Woodland ended the season with the ultimate goal: a first place state trophy. Ridgefield finished

fifth. “In the back of the girls’ minds, yes, we have some unfinished business, and Woodland is in that path,” Ridgefield coach Dusty Anchors said. “What I’m trying to get the girls to step back and realize that it’s one game at a time, one pitch at a time. It’s a fine line.” The Spudders and the Beavers each return the majority of their starting lineups, and both sides have each other circled on the calendar. Last year’s series between the teams featured two thrilling bouts. Woodland took the first, a pitching duel, 2-0, then Ridgefield nabbed the second 4-3 in extras. Ridgefield pitcher Kaia Oliver, a Syracuse signee, returns along with five other all-league selections from a team that reached

the state quarterfinals, highlighted by first team honorees Sarah Jenkins, Kekai Schultz and Emma Jenkins. Anchors acknowledged the anticipated battle with Woodland atop the league standings, but has urged his team not to get too caught up on the longterm. Woodland field all but two players from last year’s state title-winning team, including four all-league selections, highlighted by All-Region Player of the Year Olivia Grey, a senior pitcher. First team selection Kaily Christensen returns along with secondteamers Chloe Eddy and Kelly Sweyer — all of whom were instrumental in the Beavers’ title run. Woodland will replace two starting outfielders, but Christensen is confi-

dent in the players in line. He’s also made an effort to take the pressure of repeating as state champs off of his team, citing the expectation of repeated as a narrow view of success. “We’re allowed to have a bad day,” Christensen said. “It’s OK. We talk a lot about pressure, living up to expectations. I try to calm them.” But Woodland certainly has the talent to get there. As do the Spudders. And the two pitchers, Oliver and Grey, are set to dazzle one season more. Beyond the top two teams, the league appears fairly wide open. There was just one senior on the first all-league team, so expect a talent-laden league. Hockinson returns three all-league selections coming off an appearance at districts.

The Columbian, Sunday, March 17, 2019


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Ethan Perdue Erik Titus

Young La Center looks to build on state playoff experience

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Trent Howard * Riley Buehler Bryce Dodge


Irving Alvarez * Beau Castleberry Michael Goode Tom Lambert Carter Bennett Brandon Connell Garrett Mathany






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MICAH RICE/The Columbian

La Center sophomore Tom Lambert bats during a jamboree game against Union at Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex. Lambert was among a freshmen class that helped the Wildcats end a 13-year state playoff drought in 2018.


FILES/The Columbian

King’s Way Christian has reached the 1A state title game the past two years, winning in 2017. The Knights are looking to rebuild after graduating two of Southwest Washington’s best pitchers.

he La Center baseball team is not your average youth-laden squad. Yes, 22 of 27 players in the program are sophomores or younger. But the Wildcats have experience where it counts. Last year’s freshmen class played a key role as La Center snapped a 13-year state playoff drought, eventually reaching the 1A regional final. Last year as a freshman, No. 1 pitcher Irving Alvarez threw a complete-game fivehitter to clinch La Center’s state berth in a do-or-die game at the district tournament. Tom Lambert is La Center’s cleanup hitter and was also a key pitcher last year as a freshman. Infielder Beau Castleberry, now a junior, also played a big role

in last year’s success. Yes, La Center is young. But the Wildcats also know what it takes to win when the pressure is on. “We’ve got the talent,” Alvarez said. “It’s our second year, we know who’s who. We definitely have talent and I think we’re going to make a far run.” It’s unusual for sophomores to be thrust into leadership roles. But La Center coach Rick Skinner sees those who played on varsity as freshman adjusting well to that role. “You can tell they’re taking on a big part of that role,” Skinner said. “Sometimes that’s hard, especially when you don’t have a senior that was on varsity last year. But everybody is stepping up and doing a great job so far.” It’s not just at the high

school level where La Center’s sophomore class has found success. Several have played youth ball together for many years, including two KWRL teams that reached the Babe Ruth World Series last year. “I think most of us are ready because we’ve all been playing together a long time,” Lambert said. “We make sure everything is clear. We’re here to win. We’re here to get better every day.” La Center isn’t thinking about a Trico League title at this point. Just getting better every day is the Wildcats’ focus. “We can control what we need to get better on every day in practice,” Skinner said. “As long as we do that and come with the right focus, work hard and have

good attitudes, we know that other stuff takes care of itself.” That said, it’s a Trico League with no clear favorite. King’s Way Christian has reached the state championship game each of the past two years, winning in 2017. Under first-year coach Todd Pisarczyk, King’s Way will try to replace seven key seniors, including two of the area’s best pitchers in Damon Casetta-Stubbs (now in the Seattle Mariners organization) and Sam Lauderdale (now at Washington State). Columbia-White Salmon will also be in the mix. AllLeague senior outfielder Trent Howard leads a core of five seniors on a team that was co-league champ last year.

The Columbian, Sunday, March 17, 2019



Rachel Anderson * Sr. Sade Huckleberry Sr. Zoe Naugle * Sr. KING’S WAY CHRISTIAN Annabelle Atwood Fr. Sophia Nelson Fr. Tyra Schroeder Sr. Coral Clark Ceanna Johnston Madison Osborn Macy Randolph * Katie Steward



Sr. Jr. Sr. Sr. So.

King’s Way Christian joins the party as a first-year program OF INF C INF P INF OF INF P INF C

Jazmine Morat Jr. P/OF Reeonna Westfall-Cordell Sr. C/3B * = First-team all-league in 2018

King’s Way freshman Annabelle Atwood is a three-sport varsity athlete, also playing soccer and basketball.

14 The Columbian, Sunday, March 17, 2019


o matter what happens in the future of King’s Way Christian’s softball program, this year’s team will be special. That’s because it’s the first softball team to compete for the high school, which opened in 2006. While the Knights hope for a few victories this season, wins aren’t the most important goal. “This is about building on the fundamentals and getting them to bond as a team,” co-head coach Traci Nelson said. Nelson and Shawna Danberg are leading an inaugural team of 14 players. Photos by MICAH RICE/The Columbian A few of those have The King’s Way Christian softball team warms up before a practice at VGSA fields. The played softball since childKnights have 14 varsity players in the program’s first year of play. hood. A few have never played before. Most took up the sport within the past box, it was against Woodland’s dominant pitcher two years. Olivia Grey, last season’s 2A Nelson and Danberg are state player of the year. eager to teach fundamen“You haven’t faced tals, skills and strategy. anyone before and sudThey won’t need to denly you’re facing Olivia,” teach enthusiasm. That’s a Nelson said. “But they went trait the team has already in there confident. I didn’t shown. see anyone shaking in their “They all want to play,” boots. They were up there Danberg said. “They give swinging.” their all every single pracSome of King’s Way’s tice. They’re excited to be most talented players are here. They’re all teachable freshman. Left-handed and coachable.” The first time King’s Way pitcher and coach’s King’s Way co-head coach Traci Nelson isn’t measuring this daughter Sophia Nelson took the softball field was season by wins and losses, but by growth. has played since she was 5 against some of the state’s years old. toughest competition. At a a varsity soccer team that The Trico League will At the jamboree, she imseason-opening jamboree reached the 1A state title have only four teams this mediately felt comfortable on March 9, the Knights game and a varsity basketseason. Columbia-White in the high school pitching faced reigning 2A state ball team that qualified for Salmon won’t play due to circle against high-quality champion Woodland and its first state tournament. low turnout. hitters. 1A Trico League champ Atwood hopes to help her Castle Rock is seeking “It was pretty cool,” she Castle Rock. softball teammates learn to another league title after said. “It’s a great experiPlaying three-inning be successful like the socplacing fourth in state. ence playing against a state cer and basketball teams. mini games, King’s Way La Center will look to championship team.” lost 2-0 to Woodland and “Soccer and basketball, give the Rockets a run Infielder Annabelle held Castle Rock to a 0-0 we got to go a long way,” behind senior Macy Atwood, another freshman, she said. “Starting out as a tie. Randolph, a first-team has only played softball for The first time a Knight new team, we can make our all-league infielder the past stepped into the batter’s two years. But she was on mark and keep going.” two years.

BOYS TRACK AND FIELD ATHLETES TO WATCH RYAN CIBART, HERITAGE: The senior broke school record in 800 meters on his way to a third-place 4A state finish.

TYLER FLANAGAN, WOODLAND: Versatile athlete is a twotime state qualifier in hurdles.

LINCOLN KROG, STEVENSON: Defending 1A state high jump

champion also placed second at state at triple jump and eighth in long jump.

TREY KNIGHT, RIDGEFIELD: The junior is one of the nation’s top throwers and the reigning 2A state champion in the shot put and discus.

DANIEL MATON, CAMAS: UW-bound senior aims for a three-peat in the 4A state 800 and 1600 meters.

NOLAN MICKENHAM, PRAIRIE: One of area’s top sprinters

placed third in 3A 100 meters and eighth in 3A 200 last spring.

KYLE RADOCEVICH: State cross country runner-up placed sixth in 3200 meters at 2A state meet.

BRYAN TAVERA, RIDGEFIELD: Triple-jump specialist looks to defend his 2A title this spring.


TIGER INVITE: Annual meet at Battle


TWILIGHT MEET: Columbia River hosts

MAY 8-9

DISTRICTS: 4A and 3A district titles will be

Ground is the area’s first invitational of the season, drawing in teams from Washington and Oregon. the John Ingram Twilight, with athletes competing from across Clark County. won at McKenzie Stadium.

MAY 23-25 STATE: The best 2A, 3A and 4A athletes

gather at Mount Tahoma High in Tacoma for the annual extravaganza. Small schools compete in Cheney.

MEG WOCHNICK/The Columbian

Woodland’s Alex Bishop clears the high jump bar en route to placing second at the state meet last spring in Tacoma.


Woodland high jumper Alex Bishop gets right down to business

lex Bishop’s track and field meet-day routine is one of a kind: there is no routine. No warmups, and no stretching. Bishop just jumps. Track and field’s vertical jumps — high jump and pole vault — require athletes to enter a competition at the height of their choice. Bishop isn’t like most elite jumpers. He enters a competition at a low height, and slowly works his way up. And that suites the Woodland High senior just perfectly in more ways than one at an event and sport that’s turned into his

specialty. “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” he said. “It’s been working for me.” For Bishop, the only aspect of his high jump routine that’s different is his annual trend upward to back-to-back top-3 podium finishes at the Class 2A state meet. A state title within his grasp at last spring’s state meet at Mount Tahoma Stadium when Bishop cleared a personal-best 6-6, only to have Colby White of W.F. West clear that same height on his last attempt and later win the competition at 6-7. Bishop placed second. While bummed, Bishop wasn’t disappointed in

the performance. Spring weather and the energy of state helped him clear a new personal-best height by 2 inches in a competition jumps coach Andrew Johnson said after the meet were his best jumps all season. That’s proving for motivation this spring. “I’ve gotten there and so been close to winning state,” he said. Bishop is only in his third year of track and field, and while it took time, success came. Natural athleticism made the jumping events an easy choice after friends urged him to put baseball aside sophomore year for track.

He hit the 6-foot benchmark for the first time at districts sophomore year, and has been climbing ever since. “I had to get my steps down and start bending more,” Bishop said. “I was trying to do it with pure athleticism and jump straight over the bar. It wasn’t working. I had to get a lot of my form down.” That’s led to big jumps, too. Once at state, Bishop’s 6-6 jump tied the school record set in 1999 by Jared Sloan. Now, he wants more, including a state title. “That’s motivating me to get back out there,” he said.

The Columbian, Sunday, March 17, 2019


GIRLS TRACK AND FIELD ATHLETES TO WATCH LUCY GEORGE, CAMAS: Breakout freshman year included an eighth-place finish at state in 100 hurdles and a district title.

LUCI IANELLO, COLUMBIA RIVER: Set a school-record in

1600 meters to place fourth at 2A state meet in her first year of competitive track and field.

EMILY PHELPS, FORT VANCOUVER: Gonzaga signee is the reigning 3A 1600 and 3200 bi-district champion.

AMELIA PULLEN, WASHOUGAL: State cross country champion placed third in 3200 meters at state last spring.

REYMI SHELTON, EVERGREEN: Reigning district long jump

and triple jump champion reached state in both events.

MACKENZIE SPARKS, RIDGEFIELD: One of the top returning javelin throwers in 2A after placing sixth at state meet.

ERIKA STRAIT, MOUNTAIN VIEW: Junior has placed at state the past two years in 3A high jump.

LOGAN NELSON, UNION: 4A District 100 and 200 champion set personal-best times of 12.55 and 25.92 last spring.


TIGER INVITE: Annual meet at Battle


JESUIT RELAYS: The elite of the elite ath-

MAY 17

2A DISTRICTS: Washougal’s Fishback

Ground is the area’s first invitational of the season. letes head to Jesuit High School for the Nike/Jesuit Relays. Stadium is home to this year’s 2A district meet.

MAY 23-25 STATE: The best 2A, 3A and 4A athletes

gather at Mount Tahoma High in Tacoma for the annual extravaganza. Small schools compete in Cheney.

16 The Columbian, Sunday, March 17, 2019


Busy schedule suits Mountain View’s Kate Kadrmas

ate Kadrmas is accustomed to a busy-bee lifestyle. She trains year-round in track and field as a heptathlete, and qualified for state in alto saxophone as part of Mountain View High’s band, another school activity she’s heavily invested in. “That adds to my crazy schedule,” Kadrmas said. And if all goes according to plan, she’ll make a repeat trip for May’s Class 3A state track and field meet to conclude her highschool career. Not just in one event, such as placing seventh in the 100 hurdles (15.60 seconds) at last year’s state meet. But rather, four events. “That’s the goal,” she said. Which four still will be determined. It’s the hurdles, though, that drew Kadrmas’ track and field interest early, followed by her first attempt at the heptathlon, a seven-event specialty for women. She got hooked, and trains year-round with Marinella Jiganie, an exhigh school coach in Clark County now Clark College’s associate head coach. The heptathlon is what Kadrmas will specialize in college, but she knows she also wouldn’t where she is without her coaches at Mountain view. Last month, she signed with Nebraska, a place she said she felt right at home because of the people, program, facilities and academics. Luckily for her, the 100 hurdles is one of the seven events heptathletes do over a two-day multi-events competition. She placed seventh in that event at last

MEG WOCHNICK/The Columbian

Mountain View’s Kate Kadrmas, right, runs in the finals of the 100 meter hurdles at last year’s state meet in Tacoma. She placed seventh.

year’s 3A state meet (15.60 seconds) a year after reaching state for the first time. In 2018, she placed ninth in the 100 hurdles and 16th in the 300 hurdles. This year, she’s aiming for a sub-15-second time in her favorite of the two hurdle events — the 100 hurdles — coupled with a top-3 state placing. And she could be well on her way. Last month marked her second indoor track and field season, competing in meets in Seattle and Boise, Idaho. Kadrmas views a shortened indoor season as a way to gauge where she is in training and a way to gear up for her high school season. So far, so good for what’s ahead, she said. “I’m pretty excited,” MOUNTAIN VIEW ATHLETICS/Courtesy Kadrmas said. “I think Mountain View senior Kate Kadrmas hopes to qualify for this season is going to be good.” state in four events this season.


Jake Connop, most of defense back from River’s state title team

4A GREATER ST. HELENS LEAGUE * Jay Ball, Union Justin Cibart, Heritage Luke Davidson, Camas * Carsyn Lundeen, Battle Ground * Aiden McGinty, Union * Grant Reinhardt, Battle Ground * Josh Verrinder, Skyview

Sr. Sr. Sr. Sr. Sr. Sr. Sr.

Def. Fwd. Fwd. Mid. Mid. Def. Def.

3A GREATER ST. HELENS LEAGUE * Aaron Espinoza, Hudson’s Bay Vitaliy Kozakov, Evergreen * Justin Lufkin-Quant, Mountain View Jose Tizol-Moralez, Fort Vancouver

Jr. Sr. Sr. Sr.

Fwd. Def. Mid. Fwd.

2A GREATER ST. HELENS LEAGUE Alex Ashmore, Columbia River * Jake Connop, Columbia River Tanner Hough, Hockinson * Aidan Thrall, Woodland Jesse Thrall, Woodland * Cole Wagner, Ridgefield

Jr. Jr. Sr. Jr. So. Sr.

Def. Fwd. GK Mid. Mid. Def.

1A TRICO LEAGUE * Serafim Apostolou, Seton Catholic * Blake Beckwith, Seton Catholic Sean Fox, La Center * Brendon Leach, La Center Landon Martin, La Center Ethan Peterson, King’s Way * = First team all-league in 2018

So. Sr. Jr. So. Sr. Jr.

Mid. Def. Mid. Mid. Fwd. Mid.


he Columbia River boys soccer team rode its defense to a 2A state title last season. It allowed nine goals all season, capped by an emphatic 2-0 win over Burlington-Edison in the state title game last May. Three of the four in the back line are returning starters, but perhaps the Chieftains’ most impactful returning player, and one of the top returners across the county, is junior center forward Jake Connop. But ask Connop, the goal-scorer, the heatseeker, the bulldog, what he takes pride in from last year’s undefeated season, and none of the aforementioned comes to mind: the number nine. Nine, as in the number of goals allowed. “Not 10,” Connop said. “Didn’t get to double-digits. Nine.” That’s pointed praise coming from one of two All-Region team selections returning this season. And he means it. Connop believes River, which graduated eight starters (11 total seniors) from last season, brings back the talent to make another run. He certainly feels pressure. The Chieftains have not lost a game since May 16, 2017 — nearly two years ago. “Now everyone wants to beat us,” Connop said. “Of course we’ve got the biggest target on our back. I think we’ll take that as fuel and work harder. I think we’ll come out in the end with a good record. I’m not really too concerned. I think we have a good team, a strong team.” That starts in the back


Columbia River forward Jake Connop, 14, led the Chieftains to an undefeated season and a 2A state title last year. line. Jackson Kleier, David Worthen and Alex Ashmore return from last year’s starting defense. Kleier noted that the target that comes from bringing a 23-0 season into this year is something the team is used to. “We started going to every game with the mindset that they’re going to be throwing everything they have at us, we’ve got to be ready to counteract that, fight and win every game,” Kleier said. That’s where having a

solid back line comes in handy, he said. Between the boys and girls programs at River, Afenegus is on a run that features four state title appearances and two wins in a three year span. That will be tested against a tough league slate that includes Woodland, a team which returns brothers Aidan and Jesse Thrall. Aidan Thrall was an All-Region team selection last season for a Beavers team that lost in the first round of the state

tournament after finishing second in the 2A Greater St. Helens League and second at districts. Afenegus points to the talented defenses, and a team mentality that centers around not letting goals in. “It’s hard to be consistently good on offense, not hard to be consistently good defensively,” Afenegus said. But if Connop has anything to say about it, the Chieftains will score more goals this year, too.

The Columbian, Sunday, March 17, 2019


GIRLS GOLF Camas senior Emma Cox took college hunt into own hands


all-4A Greater St. Helens pick who placed 13th at state.

CALLIE MILLS, UNION: Senior was a first-team all-4A Greater St. Helens selection.

MADDY STARWALT, SKYVIEW: Senior was a first-team all-4A Greater St. Helens pick who made the cut at state.

SAMANTHA FENTON, RIDGEFIELD: Junior was a first-team all2A Greater St. Helens pick who made the cut at state.

MADELINE KIM, COLUMBIA RIVER: Senior was a first-team

all-2A Greater St. Helens pick who placed 25th at state

NAOMI PHELPS, COLUMBIA RIVER: Sophomore was a firstteam all-2A Greater St. Helens selection.


CHIEFTAIN INVITE: An early-season gather-


PRAIRIE INVITE: Nearly a dozen teams will

MAY 8-9

3A-4A DISTRICT: Berths to state and

ing of six Clark County teams at TriMountain sets the tone for the season.

compete at one of the area’s largest high school tournaments, which moves back to The Cedars at Salmon Creek.

bi-districts will be won at Tri-Mountain.

MAY 14-15 2A DISTRICT: 13 Class 2A teams will compete at Tumwater Valley.

MAY 21-22 STATE: 4A and 2A tournaments are in

Spokane. 3A is in Lacey. Boys tournaments also take place.

18 The Columbian, Sunday, March 17, 2019


f golf has taught Emma Cox anything, it’s selfreliance. When you’re out on the course and something goes wrong, there’s no one else to blame. And to remedy the situation, you have to take the initiative yourself. So when a less-thanstellar junior season didn’t produce any offers from college golf coaches, Cox decided to seek out coaches on her own behalf. “I kind of got discouraged,” the Camas High senior said. “I wasn’t really sure if I was going to play college golf.” So Cox began looking at Division I college golf programs on the East Coast, and that led her to Towson University in Maryland and coach Lisa Ferrero, a 12-year veteran of the LPGA Tour. “I found the school online, found the coach and emailed her saying this is who I am and this is what I’ve been doing and if you’re interested, I’d love to talk to you,” Cox said. “Within 30 minutes she responded to me, and within 20 minutes of that, I was on the phone talking to her. We had a really great conversation, and after a lot of calls and emails, I went out and visited the school and I just really fell in love with it.” Cox committed to Towson last fall, setting her mind at ease and allowing her to focus all her efforts on a bounce-back year with the Papermakers. Cox has qualified for state in each of her first three years at Camas, helping the Papermakers earn runner-up finishes in


After a sub-par junior season, Emma Cox of Camas had to market herself to colleges. That hard work paid off with a scholarship to Towson University in Maryland. the team standings every season. As a sophomore in 2017, Cox placed tied for third at the Class 4A state tournament and was selected as The Columbian’s All-Region player of the year. Last year, Cox placed 15th at state. “Last golf season, I felt like I went backwards in my progress,” Cox said. “So I’ve really been working on maintaining my posture in my golf swing, getting stronger, compressing the ball, and really honing in on my short game skills.” And working on your golf game over the winter in Southwest Washington can be a challenge. Sometimes, Cox has had to improvise.

“A lot of courses don’t have indoor facilities in Southwest Washington, so I’ve had to create my own space at my home,” Cox said. “I set up a mirror in my room, and I have this space where I do all my drills. I just do that in my room. Sometimes I hit a few (plastic) balls and hope they don’t ricochet around my room. That’s all you can do sometimes when it’s snowing and freezing.” Cox returns for the Papermakers along with fellow state qualifier Ashley Clark and varsity returnee Wenny Cai. But this year’s squad will be younger. “I’m really excited about our team,” Cox said. “I really love the girls on this team. We have a lot of sophomores and freshmen

who I think are going to be a big focus for the team this year. We have just a handful of seniors returning. It’s not going to be quite the same team as last year, but I’m just really hoping that everyone will have fun and we’ll just try our best, qualify for state and do our best up there.” Cox said it would be great to cap her high school career by finally getting past Bellarmine Prep at state. But she’s also learned from past experience that there are dangers in putting too much pressure on yourself. “I’d love to get first this year,” Cox said of the Papermakers. “I’d love to get second. But really I just want the girls to have a really fun time and do our best.”

GIRLS TENNIS SEASON STORYLINES BIG TURNOUTS: Many top players from 2018 graduated, however big turnouts for all are programs shows that Clark County will continue to be a force in girls tennis.

GIANT GOALS FOR GRISHAM: Columbia River senior Faith

Grisham is a three-time state qualifier and placed third at 2A state last year, losing only to the eventual fourtime state champion.

USUAL SUSPECTS IN 4A: Union, Camas and Skyview are

at it again. Camas posted an undefeated season last year and still has a lot of young talent. Union has the lone returning state qualifier from the trio in Nicole Knudtson, a senior who reached the quarterfinals in doubles. Skyview senior Marissa Hunter placed third at district.

LONE STATE RETURNER: Mountain View sophomore Sheyra Batra is the only returning state qualifier from 3A GSHL. She was runner-up at district, fifth at bi-district, but ran into the eventual four-time state champ in first round of state.

JEFF KLEIN/The Columbian

Mountain View’s Shreya Batra, Prairie’s Emma Tuttle, Camas’ Natalie Dunnam, and Columbia River’s Piper Rylander are all friends, sophomores and singles players for their respective varsity tennis teams entering the 2019 season.

Sophomore foursome shows next generation will be tough to beat


Faith Grisham, Columbia River senior.

our friends. From four different schools. Each of them sophomore tennis players. And they all want to win. Just beating each other is part of the fun. The next generation of high school girls tennis in Clark County is coming on strong, represented by, among others, Shreya Batra of Mountain View, Natalie Dunnam of Camas, Piper Rylander of Columbia River, and Emma Tuttle of Prairie. This group of friends met through tennis by taking lessons or playing on teams. They all burst on to the prep scene as freshmen: Batra qualified for the 3A state tournament and was first-team 3A Greater St. Helens League in singles,

Tuttle was also named firstteam 3A GSHL in singles, Rylander was runner-up at the 2A district tournament in singles, and Dunnam was a second team 4A GSHL singles player. Yeah, they each like playing singles. “Doubles is fun, but singles is just ... better, if that makes sense,” Rylander said. Ask them which one will eventually win a district title, fingers point in all directions. “I think we will all win a district title,” proclaims Tuttle, who then points to league opponent Batra and says, “Hey, it’s going to be either me or you.” Rylander said of the four girls, she and Dunnam have probably known each other the longest. They met play-

ing at Vancouver Tennis Center at age 9 or 10. “We all took lessons together and played team tennis together,” Dunnam said. Another common thread is VTC head pro Sanja Lemes. “I think we all bonded through Sanja’s class,” Tuttle said. Lemes said she created a group just for the four of them after teaching them in a large group setting. “We bonded right away,” Lemes said. “Their levels are close, but they all have their individual strengths. Emma is the scrambler, fighting for every point. Piper and Shreya are perfectionists, always analyzing their strokes. Natalie is a mix of the perfectionist and the

scrambler.” Yes, they all want to win and if it’s through a friend, well, that’s just tennis. “I want to beat all of you!” Tuttle says, drawing laughter. “So do I, but I don’t feel as pressured,” Batra said. “I played Emma at a tournament recently,” Rylander said. “She beat me, so ...” As Dunnam put it, they know each other’s style of play very well “so we have more fun playing the points.” But how bad do they want to beat each other? “Bad,” says Rylander. “Really bad,” added Tuttle. “I want to win too,” Dunnam said. Batra caps it off with: “We are all naturally competitive.”

The Columbian, Sunday, March 17, 2019









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High School Spring Sports 2019  

The Columbian's High School Spring Sports 2019 previews Greater St. Helens League and Trico League baseball and softball, along with all oth...

High School Spring Sports 2019  

The Columbian's High School Spring Sports 2019 previews Greater St. Helens League and Trico League baseball and softball, along with all oth...

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