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The Issaquah Press


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Spartans win a flurry of three makeup matches By Christopher Huber Issaquah Press reporter


Hamilton Noel, Liberty High School junior running back, eludes the last Bellevue defensive player during a 34-yard touchdown run in a football game in November.

A ‘cannonball’ rolling all year long Liberty wrestler Hamilton Noel has become a dominant threesport athlete By Tim Pfarr Issaquah Press reporter For as long as he can remember, Liberty High School wrestler Hamilton Noel has learned from the best. His father, Wright Noel, was a state championship high school wrestler and an NCAA First-Team All-American wrestler at Brigham Young University. With the lessons learned from his father — and his own strength and determination — Hamilton Noel took second place in his weight class at the state wrestling championships for the past two years. Building on the foundation of wrestling, Hamilton — now a high school junior — has become a dangerous football player and a dominating track-and-field athlete. “It’s a competitive-natured sport, and if you bring that to other sports, it helps,” Hamilton said about wrestling. He said that applies both mentally and physically, and the physical core strength gained in wrestling provides a solid physical foundation for other sports. His supreme drive has earned


Hamilton Noel, Liberty High School junior, has the top position on Enumclaw’s Josh Musick early in their 152-pound state 3A championship match Feb. 19 at the Tacoma Dome. him widespread accolades at Liberty. “He’s very highly respected by players, teachers and coaches,” Liberty football coach Steve Valach said. “You’d have to stretch a long way to find somebody who would have something bad to say about Hamilton.” A record that speaks for itself Hamilton Noel first began wrestling with his brothers at home before joining his middle school wrestling team. He was on the track-and-field team throughout middle school, and joined the football team in eighth grade, thanks to encouragement from his friends. When he started high school, he went straight to the varsity wrestling squad, taking to the 135-pound weight class. He finished the season with a 25-9 record, advancing to the Mat

Classic state tournament in the Tacoma Dome. He won his first match in the tournament 14-1, but he lost his second match in triple overtime and his third by just four points, which ended his championship run. With just one more win, he would have placed in the top eight in the state. By his sophomore year, Hamilton had moved to the 145-pound weight class, improving his record to 30-5 and again advancing to the state tournament, and falling just six points short of a championship. He further improved his record to 33-2 his junior year, advancing to the championship match again but failing to win by four points. Hamilton also competed in this year’s National High School Coaches Association High School Wrestling Nationals Championship in Virginia from March 29

to April 3. Noel wrestled in five matches, boasting a 3-2 record against the county’s strongest. He fell just short of placing. Early in his high school career, Hamilton worked his way through the football program, advancing to the varsity team his junior year, getting considerable playing time as a fullback, outside linebacker and safety. “It’s a great team sport. I really like the coaches,” he said about Liberty’s football program. “Games are obviously super fun.” In his junior season, Noel had 69 carries for 616 yards — an average of 8.9 yards per carry. His longest run was 77 yards, and he recorded six touchdowns. Defensively, he racked up 44 tackles — the second-most on the team — and a team-leading four interceptions. Valach said Hamilton is a quiet leader, although one with tremendous heart. “The best thing about Hamilton is he leads by example,” Valach said. “He’s not only tough and determined, he’s really talented. He’s a guy that lets his plays speak for him.” Hamilton took his freshman year off from track and field, and when he joined the team his sophomore year, he finished ninth in state in the pole vault with a 12-foot 6-inch leap. He also ran in the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints. This year, he dropped the individual sprints to join the team’s 4x400 relay team with Joshua See NOEL, Page B5

There’s nothing in springtime sports quite like three straight dry days. And for the Skyline High School girls tennis team, three days without rain meant three matches in a row to make up for a plethora of postponements. Although the Spartans are in a rebuilding year, the squad showed some promise by winning its third match in as many days April 21 in Sammamish. After beating Redmond April 19 and Eastlake April 20, it blanked Bothell, 7-0, to improve to 5-2. “It wasn’t the hardest match, but it was a lot of fun,” said senior No. 1 doubles player Molly Knutson after the match. “It was an enjoyable match.” Knutson and doubles partner Alyson Opitz beat Bothell’s Colleen Byrne and Morgan Milner in straight sets, 6-0, 6-2. Kristin Park, in Skyline’s No. 1 singles spot, beat Rebeka You, 6-0, 6-1. The key for Skyline was to adapt to Bothell’s lob-style play, according to Spartan players and coach Bettina Gehle. Instead of zinging targeted shots at Skyline opponents, Bothell players, in nearly

every match, slowed down the pace with high, lobbed shots. “They were all prepared for it,” Gehle said. “That was the most important thing.” While Spartans like Knutson and Opitz were eager to play at a more lively pace, they’ll take the win. “It was a baseline game for sure,” Knutson said. “I hate playing against lobs.” Knutson and Opitz took control from the beginning. In the first set, the girls went up 3-0 and easily won 6-0. Byrne and Milner gave the Skyline pair trouble partway through the second set, forcing shots into the net and bringing the score to 5-2. Knutson and Opitz settled back down to take the set, 6-2. “Hopefully we’re on a good winning streak,” Knutson said. “We’re on a roll.” Opitz noted that simple mistakes, like underhitting a volley into the net, happen less when they face a stronger team like Newport or Garfield. “We always play a lot better against better teams,” Opitz said. Helping Skyline round out its shutout, Laura Parsons beat Aria See TENNIS, Page B5


Alyson Opitz, Skyline junior, returns the ball near the net during the No. 1 doubles match against Bothell April 21. Opitz and partner Molly Knutson won the match 6-0, 6-2.

Consistent Skyline can’t overcome Eastlake’s home-course advantage Skyline High School’s Bryalynn Vowels tees off on the third hole of Sahalee’s East 9 course April 21. BY CHRISTOPHER HUBER

By Christopher Huber Issaquah Press reporter If the Skyline High School girls golf team learned anything from playing at Sahalee Country Club, it’s that you have to keep your drives straight and practice a little longer on the putting green before the match. “It’s like you’re hitting the golf ball down a highway,” said Skyline coach Erik Hansen. “If you don’t keep it straight, you find yourself in trouble.” Not all of the girls learned that the hard way, but the course notorious for frustrating unaccustomed golfers took just enough away from the visiting team to preserve another victory for Eastlake.

“This was a very difficult course,” said Skyline sophomore Bryalynn Vowels. “They definitely have home course advantage.” The Eastlake Wolves girls golf team took charge once again at its home course to beat the Skyline Spartans, 272 strokes to 289. Eastlake improved to 8-1 and Skyline went to 3-3 with three matches left before the KingCo tournament. “They’re a very good team,” Vowels said. “We knew that we were going up against something.” Eastlake’s Megan Wotherspoon again took first, shooting a 43 on the par-36 East 9 course. Vowels, Skyline’s No. 1 golfer, finished fourth overall with a final tally of 56 strokes.

“Megan has been very consistent,” said Eastlake head coach Pat Bangasser. “I expect her to get down to a 38 this year, because she can.” Following Wotherspoon’s 43, teammate Jamie Midkiff came in second with a 52 and Skyline’s Shirley Chung finished with a 54. Eastlake’s Taylor Finlon and Skyline’s Kacy Cunningham each shot a 58 to tie for fifth place. “Every time you go out to play golf it’s a different story,” Bangasser said. Vowels provided an example of how Sahalee can take the wind out of a golfer’s sails quickly. She completed a solid bogey on the par-4 See GOLF, Page B5

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By Tim Pfarr Issaquah Press reporter Alyson Opitz,Skyline junior,returns the ball near the net during the No.1 dou- bles match against Bothe...