Running with the Wolves

The South Kitsap community and the athletes its supports enjoyed a banner year in 2002. Narrowing the accomplishments to the top 10 isn’t easy, but here are our picks:

10. Football team makes 23rd straight state appearance

Every year the talk of the town centers on the South Kitsap High School football team. Football is South Kitsap to many observers. When a team comes off its 23rd straight trip to state, its hard to argue there is a more popular spectator sport in the area. Facilities consist of portable toilets, a makeshift concessions stand, uncovered seating, and a field that only survives if its a dry fall. Yet, more than 2,000 people come out to support this football team that has exuded supremacy in the Narrows League since disco was king. Better known as The Streak, the 2002 SK football team extended its big-school state-record 23rd appearance after coming back to defeat Olympia 27-14. Even when the Wolves are supposed to have a “down” year, they find a way to get to state. This year’s squad couldn’t get past the first round and some say SK has made it to state because of a weak league. But, why is it that no other program in the league has caught up to SK? One word answers that question: Tradition.

9. Golf teams take seventh at state

Considering all the plush golf landscape that surrounds Kitsap County, one would think a big high school like South Kitsap would produce golf prodigies every year. With an enrollment over 2,600 students, it’s easy to think the boys and girls golf teams would reload every year like the football team. Unfortunately, that’s not the case at SK. But success came to a select few for SK last spring as the boys and girls each placed seventh at state. For then-juniors Brady Sharp and Ryan Aker it was another solid 1-2 punch for the second consecutive year. While the expectations were there for the boys, the girls results exceeded beyond coach Bob Murphy’s expectations. Then-senior Molly Ingham originally didn’t qualify for state out of districts and had to settle as a first alternate. Lo and behold, a Bellarmine golfer suffered appendicitis shortly after the district tournament and Ingham was back at state for the third straight year. Ingham made the most of her second chance by taking 24th overall. Sophomore Kathryn Lawman, making her first appearance at state, didn’t disappoint, making the cut to get in the scoring round.

8. Boys cross country team makes a state-ment

OK, so the SK girls cross country team—making their 14th consecutive trip to state—placed seventh at the 4A state meet in Pasco. Senior Kayle Peterson earned top honors with an eighth-place finish. The bigger story was the band of SK juniors that set out to be the first boys team to go to state since 1998. They succeeded in their quest to get there, and showed it was one of the state’s best after placing eighth overall. Not bad for a group of guys who will all be returning next year and easily will be a pre-season top five team in the state. SK coach Ed Santos said there will be high expectations for the boys team next year.

“This group would be disappointed if it doesn’t stand on the podium next year,” Santos said after the state meet. “The top four teams get to stand there and I think we’ll be one of those teams.”

7. SK soccer team makes it to quarters for second straight year

It’s never easy making a transition from a longtime coach to a new coach. That was the situation that arose for the SK girls soccer team when Gary Trautman resigned after guiding the girls to a state quarterfinal appearance last year. In stepped the boys coach, Eric Bergeson. Bergeson, who has coached two boys teams to state in his five years as SK’s head man, carried over his coaching skills onto the girls team. Leading a team with just three seniors, SK was 10 minutes away from a semifinal berth. But Cascade got its revenge on SK and defeated them in a penalty kick shootout for the 2-1 win. Bergeson said this year’s experience at state was the most memorable experience in his six years of coaching soccer.

“Every girl did a thousand things to get us here,” Bergeson said. “It was a hard season and they worked their hearts out.”

6. (tie) Baseball team takes fourth at state, fastpitch defies odds with state appearance.

It’s not common for a high school team to place well when it ends its season on a two-game losing streak, but the meltdown in the final four of the 4A state baseball tournament doesn’t erase the hard work the Wolves put into their fourth-place finish last spring. SK lost the semifinal game to eventual state champion Woodinville 5-3 and fell to Richland 2-1 in a nine-inning thriller. But SK, a state power every year, was making its first appearance in the final four since 1998. The pitching tandem of Dan Knox and Travis Vetters, and the hitting prowess of Josh Showers helped propel SK into the final four. The Wolves won three straight single-elimination games to get to Cheney Stadium for the final four, which was the team’s goal.

—Most fastpitch teams don’t even make it out of districts with a 14-9 record. But most fastpitch teams aren’t the South Kitsap Wolves either.

SK clicked at the right time and won when it needed to at districts to earn a spot in the state tournament. Not only did SK make it to state, but it proved it belonged there. The Wolves opened with a tough 1-0 loss to defending state champion Shorecrest, but came back to beat Rogers of Spokane 3-1. SK bowed out of the tournament with a gritty performance against Marysville-Pilchuck in a 3-0 loss. Even SK coach Kathy Ballew said state wasn’t the team’s sight at the beginning of the season. “We were just realistic but I think we got the best out of (the team),” Ballew said.

5. Kipperberg crowned king of the mat

For all the tradition and success the SK wrestling team has had over the last 26 years, becoming a state champion has proven to be a tough obstacle for most SK wrestlers. But Derek Kipperberg’s 8-3 decision over Kamiakin’s Tyler Sherfey in the 119-pound weight class ended SK’s six-year drought without a state champion. Kipperberg became the ninth SK wrestler to earn the title of state’s best, and first since Stuart MacDiarmid accomplished the feat in 1996. For Kipperberg, it was redemption. After missing his sophomore year because of a dislocated elbow, Kipperberg settled for fourth place as a junior after losing a heartbreaker in the semifinals. In regionals of this year, Kipperberg took just his second loss of the year and had to settle for third. Placing third may have been the best thing to happen to him. A fired up yet calm Kipperberg went to work on his opponents and cruised to the championship.

The result was expected from SK coach Ron Hudiburg.

“He’s just so disciplined and he’s got great gifts and makes the most of what he has,” Hudiburg said. “He’s got a great work ethic that nobody compares to.”

4. Wrestling team extends NL winning streak to 100

Christmas came early to the South Kitsap High School wrestling program.

Ten years of domination in the Narrows League added up to its 100th straight dual-meet win in the league last week in a 72-6 win against Bremerton. While wrestling programs in the Narrows League haven’t been as competitive as other leagues. But when the NL was expanded into the Bay and Bridge Divisions with Olympia and Capital and the defunct Olympic League schools, the league became strong once again. The streak came into jeopardy three times over the last three years. There was the match at Capital three years ago followed by a match at Peninsula that went down the wire. Central Kitsap nearly knocked off the Wolves last year. But the depth of the SK program—along with a little luck—has allowed SK to maintain its streak, which now sits at 100 going into league competition in January. For Hudiburg, the streak is a testament to the program and its ability to reload with talent every year. But it’s the heart of his team he credits for keeping the streak alive.

“It’s all who you put on that mat that day,” Hudiburg said. “There’s so many intangibles—injuries, illness, grades—you just never know. It’s hard to keep the same 14 kids on the mat all the time.”

3. SK High Air Rifle Team takes 8th nationally

It’s clearly the anti-spectator sport. Concentration is critical for success. One-tenth of a millimeter can be the difference between a win and a loss in the sport of air rifle shooting. The difference between staying home and going to Atlanta for the National Air Rifle Junior Olympics came down to one measly point for the South Kitsap High School Navy Junior ROTC Precision Air Rifle Team last spring. Fortunately for SK, it was on the winning side of the decision. Under the volunteer coaching of Ken Smith and Jerry Head, SK air rifle extraordinaires George Head, James Ryan, and Robert Rakentine defeated Oak Harbor by a point at the Northwest Regional Junior Olympic Trials in Madras, Ore. to earn a berth to nationals last June.

The Wolves went on to place eighth nationally. The goal of each shooter is to hit 10 targets the size of silver dollars from 33 feet in the prone, off-hand, and kneeling position.

This must be accomplished in 15 minutes. SK’s fearsome foursome did not buckle. Ryan was SK’s high scorer with 1,119 points. Baker scored 1,099, Rakentine 1,095, and Head 1,065 for a combined 4,378 points. Service High School from Alaska won with 4,561 points.

2. Basketball team 8th at state

Considering it has gone to state in back-to-back years—with the expectation of a third straight trip this season—SK coach John Callaghan has built the SK boys basketball program into a state power for the first time since the late 1940s and early 1950s. SK has had great teams in the past, but the consistency of the program is starting to show after making consecutive appearances at state. But SK didn’t merely show up for state. With its backs against the wall at districts after losing in the opening round, SK fought through three loser-out games at districts to get there. Once at state, SK was ready to show it belonged in the big dance. The Wolves matched state-favorite Franklin for most of the game in the state opener before losing by seven points. Though dejected, the Wolves came back the next two days with wins over Bethel and Mead to earn a spot in the fifth/eighth place game. SK fell to Shadle Park 53-50 and settled for eighth. But the Wolves didn’t leave empty handed. The hardware sits in a display case outside the gym. Then-sophomore Jake Beitinger opened some eyes at state and proved he was one of the best players at the tournament. He was named to the first-team all-state tournament team. There’s a new slogan at SK: “SK’s not just a football town anymore.”

1. Willie Bloomquist makes MLB debut with M’s

The hardest skill in professional sports is hitting a 95-plus MPH baseball. It’s a skill a select group of men can accomplish and 1996 SK graduate Willie Bloomquist is one of them. The former high school and Arizona State All-American definitely earned his first invitation to the major league level as a player with the Seattle Mariners organization. After suffering injuries and vertigo in the first half of the year with Triple-A Tacoma, Bloomquist started swinging a hot stick in the second half. His success was rewarded with a September call-up to the Mariners big league team.

Bloomquist didn’t disappoint, though it took two weeks of sitting on the bench before he strutted his stuff. Bloomquist’s first appearance came as a pinch runner. In his first start he went 0-for-2. But in his second start, Bloomquist went 4-for-4, including two doubles and a diving catch in left field last in the game. For Bloomquist, all the patience clearly paid off, as he is expected to be a full-time member of the Mariners next season.

“It’s everything I’d ever hoped it would be,” Bloomquist said of his September call-up. “It’s been an awesome experience.”

Bloomquist has never been accused of lacking confidence.

“I’m just trying to take it day by day,” he said. “If I play well and do the things I’m supposed to do I certainly feel I can play at this level.”

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