If the outcomes of sports events were inevitable, they wouldn’t bother to play the games or run the races.
So, as the public school year comes to an end with graduations and the prospect of busy summer vacations, it’s fitting to take a moment to salute some significant achievements on the diamond and the track.
The Astoria High School girls’ track team was on the podium in Eugene again, just missing out on a fourth consecutive state championship.
Last year, the Lady Fishermen went back and forth with Phoenix for the lead, but ended the state meet atop the podium to make it an astonishing three in a row.
This year, the girls placed second behind Marshfield — by only 5 points — a tremendous achievement that demonstrates consistency in the program and is a credit to the athletes and coaches. They were spurred by senior Darian Hageman’s heroics in three jumping finals, an impressive contribution from Sophie Long in the 800, and field athletes like Kes Sandstrom, who won the discus.
Casual observers might suggest that track highlights individual achievements, but anyone who is close to the program knows it is entirely a team sport. And that does not just mean the accumulation of points. As Sandstrom said, “We had people moving around cheering for each other all day, and I definitely felt my team there for me today.”
There is a similar ethos in eastern Clatsop County, and it has existed for some time. That’s why it is also a delight to cue some significant applause for the Knappa High School baseball team.
Coach Jeff Miller and his boys have done it again, winning the 2A/1A trophy with a comfortable win over Pilot Rock.
It is their third state championship in four consecutive years at the finals. They were the favorites and have chalked up back-to-back title wins, just like their basketball team did back in 1999.
But did we say “comfortable?” Not, exactly. The talented young athletes still had to win — and they gave up a run early in the contest to put themselves under some pressure.
Gary Henley’s reporting of postseason high school athletics always captures the drama and reveals the subplots.
The biggest theme in this story is the classy manner in which Knappa’s representatives perform.
The boys never brag (though they could be forgiven if they did).
The boys support each other (they serve as a role model for any group striving for success).
The boys do what is asked of them. Every one.
Even when their individual seasons end prematurely, they stay in the fight. Senior Reuben Cruz was crushed when an accidental postgame shoulder injury ruined his final opportunity to play in a Knappa sports uniform. Yet he supported his teammates from the bench, taking almost an assistant coach role to exhort them to victory.
Knappa’s drive for success permeates the entire school district. Walk down the corridors and peer into the classrooms any day of the week and you’ll see a whole lot of learning going on.
Some lessons are learned on the field. The best example of this class act is coach Miller. He never takes any of Knappa’s success for granted, “Baseball’s a scary sport sometimes, and all it takes is one swing.” he says, with obvious intensity.
Even as his guys progressed through the quarterfinals and semifinals, he praised the other coaches, commended the other teams and didn’t get too excited.
The only bad news here is that nine Logger seniors will graduate. The good news is that’s OK — because there are many younger players who have already proved their mettle.
As Henley added, in the punchline to his championship report, “This dynasty is just warming up.”
Another dynasty in progress
While this editorial is about spring sports, we would be remiss not to point out that another dynasty is in progress in South County.
The Seaside boys basketball team won its second straight 4A state championship in March. It was their third straight year competing in the title game.
Four of their five starters return next season, and they have one of the best youth programs in the state.
“We’re going to be better than ever next year,” said junior Chase Januik, a second team all-state selection. “We’ll be looking for a three-peat.”