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High school sports: A look back at the best of 2013

  • Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Jackson’s Jason Todd (left) and the Timberwolves finsihed second in the Class 3A state basketball tournement in 2013.

If you’re like me, you get nostalgic at this time of year. A new year brings excitement and hope, but also the urge to reflect on the preceding 365 days.

When I look back on 2013, there are several moments that stand out. And, because I work all the time, the bulk of them are high school sports-related.

Sure, my cousin getting married in Florida and a family trip to Disneyland were fun, but right behind on my best-of-2013 list are state basketball at the Tacoma Dome and the high school football season.

For David’s top 10 moments of 2013, click here.

The basketball playoffs are like Christmas to The Herald prep staff, and the portion at the Tacoma Dome is Christmas morning: if Christmas morning lasted three days, had terrible lighting and featured thousands of basketball fans from around the state yelling all the time.

The intensity — and, last year, the sheer number of local teams — make things a whole lot of fun. The Herald covered six teams at the 2013 state tournament: the Glacier Peak, Arlington and Lake Stevens girls, and the Mountlake Terrace, Arlington and Jackson boys.

Much like The Herald staff in attendance, the Glacier Peak girls got to Tacoma without a single person averaging double-digits in scoring. The Grizzlies’ tough defense helped them shine at districts and compete in every contest they played at state. Arlington and Lake Stevens had, perhaps, the game of the tournament, with a late 3-pointer by the Vikings’ Brittney Pahukoa sending the contest into overtime, before the Eagles won and clinched a spot in the state championship game.

For a photo gallery of some of the best prep sports photos of 2013, click here.

The Terrace boys rebounded from a first-round loss to place fourth in the 3A tournament, and Terry Dawn set a school scoring record for the Arlington boys, who placed fifth.

Jackson and Dawn’s Eagles played in a semifinal, with the Timberwolves earning a trip to the state title game.

And what a title game it was. I don’t think I blinked for two hours.

After trailing by double-digits, Jackson came roaring back — thanks, in part, to standout swingman Jason Todd, who played despite injuring his ankle, which swelled to about twice the size it was before the game. Led by Todd, Jackson got to within four before falling to Curtis 60-56.

The game was an utter joy to watch and an absolute pleasure to cover.

After basketball came spring sports — and a lot of rain. My first spring-sports story was about the lousy weather.

And it only got worse from there.

Yet somehow we made it to Memorial Day weekend, the busiest weekend of the year for The Herald prep sports staff. I ended up covering 3A state softball so I hopped in my car — much earlier in the morning than God intended people to be awake — and headed to Lacey.

While finishing up my stories the first night of the tournament, I looked up and saw the giant traveling trophy that goes to the winner. Once the rest of the press corps left, I briefly thought about borrowing the trophy for the night, but ultimately decided against it. I did, however, grab it for a picture. Now I’ll always have that one night I was a state softball champion.

I got to write about Meadowdale’s third-place finish, and sophomore Rebecca Wright, who hit a walk-off, two-out, three-run home run in the 10th inning to give the Mavericks a 10-8 win over Enumclaw and send Meadowdale to the semifinals.

That evening I got done so late I convinced my editor to let me get a hotel room in Lacey — my first-ever Herald sleepover. I split the room with Steve Willits. Many of you know him as the “Voice of the Hawks” on soundlivesports.com webcasts that stream Mountlake Terrace sporting events.

A side story: At the time, the Terrace softball team was going through what was probably an unhealthy addiction (or, as they put it, a good-luck charm) to Kool-Aid. Willits had apparently picked some up for luck on his broadcasts. After we checked in, he was preparing to head to the gas station when I floated the idea of getting a six pack. I swear he said, “OK,” but he returned a little while later with a six-pack of Kool-Aid. It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the state, Arlington was in the process of winning the 4A state title thanks to pitcher Ronnie Ladines and Marisa Rathert’s Ken Griffey, Jr.-esque catch over (and through) the outfield fence.

The end of the softball season, marked the start of a well-needed summer break, but in no time August rolled around, And to answer Hank Williams Jr.’s famous question, “Yes, I was ready for some football.”

Along with staff writer Aaron Lommers and Herald prep editor Aaron Swaney, we visited every team before the games began to gather preview information.

The Herald crew also ventured into radio, where we had a weekly show on KRKO 1380 AM that had the catchiest opening jam I’ve ever heard besides Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.” We interviewed local coaches and players and (shameless plug alert) look forward to hitting the airwaves again in January for a basketball show.

We had high hopes for a lot of local teams. Glacier Peak, despite losing several key players, looked as strong as ever. Marysville Pilchuck appeared to be a state contender and no one had a clue who was going to win the wide-open Wesco 4A North.

However, in the playoffs things got tough. Edmonds-Woodway fell to a Federal Way team that was just starting a monster playoff run, and Glacier Peak ran up against powerhouse Bellevue for the third time in six years.

Marysville Pilchuck had a rematch in the first round against Eastside Catholic, which crushed the Tomahawks the year before in the quarterfinals. This year’s game was much closer, but the Crusaders got the best of the Tommies again.

Meadowdale actually went the farthest of the local teams, getting to the state quarterfinals where it, too, faced Eastside Catholic for the second straight year. Running back Malik Braxton, who was heartbroken after the game, ran for 207 yards in a losing effort.

Then, abruptly, football season was over and basketball, wrestling and swimming started up.

That’s where I’m at now, looking forward to 2014 and the chance to make a whole new set of memories.

David Krueger covers high school sports for The Herald. He can be reached at dkrueger@heraldnet.com.

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