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News / Sports / Prep Sports

Hockinson girls soccer team has a purpose, cause which go beyond field

Hawks rally around 5-year-old boy battling brain tumor

By Andy Buhler, Columbian Staff Writer
Published: October 24, 2018, 10:02pm
6 Photos
A Hockinson player wears a shirt supporting Wyatt Draper before a match against Woodland at Hockinson High School.
A Hockinson player wears a shirt supporting Wyatt Draper before a match against Woodland at Hockinson High School. Photo Gallery

HOCKINSON — In the summer months leading up to the fall season, the Hockinson girls soccer team laid out 12 core values that the team holds, a tradition the girls have adopted year in and year out.

The players ask themselves what words such as “resilient” or “grateful” mean to them, and are tasked with coming up with an original definition for each word.

This year, the team vowed to get more involved with its core values.

When “caring” came up, the team took two hours to decide on a definition, whittling an entire paragraph down to, succinctly: “Hawks are passionate about their standards.”

That’s when the light bulb went off for coach Joe Chicks, who was still reeling from hearing the tragic news that the 5-year-old son of his childhood friends from Ridgefield, Tyler and Sara Draper, had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.

“I thought it was a good opportunity when learning about Wyatt to connect the two and get the girls involved in something beyond the sport,” Chicks said.

When Chicks told the team Wyatt’s story, many were emotionally effected. So before they played a single game, the Hawks dedicated their season to Wyatt. When Hockinson wins, Wyatt wins.

“We want to be more than a high school soccer team,” junior Brooke Grosz said. “We want to have a purpose and cause, and this is a really great way to show it.”

Though the Hawks have not met the Drapers, they have worn T-shirts made on his behalf, which read “Warriors for Wyatt” over a yellow ribbon. Chicks purchased the shirts out of his own pocket for the entire team.

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For Hockinson, Wyatt’s story lives at the heart of a season that, in many ways, has seen unexpected success.

After graduating 12 seniors and three first team all-league selections from a team that finished second in the 2A Greater St. Helens League, the Hawks went on to win their first outright league title since 2012.

The program won a string of league titles from 2007 to 2009, then again in 2012. It earned a share in 2016 with Columbia River.

What started in its commitment to its core values, and established bond off the field, translated onto the field once the season started.

“We started connecting, bonding, you could just see it was beautiful soccer,” Grosz said. “From then on out I knew we could do it.”

The Hawks surprised themselves when they beat Battle Ground 5-1 to open the season. But in the Hawks’ league opener, when they defeated two-time defending league champs Columbia River by the same margin, “I was shocked,” Chicks said.

“Our pregame speech was, can we finish stronger than how we started?”

That started in player-led workouts over the summer during the dead period when coaches aren’t allowed to organize practices.

“We’re really competitive as a whole against each other,” junior Jasmine Shigeno said. “We can be going really hard against each other and pick each other up off the field, knock each other down, laugh about it and get up and keep competing.”

The team’s first goal? Finish first in league. It accomplished that this week when league play came to a close. Now, the Hawks hope to well outperform its penalty kick loss to North Kitsap that ended its 2017 season.

And in the process, it hopes to do Wyatt proud.

A private Facebook group is dedicated to Wyatt, where friends, family and members of the Ridgefield community — and many beyond — send messages of encouragement and pictures of the “Warriors for Wyatt” logo on T-shirts, bumper stickers and bracelets.

During the Ridgefield football team’s homecoming game on Sept. 28, Wyatt was announced as an honorary captain. The Seton Catholic cross country team posted a photo wearing the shirts.

The team has yet to meet Wyatt. Chicks has put the invite out and he said hopefully the final member of their team, 5-year-old Wyatt, can meet the players who have been playing for him.

“We’re a team, we play together and we wanted to play for him and show we can be strong too,” junior Megan Stangel said.

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Columbian Staff Writer