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Most Impactful Local Sports Stories of 2019

From triumph to tragedy to anticipation, Clark County sports had an emotional year

The Columbian
11 Photos
Members of the Ridgefield Raptors wave to the crowd after the final game of the season at the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex.
Members of the Ridgefield Raptors wave to the crowd after the final game of the season at the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex. (Roberto Rodriguez/for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

When it came to sports stories in Clark County, 2019 covered the whole emotional gamut.

There was triumph — Camas gave the county a high school football state champion for the fourth consecutive year. We also had two girls basketball state champions, a girls soccer state champion and several individual athletes who rose above others.

There was tragedy — Two of our most poignant stories involved local sports figures dealing with the deaths of loved ones. The Ridgefield High softball team also lost its beloved coach to heart failure.

There was anticipation — The arrival of the Ridgefield Raptors collegiate wood bat baseball team didn’t just give local families a summer entertainment option. The team’s success reflected a county that is growing more populous, dynamic and thus able to support broader sports options.

The upcoming year promises many more stories of achievement, perseverance and strength. They are stories we at The Columbian look forward to covering.

But before we ring in 2020, here’s a look back at the most impactful Clark County sports stories of 2019. (Click on each title to read each story online)

1. The Raptors arrive in Ridgefield

Perhaps no area is a better cross section of Clark County than Ridgefield. In a county becoming more populous, the city the fastest-growing not just in Southwest Washington, but the entire state. Yet, it’s an area that keeps both a rural charm and natural beauty.

At this intersection of the county’s past, present and future, the Ridgefield Raptors took flight at the beautiful new Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex.

Was Clark County ready for a team to call its own. The answer was a resounding “Yes.”

The Raptors averaged nearly 1,200 fans over 27 home games, putting it near the middle of the 12 team West Coast League.

On the field, the team of collegiate players was decent, finishing with a 27-27 record. More importantly, the Raptors look set to build a long-term following, something previous amateur and semi-pro basketball, soccer and football teams in Clark County have failed to do.

2. Camas extends county’s football streak

County of champions — that’s what you could call this area when it comes to high school football.

For the fourth straight year, a Clark County team is the best in the state. Camas completed its “Revenge Tour,” an undefeated season that ended with a 35-14 win over Bothell in the Class 4A state championship game on Dec. 7.

Four years ago, it was Camas that started Clark County’s run of glory with its first football state title.

The next year, Hockinson joined the fun. Last year, Hockinson and Union gave our area two state champs in the same season for the first time.

Could the streak continue in 2020? With several key players back, Camas could give Clark County a shot at five in a row.

3. Girls rule the hardwood

If you’re a fan of high school girls basketball, the first Saturday in March was epic.

In Tacoma, the Prairie won its seventh state championship, outlasting Mount Spokane 37-35 in a tense 3A championship game.

Halfway across the state in Yakima, Washougal won its first state title. Led by 2A state player of the year Beyonce Bea, the Panthers beat East Valley of Spokane 49-40 in overtime.

Eight Clark County teams reached the final state tournament sites. Of those, six were boys teams.

But in the end, it was the girls at Prairie and Washougal who brought home the hardware.

4. A beloved coach passes

Dusty Anchors didn’t expect to coach the Ridgefield High softball team this spring. Diagnosed with Stage-4 heart failure, the coach informed his players of his dire condition before the 2018 season, which he expected to be his last.

But lifted up by his players and the team’s positive energy, the 68-year-old coach remained strong well into the 2019 season.

Anchors’s health, however, took a turn for the worse right as the Spudders entered the postseason. He entered hospice care in early May and died one week later.

Playing for their coach, Ridgefield went on to place third in the 2A state tournament less than two weeks after Anchors’ passing.

5. Triumph and Tragedy

In the span of a few months, Rory Rosenbach experienced a high few in his beloved sport of football can, and a low no parent should.

Four months after coaching Union to the 4A state championship, Rosenbach’s daughter Gabby, 18, was killed in a car crash. To deal with his grief, Rosenbach turned to his players — the same ones who looked to him when the team lost beloved assistant coach Mark Rego to cancer the previous year.

“It’s never better,” Rosenbach said, “but you figure it out, you get up every day and go.

“They (the players) are what save you.”

6. Rally from Despair

For La Center senior Tiffany Chandler, the volleyball court was a refuge.

It was a calm, happy place in the middle of a tempest — one that arose when her father and sister both chose to take their own lives on the same day in 2016.

Amid their grief, Chandler and her mother, Sharrin Chandler McDade, have made a difference.

They’ve become advocates for suicide prevention and mental health awareness both in La Center and in the greater Portland area.

7. 2A GSHL kicks out the rest

In reality, the 2A girls soccer state finals should have been held in Clark County.

That’s because three teams at the final four in Shoreline all hailed from the 2A Greater St. Helens League.

Columbia River, Ridgefield and Hockinson blitzed through the bracket after grabbing the three state berths from District 4. Rarely, if ever, has one league so dominated the state playoffs.

Columbia River beat Ridgefield in the semifinals, the knocked off Hockinson to earn the program’s fourth state title.

8. Tibbits qualifies for U.S. Open

For Spencer Tibbits, success is par for the course.

He won three WIAA state golf championships while competing for Fort Vancouver. He has also won numerous amateur tournaments across the Northwest.

But no triumph has been as big as what the Oregon State junior accomplished in June. In finishing second at a qualifying tournament in Walla Walla, Tibbits gained entry to the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

For many amateurs, just competing in one of golf’s four majors would be enough. But Tibbits nearly made the cut, shooting 3-over par over two rounds to miss the cut by one stroke.

“These guys are really freaking good,” Tibbits said. “It’s impressive, the level these guys play at. It’s super cool to play alongside them.”

9. Historic three-peat for Maton

Triple-doubles aren’t just for basketball. Camas runner Daniel Maton took his distance-running dominance to a new level at the state track and field championships in Tacoma last May.

Maton became the first Washington runner to win three state championships in both the 800 and 1,600 meter races.

Maton’s decorated track career netted six individual state titles, a relay state title, and a team title the past three years.

“I’m mostly really lucky that I had the opportunity to race so any times (at state),” said Maton, who now runs for University of Washington. “Not injured or sick at state, and the opportunity to give it my all every year is what I’m happy about. It feels so good to be consistent and I’m really happy about that.”

10. Hoffman takes reins of WIAA

After 30 years as a teacher, administrator and coach with Vancouver Public Schools, Mick Hoffman has impacted the lives of countless student athletes.

Now the longtime Clark County resident is steering the ship of high school sports across the state. Hoffman, 49, was selected as WIAA executive director in January. He filled the shoes of Mike Colbrese, who ran the association for 25 years before retiring.

Hoffman takes over at the pivotal time for the WIAA, which is dealing with declining state championship attendance and revenue. Hoffman’s hope is that he can help more teenagers across the state realize the value of extracurricular activities.

“I’m a huge fan of the underdog,” he said. “I want kids out there that maybe never thought about doing an art or thought about doing a sport and taking a look at offerings and either expanding them and/or changing them.”