As one of four class valedictorians, Beyonce Bea’s speech to fellow graduates at Washougal High School last week centered on firsts.
“It was a historic year at Washougal,” Bea said in a sit-down interview days before graduation. So many athletes who are in our class did something for the first time at Washougal. That’s special.”
Bea, The Columbian’s All-Region girls athlete of the year, was instrumental in a lot of them by creating her own firsts senior year. Bea earned all-league in volleyball to help the Panthers end a nearly three-decade-long playoff drought by reaching districts. In basketball, she was the centerpiece of the school’s first girls basketball state championship team, leaving a legacy that includes multiple season and career records.
And in tennis, the sport she took up for the first time entering ninth grade, she reached state by partnering with Paige Wilson, another class valedictorian, to place fifth in doubles.
It’s hard not to argue for Bea as one of the school’s best-ever athletes. No doubt, she said, her top highlight is winning the Class 2A state basketball title in March, when she scored 30 of her team’s 49 points in an overtime win against East Valley of Spokane.
But her journey toward success came through multiple sports. A one-time first-love soccer player quickly transitioned to basketball, and volleyball always was a staple.
Tennis, though, became her spring sport-of-choice entering high school. She had no prior experience, but at the urging of her father and Washougal tennis coach and family friend, Angela Watts, Bea gave tennis a try. This spring, she and Wilson were named 2A Greater St. Helens League’s doubles team of the year on their way to placing fifth in Bea’s second state appearance.
All of that might not have happened at a larger school.
“When you’re at a smaller school,” she said, “you have that opportunity. You’re not required or really wanted to specialize in one sport. You have that ability to play all three if that’s what you want.”
Playing three sports kept Bea connected to the school as a Running Start student at Clark College. In addition to her high school diploma, she graduates with an associate’s degree.
She also emphasizes the importance of playing multiple sports growing up and sustaining that throughout high school. Everything from learning leadership qualities and responsibility to building and sustaining relationships with teammates and coaches across different sports.
“I think it’s really important to try to play as many (sports) as you can,” she said, “especially if you enjoy playing them. Specializing in one sport is awesome, too, if that’s really what you want. At the same time, getting out there and having to balance all those different things happening at the same time is a really good skill and teaches you so much.”
Now a high school graduate, Bea will soon be a full-time NCAA Division I athlete. She signed to play basketball at Idaho, and transitions to another first: one-sport athlete.
“It’s a fun experience to get to try to specialize in one sport for the first time,” she said. “It’s a new opportunity for me to get better and better.”