The 2021-22 school year is a new year.
And like any new year, it is full of hope.
But the hope this year is less about victories, postseason berths and championship, and more about returning to normal.
The chaotic year of 2020-21 was nothing close to normal. Neither was the abbreviated 2019-20 year.
At Evergreen High School, Christian Swain was looking for something for his athletes to celebrate the start of the 2021-22 school year.
So, the Plainsmen’s head football coach and newly appointed athletic director went back to something he started when he became the football coach at Roosevelt High School in north Portland — a kick-off celebration.
“At that first one, eight people showed up – five athletes and three parents,” Swain said of his initial event at Roosevelt. “We shared a frozen lasagna together. … But by the end of my time at Roosevelt, we had a packed gym.”
Looking to create a similar excitement and building the Evergreen community, Swain hosted a kick-off event and media for the fall programs at Evergreen.
It started off with Swain holding an informational presentation for students and family members. After that, there was a meet-and-greet with coaches and athletes at tables in the school commons, and photo shoots for each team were held.
And finally, select members of different Evergreen teams participated in a media day-style question-and-answer session in the school auditorium.
“I just wanted to have something that could help make the kids feel special,” Swain said.
It was an opportunity for the athletes to talk about what they hope to accomplish this season and what they are looking forward to most this fall season.
For tennis player Daniel Pierson, it was playing matches again in the warmth of September and early October.
“I always heard from the girls team, who play their season in the spring, about how cold and rainy it was,” Pierson said. “And I always thought it couldn’t be as bad as they said. But after playing (in February and March), it was pretty rainy.”
Cross country runners Beatrice LeGore, Lorenzo Anguiano and Luke Twiss were looking forward to running in larger invitational meets, something teams couldn’t do with COVID restrictions in the season last winter.
“I’ve heard that a lot of the invites are mainly just for fun,” Twiss said. “I know there’s one that’s kind of like an obstacle course, so I’m looking forward to that.”
His coach, Anne Christie, then jumped in: “Luke, here, is a sophomore, so he’s never experienced a normal fall cross country season with invitationals. Lorenzo and Beatrice, they know what an invitational meet is all about. (Luke) thinks it’s just for fun. It’s not.”
The Evergreen football team was looking forward to a Week 1 matchup at Centralia on Friday, and riding to the game as a team on the bus.
Last season, the Plainsmen played two “road” games against Heritage and Mountain View, which also play their home games at McKenzie Stadium, in Evergreen High’s backyard. The lone real road game was across town at Kiggins Bowl.
“I’m looking forward to getting on the bus with my teammates again,” Jonathan Landry said. “That’s a lot more fun than everyone driving in their cars.”
Kyle Norton added: “I think it just adds to the atmosphere of the game. You get on the bus all ready to go. Then you get off the bus at the opposing team’s stadium, I think it just sets the tone to play.”
But the biggest thing the athletes talked about was establishing a new culture at Evergreen and reversing people’s perception of what Plainsmen athletics is all about.
“Evergreen’s volleyball program for years has been ‘Oh, it’s Evergreen; that’s an automatic win,’ ” volleyball player Jocie Snyder said. “My freshman year, I made varsity. Then I went to my club practice and my teammates there were like ‘Oh, you made varsity? That’s cool, but it’s Evergreen.’ And ever since then, I just wanted to prove everyone wrong.”
Norton added: “People can say whatever they want to say about us, but I don’t think it affects us. We’re just going to do what Evergreen does, no matter what people think about us.”
Pierson said: “It’s great here. I love the staff. I love the coaches, the players, the students. I’ve had great experiences at this school, and I hope to continue to have great experiences, in sports and in the classroom.”
If the goal of last Saturday’s fall kick-off/media day at Evergreen was to create excitement and confidence in Plainsmen sports, Swain should consider the event a mission accomplished.
“I think we’re going to go out there and absolutely beat everyone and be No. 1 in the state,” Pierson said, his face covering obscuring his tongue clearly in cheek. “Yeah! No. 1! Let’s go Evergreen!”
Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached at (360) 735-4538, email@example.com or follow his Twitter handle @360TMart.