Friday, December 9, 2022
Dec. 9, 2022

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Martinez: Just about all of SW Washington was in the state mix this school year

Tim Martinez: High school sports

By , Columbian Assistant Sports Editor

As we head into the final weekend, it’s safe to say the 2021-22 high school sports school year was a pretty special year in Southwest Washington.

Just having a full year of high school sports — the first since 2018-19 — would make it special enough. But consider this.

Two local schools ended lengthy droughts on sending teams into a state tournament bracket.

Now, for the record, we identify “individual” sports as those sports in which an athlete can qualify for state as an individual. But “team” sports are sports in which an athlete can only qualify for state as a member of a team.

So “team” sports would include football, volleyball, soccer, basketball, softball and baseball.

This spring, the Fort Vancouver boys soccer team qualified for the 2A state tournament for the first time since 1988. The team was also the first Trapper team to advance to a state tournament bracket since the 2007-08 girls basketball team.

And then last weekend, when the Heritage softball team made a surprising run to the 3A state softball tournament, it marked the first time at Heritage a team had reached state since the 2013 baseball team.

While we love covering all the great seasons of all of our area teams, it is extra special to get to shine a spotlight on athletic programs that had not enjoyed a lot of success. We hope success this season leads to further success in the future.

Overall, it was a pretty successful school year for teams in Southwest Washington. Twenty of the 22 schools in the three Greater St. Helens Leagues plus the Trico League sent at least one team into a state tournament bracket.

Kelso enjoyed the most state success among the nine “team” sports, sending eight teams to state. Only fastpitch softball missed out.

Other successful programs in the area included Camas (5 teams), Ridgefield (4), Columbia River (4) and La Center (4).

In fact, it would have been a clean sweep for all 22 teams in those four leagues if not for a rare shutout for two schools.

Mountain View did not send a team to state for the first time since the 2015-16 school year, the Thunder’s last as a Class 4A school.

And it marked Woodland’s first state shutout since 2011-12.

Final weekend coverage

The toughest part of the spring sports season — at least from the standpoint of media trying to cover it all — is that we can’t cover it all, as much as we would like.

Unlike the fall and winter seasons — which conclude with state championships spread out over four weeks — the spring sports season all funnels into the finish on the final weekend.

And that forces us to make careful choices on where to use our resources this weekend. So here’s the plan.

4A-3A-2A TRACK AND FIELD: Meg Wochnick is a our resident trackmaster and will be providing coverage for the state meet at Mount Tahoma High School on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Freelance photographer Joshua Hart will be providing images, as well.

4A SOFTBALL: Micah Rice will be taking the long journey across the state to Spokane to cover Skyview and Battle Ground at the 4A softball state tournament at the Merkel Sports Complex on Friday and Saturday. There is the potential of a quarterfinal matchup on Friday between the Storm and Tigers, which would provide some good theater in addition to guaranteeing a local state semifinalist.

2A SOCCER: Will Denner is heading up to Tumwater for Columbia River’s semifinal matchup against Burlington-Edison on Friday and also potentially the title game on Saturday. After getting stuck in a three-hour traffic jam while heading up to the 2A district softball tournament in Chehalis last week, Will is very glad that state soccer is in Tumwater this year, and not in Shoreline as it has been held in year’s past. If the schedule allows, and if local teams Prairie and Heritage get some wins, Will also will provide some coverage from 3A softball in Lacey.

2A BASEBALL/SOFTBALL: I draw the assignment to go to Yakima to cover Columbia River vs. Ellensburg on Friday morning in the 2A state baseball semifinals at County Stadium. After that game ends, I will scoot over to nearby Selah to cover Ridgefield’s run through the 2A softball tournament. It’s my first trip to Yakima in a very long time (I can’t quite remember my last trip there), and I have never covered a state baseball semifinal. And Saturday has the potential to be a trophy day at baseball and softball.

But even with all that coverage, it still leaves potential holes — like the 1A/2B/1B state track meet in Cheney or all of the state tennis tournaments — in particular 4A in Kennewick and 2A in Seattle, where local contenders could fare very well.

We’ll do our best to give coverage to those athletes this weekend.

It will be a wild finish to a great year.

Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4538, or follow his Twitter handle @360TMart.