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All-Region multi-sport female athlete of the year: Shaela Bradley, La Center

Rutgers University-bound senior excelled in soccer, track and field

By Will Denner, Columbian staff writer
Published: June 8, 2024, 6:04am

Shaela Bradley imagines a time years from now, perhaps at a La Center High School reunion when she’ll look back fondly on her athletic feats over the last four years and the friendships made along the way.

Oh yeah, that was me. … I was part of that team. We did that.

Countless accomplishments and memories will give the La Center senior two-sport standout plenty to cherish in the future.

On the soccer pitch, the Rutgers University-bound midfielder finished her prep career with 137 goals scored and led the Wildcats to new heights by reaching the Class 1A state semifinals for the first time in program history last fall.

Then, after working her way back from an ankle injury suffered during a January club soccer event, Bradley made the most of her final track and field season by reaching the podium in each of her four events at the 1A state meet in Yakima, including runner-up finishes in the long jump and 400 meters.

Already named The Columbian’s All-Region athlete of the year in both girls soccer and track and field, Bradley has also been selected as The Columbian All-Region female multi-sport athlete of the year, capping her senior year with an honor that encapsulates her year-round devotion to sports.

“They’ve been my life, I would say that’s probably the best way to put it,” Bradley said. “I’ve just done sports for so long I don’t really know anything else.”

Bradley sees an obvious connection between what she does in soccer, her main sport, and track and field. Training in the latter, particularly in sprints and jumps, helps her build muscle and become an overall better athlete, which should benefit her when making the leap to college soccer.

“(Track and field) just helps my endurance, quickness and agility to get off the line, or just start fast,” Bradley said. “I definitely think it plays into soccer and it helps.”

Track and field runs deep in Bradley’s family, serving as the main impetus for her participation in the sport.

Her grandma, Janice Bradley, earned gold medals at the U.S. Track and Field Masters Outdoor Championships. Her father, Blayne Bradley, was a college track and field athlete at Washington and Eastern Washington. At Battle Ground, he won a state title in the triple jump, and his name still sits at or near the top of the school’s record book in the 4×100 relay, triple jump and long jump.

The latter event also happens to be Shaela Bradley’s favorite.

“I just really love the long jump,” she said, “and I just wish I PR’d this year, but it’s OK. I’m still pretty happy with the result.”

When Bradley thinks of memories that stand out from the last four years at La Center, the common thread between each sport is friendships.

She discovered that with soccer when she joined the Wildcats’ program as a freshman during the 2020-21 COVID year and met teammates who are still her best friends. She also embraced the community within track and field, which often includes a wide array of personalities across many events.

“I just really enjoyed my four years of track, and with soccer, you just have such a tight-knit bond with your team,” Bradley said. “… I get to connect with the lower classes because of that, and I think friendships is definitely one of the reasons why I did two sports.”

Bradley also took pride in representing La Center, a Class 1A school located nearby several larger schools in and around Clark County. Bradley is further proof that athletes don’t need to seek out the biggest programs to stand out.

“I know La Center is slowly working its way to be bigger, but I feel like it’s definitely not a huge school like Ridgefield or Camas,” she said. “It was incredible to kind of put La Center on the map a little bit and be like, ‘Hey, look at us now. We’re getting there.’ ”

Bradley will soon embark on her next chapter at Rutgers in the Scarlet Knights’ women’s soccer program led by longtime head coach Mike O’Neill. She’s already done Zoom meetings with her soon-to-be teammates and coaches, and the team has already laid out its goals until the end of July. It’s the type of environment Bradley is excited to be in.

“I’m excited for something new,” Bradley said. “I’m excited to be pushed. I’m not saying I’m not pushed right now, but I feel like college is a different level for everything. I’m excited for the challenge. … I’m just ready.”