January 14, 2010

Washington preps: Revamped Rogers takes big step up

By The Spokesman-Review

It was 1979, if memory serves me, and my high school basketball team, Kamiakin, was playing a nonleague game at Rogers High School.

All I recall was walking into a cramped gymnasium that had this dank feel to it.

Fast forward about 30 years this week and I returned to see a sparkling new campus. I wanted to see for myself if what I’ve heard is true – that the athletes and coaches are embracing the return next year to 4A with a can-do attitude.

If there’s an inkling of self-pity, I didn’t find it at Rogers.

History and facts don’t lie. There’s no way to sugarcoat the fact that Rogers’ athletic teams have struggled mightily over the years.

The last team to qualify for state in 4A was the fastpitch softball team in 2002. The year before the baseball team advanced to state. In individual sports, Ben Houk was the last state wrestling champ (1999, 108 pounds).

“I’ve said it from the beginning and we had the same approach when we dropped to 3A. I want to play where we fit,” Pirates football coach Matt Miethe said. “I think for the school it would be a lot better if we were in 3A. The bottom line is we’ve got to get better regardless of where we’re at.”

The boys basketball team had a breakthrough last year – something that may not have occurred had it been in 4A. The Pirates qualified for state for the first time in 34 years.

Rogers qualified for state in impressive fashion, too. They were regional champs.

“It’s tough every year in the Greater Spokane League,” boys basketball coach Tim Wood said. “It’s one of the best leagues in the state for any sport.”

That’s why GSL coaches in any sport will tell you that league play is great preparation for postseason.

Wood will have to take a more expanded view of Rogers athletics beginning later this month when he takes on the additional duties of athletic director. He replaces four-year A.D. Eric Anderson, who is taking on discipline duties.

“Knowing the coaches, they’re at Rogers for a reason,” Wood said. “They love the kids. They’re here to prepare them for life. We know it’s going to be a challenge.”

The coaches are encouraged by the fact that enrollment numbers are up in the sophomore and freshman classes, and the incoming freshman class is also bigger than usual.

“We’re maintaining more kids and a lot of it has to do with the new facilities,” Miethe said.

The athletes also have their eyes wide open regarding the return to 4A.

“I think it’s going to be tough, but we can accept the challenge and take it head on,” said junior Therone Tillett, a starter on the basketball team who was the Pirates’ backup quarterback last fall.

“Look at what the basketball team did last year. That’s got to be progress right there,” added Tillett, who carries a 3.9 grade-point average. “Our football team is finally winning games each year. It’s going to be slow but exponential as the years go on.”

Sophomore Aley Roberts, a three-sport athlete who started at outside hitter in volleyball last fall, said there’s a vast socioeconomic gap between Rogers and the other 4A schools. She’s the lone athlete on her team playing on a club team.

“I don’t mind going back to 4A, but most of the athletes here can’t afford club,” she said.

While the challenges are many, you must applaud the Rogers community for forging ahead.

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