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Tuesday, June 2, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Steve Christilaw: Promising fall sports seasons debut in heat

Steve christilaw

I’ve been having trouble explaining to my Great Dane, River, that the dog days of summer have nothing to do with her. Considering the fact that she thinks everything is about her, it’s an uphill battle.

These dog days – the long, hot part of the summer season – are the prelude to a story that will reach its conclusion when we all turn our attention to Thanksgiving and the start of the holiday season.

I’ve always found it ironic that a season that can easily finish in snow and ice gets its start during the hottest days of summer. But it’s always a joyous start.

I love dropping by the first football practice of the season at Central Valley.

Rick Giampietri is the longest tenured high school coach in the Greater Spokane League by a wide margin – he’s in his 45th year as a high school coach and took over the CV job in 1983. And when you chat with him on the first day of practice his baritone voice has a lilt to it and his eyes dance with a sense of joy that only comes when you have a deep love for what you’re doing.

First workouts are about getting paperwork together, checking players’ height and weight, and timing them in sprints. The pads and the Xs and Os come later.

In a lot of ways, it’s mere formality. But to Coach G, it’s like Christmas morning and he’s opening dozens and dozens of presents.

If a player has added muscle to his frame or shaved a 10th of a second or two off his time in the 40-yard dash, the coach and his staff are thrilled.

Cross country practices have changed over the years and checking in on those changes every August is fun.

The Spokane Valley has been blessed with a long line of legendary coaches for cross country and track, and they’ve all retired. Dave McCarty at East Valley. Jim McLachlan at West Valley. Bob Barbaro at University and later West Valley – his alma mater. Dennis McGuire at CV. They’re all still around and each remains an avid fan, but it’s still a shock not to see them on the sidelines at the start of a new season.

This year I’m especially looking forward to girls soccer.

Soccer has been the Spokane Valley’s hidden gem for a number of years and exemplary the last two.

For starters, the coaches are first-rate. Shelly Totten Peterson at West Valley, Gabe Escobar at East Valley, Megan Poulson at U-Hi and Andres Monrroy at CV all have a passion for the game and consistently turn out quality teams.

This year, Monrroy will lead the Lady Bears on a quest for a third consecutive girls Class 4A state championship – a daunting task for any team, but a possible one for this particular squad.

For years now Monrroy has been the Dorian Gray of coaches: His teams always get younger while gaining experience. Somewhere in the closet of his classroom, he must have a team portrait that features gray-haired players.

The team has graduated some incredible talent – including Paige Galloway and Savannah Hoekstra, who now play at Eastern Washington University – and still captured back-to-back state titles.

But this year, along with the traditional cornucopia of talent, CV returns the best player in the state: junior Kelsey Turnbow, a two-time state Gatorade Player of the Year and member of the United States U-17 Women’s National Team.

A striker who committed to playing collegiate soccer at Santa Clara two years from now, Turnbow scored an incredible 30 goals as a sophomore and has 50 in her first two seasons. She scored four goals to lead CV to a 5-2 win over Jackson in last year’s state championship game.

Monrroy builds teams that play a fluid style that begins with stout defense. With a proven scorer who finishes better than any player in the state, CV has what it takes to challenge for a third title.

Don’t get me wrong. Winning one state title is incredibly difficult and requires luck as well as talent. Winning back-to-back is even more difficult.

Winning a third? That’s the kind of accomplishment that creates legends.

But watching a team take a run at history? That’s definitely something worth making time for – and I do hope you will.

Steve Christilaw can be reached at steve.christilaw

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