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Thursday, July 9, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Grip on Sports: Another year of building memories is over for high school athletes

Cheney’s Charles Johnson wins the 2A boys 200 meters on Saturday, May 26, 2018, in Tacoma, Washington. (@WIAAWA / Twitter)
Cheney’s Charles Johnson wins the 2A boys 200 meters on Saturday, May 26, 2018, in Tacoma, Washington. (@WIAAWA / Twitter)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Let’s take a break, shall we? A break from all the Mariner news. Instead let’s say goodbye to something that’s ridden along with us for the past nine months: prep sports. Read on.

••••••••••

• Goodbye is probably too strong a word. A softer phrase comes to mind, something like so long, or see you soon might be better. 

See, high school sports, while part of our consciousness from basically Labor Day to Memorial Day, is a year-round endeavor. If you have sports-minded high school-aged kids (or had them), you know what I mean.

Yes, yesterday was the last day of the official season prep-sports year. There were championships decided in track, softball, baseball, tennis. The year is over. And, Tuesday, next year begins.

Not really, of course. But in reality. Football teams get together to lift. Basketball teams head to camps and summer leagues. Baseball players have 50 games scheduled. And everyone is training, either individually or in a group.

In the state of Washington, once football starts in August until spring sports end on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, a sport’s coach can only work with his or her players during the official season. But from now until August? It’s open season.

The basketball coaches have a summer of activities lined up. So do the football coaches. Every coach, from volleyball to golf, wants to check in, to make sure their athletes are using this time, much of it without the distraction of, you know, school, wisely.

Which can cause problems for that elusive three-sport athlete. Unless the coaches work together. On one end of the spectrum is the school where all the coaches gather in the spring, share summer schedules and attempt to broker an agreement that takes the onus off the students.

On the other end, the one we ran into a time or two, is one sport’s coach insinuating to a kid pretty clearly they have to be at a certain summer event or they can kiss their chance of playing next year goodbye.

That’s a lot of pressure to put on a high school freshman. The other way, where conflicts are kept to a minimum and the coaches understand the stresses of trying to get from a baseball game in Mead to a basketball game in the Valley, that’s the best way to go.

The goal over the next few months for every high school athlete is to improve. To get stronger, faster, better. That brings its own pressure. There is no need to add more.

• For all the high school athletes out there who built an endearing memory over the past nine months, congratulations. I’d like to share one or two of mine.

There was the time the other team had the bases loaded and one out. The hitter stroked a one-hopper back to our pitcher. He fired it to me at the plate. I didn’t get far enough out before the ball arrived and, as I turned to throw to first to complete the inning-ending double play, I slipped. The ball flew out of may hand down the right-field line and three runs scored. Good times.

Or how about the time our pitcher was throwing a no-hitter and a guy he walked tried to steal third? My throw somehow hit the third baseman in the top of the head and caromed into left field. We lost 1-0. Or the time the first baseman from La Cañada High ran me over at the plate and knocked me cold? Or the time the ball cracked my skull, sending blood everywhere? What memories.

Actually, they are. My point is simple: sometimes even the bad moments turn into great memories. Don’t let them get you down. They are all part of what makes you, you. And you are special. Over the course of time, the most embarrassing things that happen to you turn into crud you can laugh about. Or stories with which you can bore your grandkids.

• The M’s are also special right now. (What, you thought I would completely ignore a team that’s playing its best baseball in a decade or so?) Mike Zunino looked putrid at the plate his first four at-bats (three Ks and a weak ground out). His fifth one? He hit a game-winning, 12th-inning home run.

That’s the way things are going for the Mariners right now.

•••

WSU: About the only thing going on for the Cougars right now is track and field. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, four conference schools will play in the Women’s College World Series. Half the field. UCLA earned a spot Friday. Washington, Oregon and Arizona State joined the Bruins yesterday. … Colorado has a player whose life isn't turning out the way he thought it would. … UCLA's newest quarterback doesn't fit the Chip Kelly mold, if there is one. … Dennis Erickson is still coaching. That's always worth sharing.

Gonzaga: The Bulldog baseball team is headed back to the NCAA Tournament after winning the WCC's automatic berth yesterday, defeating Pepperdine 17-2.

Preps: There are so many prep stories to pass along this morning I am worried I may miss one or two. I scoured our database trying to ensure that didn’t happen but who knows? We will start with baseball, in which Freeman and Almira/Coulee-Hartline won state titles. … It was a good day for ACH, as it also won a softball title as did Lakeside and Northwest Christian. Dave Nichols also has the story of Central Valley’s best state finish ever, third in the 4A tournament. … We have boys and girls tennis roundups. … From track and field, Sean Kramer has a 4A story, a 3A story and a 2A story. Greg Lee split the 1A, 2B and 1B meet into two stories, one on the girls and the other on the boys.

Mariners: At least the Twins didn’t add a loss to the injuries the M’s suffered as Nick Vincent left with a groin problem and Jean Segura was knocked out, nearly literally, by a kick. The M’s prevailed 4-3. … Gene Warnick sums up the week, including the big trade, in an Out of Right Field column.

Sounders: Real Salt Lake hadn’t done anything on the road this season. Until yesterday. In Seattle. Let’s face it. The Sounders are putrid. Not bad, not awful. Putrid. … Even Portland is better.

•••        

• One movie down. Two more to go. But I also have one silly question: With all that brain power lumped together on one planet, why didn’t someone figure out all they had to do was cut off the big guy’s arm and take the darn gauntlet? Seems pretty simple to me. Until later … 

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