Sometimes they’re major college material and sometimes not, but one thing’s for certain: the athletes of the Community Colleges of Spokane have the most interesting stories in the region.
“American Idol” contestants? Twenty-somethings back in school after starting families? Green card lottery winners? Check, check and check.
They’re also pretty good at sports, and can make the futility of parsing excellence – as in picking the best 20 athletes in the past 20 years – absurd in the extreme.
CCS is the, uh, Sasquatch in the Northwest Athletic Conference room: 83 team championships since 2000, 55 more than any other school – plus another 285 individual champions. Complicating the already arbitrary task of whittling them down is the fact that competition ends at the conference level, with no national championships to distinguish the very best from the best.
So earlier guidelines in this series have been tweaked. Athletes who competed for just a single year now qualify under the must-play-half-their-career-at-the-school rule. Also, selections are still geared toward the athlete’s time at CCS, but seeing as part of the community college mission is preparation for the next step, the four-year destination of Sasquatch alums and any achievements there have been given weight for the sake of context.
And we’re off:
1. Jessica Mildes, track and cross country (2012-14): Home- schooled in Riverside, she turned down NCAA offers to stay closer to her family – and ran away from everyone else. Mildes never lost an NWAC championship race in cross country or track in eight tries, including an unprecedented sweep of the four distance events in the 2014 track meet.
Along the way, she set school records at four track distances and the 5,000-meter cross country race, and became the national junior college record holder at 10,000 meters with a time of 34 minutes, 29.36 seconds at the Mt. SAC Relays.
At Gonzaga, she helped the Zags to their first NCAA cross country appearance in 2015.
2. Preston Wynne, men’s basketball (2011-12): He spent 2½ hours a day commuting to campus and practice from his Wellpinit home. But even after six years away from organized basketball, the sharpshooting guard almost always put on a show – 44 points in one game, 12 steals in another, a 21.2 career scoring average, the best in CCS history. Twice named to the East Region first team, he moved on to Vanguard University and in 2014 earned tournament MVP honors on the NAIA championship team.
3. Lindsie Scholwinski, softball (2014-15): Putting together the most dominant spring by a pitcher in NWAC history, the Coeur d’Alene fireballer capped a 29-0 sophomore season by pitching the Sasquatch to their first championship in 17 years. Co-MVP of the tournament, NWAC player of the year and an All-American, she was 42-7 over two seasons with 473 strikeouts in 336 innings and a 1.08 earned run average. She went on to win 57 games and NAIA All-American honors at Southeastern University, and returned to CCS as head coach in 2018.
4. Alysha Overland, women’s soccer (2015): She rewrote part of the CCS record book in her single year, scoring 29 goals to lead the NWAC and push the Sasquatch to a 16-2-1 record and the championship. She had a goal and an assist in the 2-0 title game win over Highline and the game-winner in the 92nd minute of the quarterfinal. The East Region MVP from Moses Lake kept up the clutch play at Washington State, scoring four game-winners her first season.
5. Lindsey Russell, volleyball (2018-19): Part of a set of triplets – teammates through high school at Mead and junior college – the 6-foot-1 setter directed the action on two NWAC title teams that went a combined 76-2, and was twice an All-American and the 2019 NWAC player of the year. She wound up second on the school’s career assist list with 2,322 – numbers that could have been higher, except that the Sasquatch blanked 58 of 78 opponents during her tenure. She’ll continue her volleyball career at Gonzaga.
6. Brianna King, women’s basketball (2016-17): Major knee surgery delayed her entrance for a year, but the North Central grad was an immediate – and long-term – hit. East Region MVP as a freshman, the 5-5 point guard broke the CCS career scoring record with 1,175 points and led the Sasquatch to the 2017 NWAC title, averaging 30 points a game during the tournament run. The NWAC MVP then carried Montana-Western to the 2019 NAIA Division I championship and was national player of the year.
7. Levi Taylor, men’s basketball (2016-17): Another CCS better-late-than-never story, the Lewis and Clark grad played two years of football at Central Washington before returning home to support a growing family. He talked himself on to the Sasquatch roster and had 40 points in just his fifth game after a five-year hiatus. By season’s end, he was tournament MVP on an NWAC title team, and left CCS as the career scoring leader with 1,238 points.
8. Roman Borvanov, tennis (2001): The Moldovan Assassin – teammates gave him the nickname – was a rare find, a 19-year-old who’d won in the 1999 green card lottery and landed in Spokane with his family. He didn’t lose even a set in his lone season, winning the NWAC singles title and pairing with Corey DeLeonard to take doubles. He went on to play No. 1 singles at Portland and then turned pro, winning nine ITF Future Singles events and posting a 14-8 Davis Cup record for Moldova.
9. Chanel James, track and field (2008-10): The Tacoma speedster actually took a redshirt year to make a run at “American Idol” – singing country, no less, and making it through the initial cattle calls. But her true star was found on the track, where she scored 81½ points in two NWAC meets in the sprints and jumps. name remains on six CCS records indoors and out, and three at the NWAC level, including an 11.82 100 meters and a 39-7¾ triple jump. James also ran at Washington State, making it to the NCAA championships in the short relay.
10. Scott Santschi, baseball (2004-05): The right fielder from Vancouver loved a big game. He had four RBIs the day the 2005 Sasquatch won their first East Region title in 10 years, and hit .391 with 13 doubles and 37 RBI in a 32-14 season for All-NWAC and all-tournament honors. He then won two College World Series rings with Oregon State as a starter, hitting a home run in the 2007 opener and knocking in a pair of runs on three hits in the title game to earn All-CWS honors with a .538 average.
11. Jonathan Cortez, men’s soccer (2015-16): One of the most prolific scorers in CCS’ proud soccer history, the Moses Lake graduate was the NWAC scoring champ in both his years at the Falls, with 39 career goals and 84 points. That offensive firepower propelled the Sasquatch to back-to-back runnerup NWAC finishes and made him player of the year in 2016.
12. Jason Dixon, track and field (2003-05): He kept on keeping on until the 2012 Olympic Trials, qualifying with a lifetime best discus throw of 197-10 days before the cutoff. But the Lewis and Clark alum was a force for the Sasquatch a decade earlier, twice winning the NWAC shot put and discus and putting his mark on the record books. His 177-10 discus best remains the CCS and NWAC records, and helped get him a ride at Alabama, where he was twice an NCAA regional competitor.
13. Bryan Winston, baseball (2004-05): He could swing the bat, but that’s not always how he made contact. The second baseman from Richland set hits records for a season (71) and career (120) while batting .401 as a sophomore – and took it for the team by being hit by pitch 52 times in his career. A first-team NWAC and all-tournament player, he went on to Gonzaga and hit .297 in 99 career starts, and in 2018 returned to CCS as head coach.
14. Riley Holsinger, women’s basketball (2013-14): Homesickness drew her back after a year at Boise State, but she thrived at CCS, where she was NWAC player of the year and led the league in scoring (21.9) in 2014 and left as the school’s career leader in points (1,083, since broken), steals and blocked shots. The North Central grad’s remarkable versatility was underscored one night against Big Bend when she had a quadruple-double: 15 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and 11 steals. After CCS, she was a first-team NAIA All-American at Vanguard University.
15. Beth Vercic, volleyball (2000-01): Coming across town from Ferris, she put up some big numbers in two years at CCS – 636 kills her freshman year, 1,103 in two seasons, both Sasquatch records on top of the career blocks mark. The 6-1 middle blocker was a first-team AVCA All-American as a sophomore on top All-NWAC honors, and went on to play at Metro State.
16. Brady Calkins, men’s golf (2014): He wins the tiebreaker over teammate Evan Omelia by virtue of taking medalist honors in their most important head-to-head, the NWAC championships. The Centralia swinger won two other events his freshman year and then it was off to the pros, where he’s bearing down on his third straight Dakotas Tour player of the year honor, having won seven tournaments on that satellite circuit.
17. Deji Adebayo, track and field (2006-07): A soccer player at Rogers, he laced up spikes for the first time after talking his way into Larry Beatty’s track class at CCS – then zipped a 10.55-second 100 meters at the Mt. SAC Relays a month into his first season. A member of two NWAC title teams, he was high-point man as a sophomore with 37½, and is in the CCS top 15 in four events, including a 24-2¼ long jump. Competed at Lindenwood University.
18. Andre Ervin, men’s basketball (2000-01): He did his college athletic career in reverse, starting as a 7-foot high jumper at Eastern Washington before bouncing back to CCS and leading the Sasquatch to their first NWAC men’s basketball title in 33 years. He was the tournament MVP in 2000, and left as the school’s career scoring leader (1,884), a record since broken – though he remains atop the career rebounds list with 586.
19. Amy Danielson, women’s soccer, track (2005-06): The Sasquatch have a proud tradition of multisport athletes, but usually when the speed-jumping skills cross over. This Richland grad was a bit different. She’s the best goalie in CCS history with 21 career shutouts, the Sasquatch surrendering just 21 goals en route to the NWAC title in 2006. The previous spring, she won a conference title by herself – as a hammer thrower. Her goal-stopping abilities took her to Gonzaga, where she shared the starting job as a senior.
20. Beth Wrigley, golf (2003-04): She wasn’t quite as unbeatable as she later became in SAWGA events in Spokane – champion 11 straight years – but as a Sasquatch golfer she won her share. From Petaskala, Ohio, Wrigley took up golf at age 30 and joined the CCS program nine years later, claiming medalist honors at the NWAC championships that first spring. She was All-NWAC both years as the Sasquatch won back-to-back team titles.
Ten more: Vanessa Shelton, softball (2003-04); Jay Vela, men’s soccer (2006-07); Wanda Freeman, tennis (2001-02); Evan Omelia, golf (2013-14); Reed Harrington, baseball (2018-19); Joelle Mahowald, volleyball (2017-18); Jeremy Mangum, men’s basketball (2005-06); Amber Miller, track and field (2000-01); Tasha Luu, women’s soccer (2012-13), Mark Moeller, track and cross country (2005-08).
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