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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  High school sports

Soliday family a big part of State B tournament culture

UPDATED: Wed., March 4, 2020

Sixty years ago and roughly 400 yards from the thundering waters of Long Lake Dam, four brothers took turns shooting a basketball at an apple box nailed to a wall.

The makeshift hoop occupied Clay, Larry, Jack and Ron Soliday, sons of a Washington Water Power superintendent whose rural log home was in earshot of the hydroelectric reservoir.

Several miles from the nearest gymnasium, the Solidays’ rough-and-ready court was comprised of dirt and gravel, often causing dribbles to take wicked bounces down their driveway.

This is how they sharpened a craft that ultimately helped Reardan High capture a string of State B titles that began in 1966, the start of a lineage that’s helped shape Eastern Washington’s small-school basketball culture.

All four men – now in their late 60s and early 70s – are still respected and recognizable residents in the farm town of about 600 residents.

The majority of their sons, daughters, nieces, nephews and grandchildren were multi-sport standouts with immense basketball success, dozens with the Soliday surname, others who married into the family with athletic pedigrees of their own.

“Any time you think of the Soliday family, you think of basketball and awesome people,” said Community Colleges of Spokane men’s basketball coach Jeremy Groth, a former star at Reardan foe Curlew. “They were all B basketball legends.”

The third generation is pretty good, too.

Ron’s grandaughter, Liberty star and Eastern Washington recruit Maisie Burnham, leads a top-ranked Lancers team (22-1) into the State B tournament at the Spokane Arena, which begins today.

Her brother, Match Burnham, led Carroll College to the 2019 NAIA national title game.

Across the Cascade Mountains and in the state’s largest classification is Jack’s grandson, Mt. Si guard Zach Soliday, who logged time as an underclassman on last year’s state 4A runner-up team. Mt. Si also has returned to the state tournament.

“I have a hunch there’s going to be another state championship in the family this year,” said Larry, who regularly attends the state tournament. “And it’s going to be the Liberty girls hands down.”

All in the family

Larry Soliday’s knowledge of area basketball is almost encyclopedic.

He’ll tell you about the great forwards at Orting High during his era and what’s holding back some of the current teams in the Big Sky Conference.

A standout senior on the the 1966 state championship team, Soliday had garnered interest from area colleges before surviving a horrific car accident on Sunset Highway that nearly killed him. Ron Soliday, the youngest of the brothers, won state titles in 1970 and 1971.

Larry joined the service and starred in elite military leagues before returning to Eastern Washington, later becoming the head coach at Cusick and St. John-Endicott.

“I was very big on zone principles,” said Larry, who teamed up with younger brother Jack to win the 1966 title at the Spokane Coliseum.

His three sons, Robb, Rhett and Rocky, were all standouts at Reardan in the 1990s and early 2000s, each going on to play at Big Bend Community College. Rocky and Rhett went on to play at then-NAIA power Concordia (California).

Rhett, who led Reardan to the 1997 state title game, inherited the coaching bug from his father.

Now the 10th-year head coach at Vanguard (California), Rhett led the Lions to the NAIA national title game in 2014.

The national title squad was led by former B star Preston Wynne of Wellpinit, a school 20 miles north of Reardan.

He’s proud of his roots, the community of Reardan and how he was raised.

“Of the four original Soliday brothers in Reardan, three married their high school sweethearts,” said Rhett, who also is the athletic director at Vanguard. “And they’re still all there and part of the community. How rare is that?”

“In small B towns like Reardan, you see how family and a team are done the right way. Being the small-town guy I am, that’s why the small-college level works for me.”

Clay (Class of 1964), Larry (Class of 1966), Jack (Class of 1968) and Ron (1971) collectively had more than a dozen children, many who developed into all-conference and -state athletes who went on to play various collegiate sports.

There’s about twice as many grandchildren who have thrived at several Washington schools, including Reardan, Davenport, Manson, Medical Lake and Cheney.

Clay’s son Shawn Soliday helped the Indians earn their previous state basketball title in 1982.

Reardan’s girls won three state basketball titles in the 1980s, an effort boosted by Ron’s daughter, Cheri (Soliday) Burnham, who won a title in 1988.

Jack Soliday, who also owned a local trophy and sports equipment apparel store, has pumped out plenty of championship gear for the Indians.

“You always hope for the best for your family,” Jack said. “Everybody pitches in, and that’s how it is done in small-town America.”

Do you B-lieve in love?

About the same time Cheri (Soliday) Burnham was stuffing the stat sheet at Reardan, her future husband, Blaze Burnham, was setting scoring records at St. John-Endicott, reaching the state title games in 1987 and 1988.

The two small-school sensations later relocated to the Liberty School District in Spangle, where children Match, Chase and Maisie had sterling athletic careers. Blaze is the former Liberty athletic director.

But that isn’t the only instance of a Soliday falling in love with a former B star outside Reardan.

Cheri’s sister Jennifer (Soliday) Hardt starred at Cheney before marrying former All-American EWU tight end Jesse Hardt, who played eight-man football at Odessa. They’re the parents of football standouts Hayden Hardt (Liberty) and Cameron Hardt (Cheney), who played briefly at Carroll College.

Monty Soliday, a multi-sport athlete at Reardan in the early 1990s, married Davenport basketball star Stacia (Marriott) Soliday. She’s currently the head coach of the girls team that reached the state title game in 2018 and is now led by standout daughter Darby Soliday. Her brother Brenick Soliday started as a freshman on the boys team this past season.

Monty, a physical therapist, also coaches the Davenport girls’ soccer team.

He’s seen the family partisanship firsthand.

“I remember weddings where the sides were split,” Monty said. “You’d have Reardan people on one side or Davenport or Odessa on another.”

B family reunion

Every summer during the Fourth of July, the sizable Soliday family takes refuge to their scenic property near Cusick.

Tents, campers and RVs take over the large parcel as the family enjoys fireworks, barbecue, campfires and heading down to the water.

There’s often an assortment of summer T-shirts representing the relatives’ respective high schools: Maroon (Reardan), black (Liberty), red (Davenport), blue (Manson) and others.

It’s a family and B sports reunion, where old Bi-County League stories are often shared with a little friendly ribbing involved.

Darby Soliday, whose athletic career at Davenport will be among the best in the family when she graduates in 2021, has heard a few tales. There is often enough talent around the campfire to win a few Hoopfest brackets.

“The parents all talk about the past games of their high school careers, remembering all of the intense games,” she said. “But us kids are busy doing other things. That’s really the only time we don’t have to worry about sports.”

Family is forever, but so are rivalries.

“It’s a great time for us, all the family, to all get together, and the sports is a bonus,” Larry said. “It’s a tradition.”

A tradition he and his brothers started with an apple box.

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