The surrogate mother to hundreds of Community Colleges of Spokane student-athletes for more than four decades is getting some well-deserved “me” time.
Nancy Zacher, administrative assistant in the CCS athletics department since 1977, retired earlier this month after more than 43 years in which she worked for four athletics directors and counseled and consoled hundreds of athletes.
Maury Ray, who was her second boss, recalled in the announcement of Zacher’s retirement, “Nancy and I started working together in 1978 as we consolidated the two athletic programs” from Spokane Community College and Spokane Falls Community College into the current program.
“We spent 28 years working together and her hard work and attention to detail were vital to our success.
“She was like a second mother to many student athletes who were living away from home for the first time. We would have lost many of these students to dropouts without her office door always being open to help them with all the issues new students face in attending college for the first time.
“I always considered Nancy as one of the most important members of the athletic staff team we were able to put together at CCS and she played a vital role in the 167 NWAC championships we won. Nancy has been a great co-worker, team player, friend and will be sorely missed as she moves into retirement!”
After growing up on a wheat farm and graduating from Odessa High School in 1975, Zacher attended SCC, graduating in a one-year program as a certified clerk-typist while holding a work-study job in the district office data processing center for $1.50 on hour, which increased to $1.75 an hour.
One of her classes included practicing mock interviews. The instructor encouraged the class to apply for jobs in hopes of getting called for an interview to work out first-time jitters and prepare them for a “real job” after graduation.
Zacher applied for an office assistant job at CCS and interviewed with the SFCC PE/athletic department with A.D. Jack Bafus and equipment manager Mike Mahoney.
Zacher recalls, “Little did I know that my practice interview and one-and-only interview would become my ‘real job’ lasting 43½ years.”
Within a short time, Bafus retired and Ray became her new boss. She also worked under Bobby Lee (now athletic director at North Idaho College), Ken Burrus and current AD Jim Fitzgerald.
Zacher recalls starting with a manual typewriter, then an electric and was excited to finally get a self-corrector! In 1985, her department received one of the first fax machines on campus. “I no longer had to take the football starting lineups over the phone,” she said.
In 1988-89, Zacher got a computer and was scared she wouldn’t be able to learn how to use it. “When I figured out how to sort an alphabetical football roster with 100-plus players to a numerical roster within seconds, I wished I had gotten a computer 10 years ago!”
“Nancy spent her … career helping students and student athletes,” said Burrus. “She is creative, knowledgeable and always has a smile on her face. Thousands of students are better off because Nancy was a part of their college experience. She will be missed!”
Lee said, “Nancy has the biggest heart for helping people and serving students! It was an honor to work with her for the years I did and I take away many lessons learned to be better in all areas. She was one of the foundational pieces to the storied success of Spokane athletics and will be hard to replace!”
Forward Yvonne Ejim of Gonzaga was named West Coast Conference women’s basketball Freshman of the Week on Jan. 18 after playing what the conference release called an “instrumental” role in the Bulldogs’ road sweep of Santa Clara and San Francisco.
She averaged a season-best 8.5 points over the two games and 1.5 assists coming off the bench to score seven points in 16 minutes against Santa Clara, adding two rebounds. The 6-foot-1 Calgary, Alberta, native had a season-high 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting from the floor and added much-needed inside defense against San Francisco.
During the weekend, she was 7 of 8 from the floor.
• Angel Nkwonta, a former Pullman Greyhounds athlete who is a senior at the University of Maryland, set a school record in winning the weight throw at the Nittany Lion Indoor Track Opener Jan. 16 with a toss of 67 feet, 8 inches. That topped the old mark by more than 6 feet.
Nkwonta also won the shot put with a throw of 54-11½, the second best throw in school history.
• A come-from-behind 7-6(5), 6-2 victory in No. 6 singles that produced Eastern Washington’s only point in a season-opening loss to Gonzaga earned Eagles sophomore Renata Gabuzyan Big Sky Conference Women’s Tennis Player of the Week on Jan. 19.
Gabuzyan “fought through some early match jitters (losing the first set 6-0) and then absolutely turned it on to come out on top against a very good senior player from Gonzaga,” Eagles head coach Dustin Hinson said.
It’s the first weekly honor for Gabuzyan, who was 5-5 playing No. 5 in last year’s shortened season, and the first for Eastern since the 2019 season.
• Gonzaga senior outside hitter Sarah Penner, a three-time All-West Coast Conference honoree, was named to the All-WCC preseason volleyball team and the Bulldogs were selected to finish eighth in the coaches’ preseason poll.
Penner, All-WCC honorable mention the last two seasons after being named to the All-Freshman team in 2017, has led the Zags in kills, attacks and points each of the last three seasons. Last year she finished with 288 kills for a 2.80 per-set average, 858 total attempts and 360.0 points. She added 190 digs, 31 service aces and 71 total blocks.
Defending champion San Diego was picked to win the 2020-21 spring season title.
• Dickinson (South Dakota) State, with former Shadle Park standout Jaya Allen returning in the circle, has been selected to win the North Star Athletic Association softball championship.
After transferring in from Yavapai (Arizona) Community College, Allen put together a 2-1 record with a NSAA-leading 2.28 ERA in the pandemic abbreviated season last year. In six games, she also led the league in opponents’ batting average (.206), hits per game (5.57), runs per game (1.83) and was second in strikeouts (41 in 27 2/3 innings.
• Fourteen student-athletes with area ties, half of them from Northern Idaho, are among 199 in the Cascade Collegiate Conference who participated in the winter sports of men’s and women’s basketball and men’s and women’s wrestling honored as academic all-conference,
To earn that recognition, they must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.2 and be a sophomore standing.
Academic all-conference by school:
Arizona Christian: BJ Garza, sophomore, Othello, men’s wrestling. Bushnell: Jacob Plunkett, senior, Rathdrum (Lakeland), men’s basketball. College of Idaho: Cierra Dvorak, sr., Post Falls (Lake City), women’s basketball. Corban: Reece Van Lierop, so, Spokane (Ferris), men’s basketball.
Eastern Oregon: Justin Jeske, junior, Spokane (Liberty), men’s basketball; Max McCullough, grad student, Post Falls, men’s basketball; Sydney Zeller, jr., Davenport, women’s basketball; Renay Monohan, sr., (Spokane) East Valley, women’s wrestling. Evergreen State: Lane Kennedy, so., Spokane Valley (University), men’s basketball.
Lewis-Clark State: Jake Albright, sr., Clarkston, men’s basketball; Trystan Bradley, sr., Lewiston, men’s basketball; Sara Muehlhausen, so., Hayden (Lake City), women’s basketball; Rachel Schroeder, so., Post Falls (Genesis Prep), women’s basketball; Braeden Wilson, jr., Lewiston, men’s basketball.
Casey Stangel, the former Lake City and University of Washington softball standout who has had two stints in baseball administration, has added a third sport to her résumé.
The Coeur d’Alene native has been hired as director of operations for the Vanderbilt University football program after spending the last three years in a similar role with the baseball program.
Stangel, who led Lake City to two Idaho 5A State softball championships before graduating in 2013 and led Washington to a third-place finish in the 2017 Women’s College World Series as a senior captain, went on to receive her master’s degree at Vanderbilt before heading to New York City to become an intern with the office of the commissioner of Major League Baseball.
She was working as Vanderbilt’s baseball internal operations coordinator when the school’s new football coach, Clark Lea, hired her away.
Lea tweeted in part, “Casey is a pro. Engaging, passionate and hard working. She will lead our ops effort and help engineer the nation’s best student-athlete experience.
“Casey will be a difference-maker for us, just as she was for @VandyBoys,” the Commodore baseball team that won the 2019 College World Series.
Letters of intent
Idaho women’s track/cross country: Katja Pattis, Bolzano, Italy.
Jon Haarlow, the senior associate athletics director/chief operating officer at Lamar University the last three years, has been hired by Washington State as senior associate athletic director/chief financial officer, WSU director of athletics Patrick Chun announced.
In his new position, Haarlow will be responsible for all business operations, including budget development, implementation and reporting as well as oversight of non-sport contracts and department audits. He will also represent the athletic department on fiscal issues throughout campus and with all external agencies, such as the NCAA and Pac-12 Conference.
“Jon is a great addition to our athletics team and will provide tremendous leadership in our department,” Chun is quoted in a release announcing the hire. “His background in collegiate athletics and higher education will greatly benefit our student-athletes, coaches and the entire university.”
A 2009 graduate of Indiana, Haarlow received a master’s degree from New Mexico in 2010, where he spent three years as a program specialist overseeing a staff of fiscal technicians providing support for the day-to-day business operations to the university’s 22 varsity sports, followed by two years at Abilene Christian and three at Lamar.
• Two Washington State athletics coaching staff members, volleyball’s Marit Thorkildsen and track and field/cross country’s CharLee Linton, have beem selected to participate in the Coach Development Academy, presented by Game Plan in partnership with True North Sports.
The 12-week digital course provides the foundation for coaches to feel confident and competent while giving them a roadmap to what it means to be a professional coach.
Linton, a former WSU cross country athlete, is a cross country and track and field assistant. Thorkildsen, a three-year letter-winner at Gonzaga who completed her career in 2018, is a graduate assistant with the WSU volleyball program.