of the Cat
Ferndale goes Wild;
Stumpf, Price and
The 2002/03 high school sporting year, as with all sporting years, will be remembered for many things. It will, however, perhaps be remembered most fondly in Ferndale.
Over the past seven months, in fact, the Wildcats have carried three North Coast Section pennants back to the Ferndale gym, including one in softball where they closed out the season as the top ranked Division V team in the state and the only undefeated team at any level.
Clearly, the Cats had more success in the postseason than any other school in the Humboldt-Del Norte League, but when it came to individual accomplishments, things weren't quite so clear-cut.
When it came down to this year's Times-Standard Athlete of the Year awards, in fact, it proved to be too tight to call for the Big Five boys, and impossible to differentiate between two exceptional seniors, Arcata's Chris Stumpf and Del Norte's Flynt Pierce.
Stumpf, who will attend UC Davis on a football scholarship in the fall, was an all-league selection in both football and basketball, while also winning three individual titles at the league track meet on the way to qualifying for state in the long jump.
Pierce, meanwhile, was voted the Big Five's Most Valuable Back in football and MVP in basketball, leading the Warriors to a league crown in the latter. He will play football at New Mexico State this fall, following in the footsteps of his brother, Buck, a quarterback at the school.
Others receiving consideration for top honors included Mack wrestler Darren Kirby, who qualified for state, as well as Eureka's Dennis Wolfe, who excelled in both soccer and baseball.
Another pair of Arcata seniors also received two all-league selections, with Brice Burtchett honored in soccer and basketball, and Zack Carper in football and baseball. Eureka's Mo Purify also received a pair of all-league selections, in football and basketball.
On the girls side, Del Norte again features prominently, with senior Kristin Murray getting the nod as Big Five Athlete of the Year.
Murray was voted league MVP in volleyball and an all-league selection in basketball. Like Stumpf and Pierce, she will also play at the Division I level in the fall, after earning a volleyball scholarship to play at Oregon State.
McKinleyville's Kaitlinn Solinsky, meanwhile, closed out her high school career in stellar fashion, earning Big Five MVP honors in basketball and an all-league selection in softball. Her basketball teammate, Jennifer Larson, also earned a pair of all-league selections, in basketball and volleyball.
Arcata senior Shannon Weston, who will play soccer at San Francisco State in the fall, also closed out her high school career in style, earning all-league selections in both soccer and basketball, as did Fortuna's Kendall Ross (basketball and softball).
In the Little Four, St. Bernard's Lindsey Harpham completes a hat trick of Athlete of the Year awards for her efforts in soccer, basketball and track, having also earned the honor in each of the past two years.
Harpham, a league MVP in soccer and an all-league selection in basketball, will play soccer at Humboldt State in the fall.
Janel Skillman was a close second to Harpham after a year that saw her earn Little Five MVP honors in basketball, as well as an all-league selection in softball, while Ferndale's Felicia Miranda proved to be an all-around threat with all-league selections in soccer and softball, as well as an honorable mention in basketball.
St. Bernard's Hannah Horton (softball/basketball) and Samantha Griffith (soccer/softball) each also received a pair of all-leagues elections.
For the Little Four boys, meanwhile, Ferndale may have dominated in terms of team accomplishments this past year, but no individual accomplished more than South Fork's Anzania Jackson.
Jackson, who will join Stumpf playing football for the Aggies in the fall, was an all-league selection in both football and basketball, as well as winning the 400 meters in the H-DNL track meet.
Other standouts in the Little Four this past year also include Ferndale's Tyler Toste and Brad Killingsworth, co-MVPs in football, as well as South Fork's Lonny Whitlow, all-league in football and a state track and field qualifier in the discus.
Individual athletic awards, though, aren't the only thing we have in store for you on this Sunday morning, and as the annoying man in those late-night commercials says, "but wait, there's more."
How about some accolades for those heroes behind the scenes, the poor misguided souls known to the world as coaches, without whom there would be no teams or athletes of the year or even sports for that matter.
Coaches are the ones who put in countless hours -- usually a lifetime of them -- for proverbial pennies an hour. They serve as teachers, mentors, confidants and strategists, and usually have more emotion invested in the outcome of the game than their players.
Yet in the end, often their hard work (and their assistants' hard work) goes unnoticed, and on top of all that they have to persistently deal with what the Romans once referred to an maximus painus, those ferocious creatures known to the civilized world as overbearing parents.
So here then is a salute to the coaches out there who do what they do mostly just for the love of the game, and in particular seven of them who achieved that little bit more this year. And choosing just one coach of the year from that list was no easy task either.
Del Norte's Kirk Burrows could very well be the best boys basketball coach in the area and well beyond and had another successful season up in Crescent City, while McKinleyville's Brad Warze could very well be the same on the girls side.
Then there's Hoopa boys basketball coach Inker McCovey, who along with assistant Mike Hostler took the Warriors deeper than any other team in the area in any sport this past winter, reaching the NorCal semifinals.
And then there's the Jorgensen brothers, Kim and Tom, who orchestrated NCS titles for Ferndale in football and softball, respectively, while Arcata cross country and track and field coach James Washington has long been one of the most respected in the H-DNL for his tireless work every year.
None of them, however, perhaps achieved as much with so little this past year as McKinleyville's Iain Macdonald, who won a third league title in boys soccer in just four years, and this time did it against the odds, with a team many felt wasn't as talented as Arcata or Eureka.
Throw in a smidgen of Scottish luck, a system that utilized his players' strengths to great effect, and an emotionally-filled response from those players, and, hey presto, Mack's got itself a wee dynasty.
But while the Mack boys achieved great things this year, two teams clearly stood out from the crowd, making it easy for us when it came to choosing our Teams of the Year.
On the boys side, Hoopa basketball won an NCS crown and made it all the way to the final eight in the state, taking its fans on another memorable run through the playoffs.
For the girls, meanwhile, no team can claim a better record than the Ferndale girls in softball and their 26-0 season was a more than fitting way to close out Humboldt County's year of the Cat.