STANWOOD — John Galbreath retired after decades of teaching and coaching, but he still goes to just about every basketball game.
He used to wear his red-and-white Stanwood Spartan gear but doesn’t need to anymore. The athletes know he’s there for them, and he’s vocal enough to make up for a lack of team attire.
“There’s a group of us that have been there for quite a while and we sit together and give the referees a hard time,” he said. “We sit in the front row at home games and the refs know us. It’s all in good fun.”
This year has been especially fun. For the first time Galbreath can recall, both the boys and girls basketball teams at Stanwood High are enjoying powerhouse seasons. They’ve each had strong seasons before, but not at the same time, he said. The teams headed to Tacoma this week to compete on a statewide level. The girls are in the quarterfinals, and the boys are as well after winning their regional game Wednesday evening, 64-52. They’ll face No. 1 Nathan Hale on Thursday.
High school sports bring people together every year, Galbreath said. This winning season has sparked more interest. When the boys and girls played back-to-back at Bellevue College in the regionals, Stanwood fans filled the bleachers and other spectators had to wait for a seat, he said.
“As much as we’d like to be a football town, we’re definitely a basketball town,” Galbreath said. “Hope springs eternal for football, but our basketball teams do really well and have a lot of support. You go downtown, you go to a store, and people are talking about the basketball games.”
Galbreath, 70, started teaching at Stanwood Middle School in 1969 and coached the freshman boys basketball team for 14 years and varsity girls for five years. His son and daughter played. His son’s team missed going to state by two points. His daughter’s team broke a 43-game losing streak for the girls.
Susan Mason, 67, and Joan Walbrun, 74, go to all of the Stanwood boys and some of the girls games together. They made reservations last year at a hotel near the Tacoma Dome this week because they were confident their team would be playing.
The women retired from Stanwood schools. Mason worked with special education students and used to keep score for several sports, including basketball. She still tallies points and fouls from the bleachers.
Mason has been going to basketball games since her son, now grown, was a child. Now, she’s cheering for athletes who are the children of the basketball stars she rooted for decades ago.
“Getting behind these things is fun, getting to know the players and their parents and grandparents in the stands,” Mason said. “You become a big family.”
For away games, Mason prints out directions so she can navigate while Walbrun drives. At the games, Mason always makes a point of getting popcorn.
Stanwood fans aren’t the only excited crowd traveling from Snohomish County to Tacoma this week.
The hallways were a little roomier on Wednesday morning at Glacier Peak High School south of Snohomish because about 400 students were headed to Tacoma to watch the boys team play Kennedy Catholic in a loser-out contest. The school reserved three buses for student fans and others for the band.
Like Stanwood, Glacier Peak High School had both its boys and girls team qualify to play at the Tacoma Dome. That is unusual. When February turns to March, athletes at most schools across the state have already moved on to baseball, soccer, softball, track and tennis.
Teri Corwin, a leadership teacher and ASB adviser, has attended Glacier Peak boys and girls basketball games and other sporting and school events since the school opened in 2008. Many of the athletes she watched from the sidelines are students in her classrooms.
She was at a choir concert Tuesday night before heading down to Tacoma on Wednesday. Her youngest son, Brayden, is a freshman who suited up for the game.
Thursday could see another attendance dip. Sixty-two students involved in DECA, a nationwide marketing education program, are headed off to compete in state championships.
It all makes for an exciting time for many students, whether on the court or at a podium.
“There is a lot of emotion and a big buzz,” Corwin said. “It’s a time of memorable moments and shared experiences.”
Fans from several Snohomish County campuses this week are getting to cheer for their schools in Yakima, Spokane and Tacoma.
The list also included the Mountlake Terrace High School boys team as well as the Lynnwood, Archbishop Murphy, Snohomish and Cedar Park Christian School at Mountlake Terrace girls teams.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.