EVERETT – What defines a senior class of high school student-athletes?
Is it the way they represented their school in the community, or simply the number of games they won? Is it their cumulative grade-point average? How about the level of excitement they inspired among classmates?
A mixture of all those factors and other intangible qualities make some groups’ achievements resonate for decades – maybe longer.
Cascade High’s 2005-06 senior class, spearheaded by five remarkably successful boys teams (football, tennis, basketball, wrestling and baseball; see graphic), emerged as one of those rare collections of talent and character. Of course, they’re not all Honor Roll students or sports superstars. But, collectively, this class clearly made a lasting impact.
“They’ve been able to rejuvenate Cascade High School with a lot of spirit and helped create enthusiasm,” Cascade athletic director Doug Kloke said. “It’s a cool thing now (for students) to go to the games and be supportive.”
The big five
Without overlooking other gifted seniors, like nationally acclaimed shot put and discus thrower Whitney Hooks, consider the success of Cascade’s five previously mentioned boys teams (See graphic). One completed its second-consecutive undefeated regular season (tennis), another reached the state semifinals for the first time since 1998 (football), and a third won a district title and made state after a six-season absence (basketball). A core of experienced seniors fueled those squads, especially in hoops.
Cascade’s wrestling team also excelled. Led by four-time state placer Jonny Gilbertson, the Bruins’ lost only one league meet (against perennial power Lake Stevens) and they tied for fourth out of 27 teams at what many called the state’s toughest district tournament.
And last spring Cascade’s baseball team placed fourth at state, led by a deep, experienced cluster of juniors. Now, as seniors, they’re off to a fine start and will shoot for another deep postseason run.
A perfect 10
Kloke is nearing the end of his 10th year as a high school athletic director. He spent four years at Vashon High before coming to Cascade. In many ways, he said, 2005-‘06 has been one to savor. On a scale of one to 10, he gave it a perfect score, citing the variety of teams that excelled, increased fan interest and school-wide efforts.
“This is one of the best year’s that I’ve had involvement with, across the board,” he said.
Cascade had outstanding teams in the past, most often in football and baseball, but this group generated uniquely widespread success. One reason: “Basically, the seniors are willing to think team rather than individual,” said Kloke. “It’s not just (about) winning and losing, but it is (learning and applying) those life-long lessons: respect, trust, work ethic.”
Kloke praised the contributions of Associated Student Body advisor Roberta Hasstedt, cheer coach Kelly Keim and band director Patty Baugh.
“It got contagious,” Kloke said of the community’s surging support.
Cascade senior Jordan Sieh, a member of the football, wrestling and baseball teams, said the players’ bonds began years ago when many of his current classmates began playing together in Everett youth leagues: “Guys care about winning more than their individual stats. We’ve been together for so long.”
Unusually gifted Cascade athletes like J.P. Oliver (The Herald’s 2005 All-Area Football Defensive Player of the Year), Marcus Guffey (the basketball program’s all-time career scoring leader) and Gilbertson garnered plenty of headlines, but team aspirations mattered most.
“These guys are all buddies,” said Jake Huizinga, head coach of the football and wrestling squads. “It’s a very fluid group. It carries over from one sport to another.”
The seniors “have heart. This group has a soul to it. They are there for each other,” boys tennis coach Jennifer Kink said. They also are extremely competitive and they have lofty expectations that push everyone to work harder, she added.
They walk around with confidence, said Huizinga, but not arrogance.
Sad but proud
It’s normal for coaches to get sentimental this time of year as seniors wrap up their prep careers and prepare for the Real World. Sometimes letting go is more difficult.
“It will definitely be a sad day, but a proud day,” head boys basketball coach Kevin Rohrich said of June 17, when Cascade seniors have their graduation ceremony at the Everett Events Center.
These outgoing student-athletes drastically changed the mood at Cascade High over the past few years, Rohrich said. Their success stirred excitement and encouraged school-wide participation. “They really created a lot of lifelong memories for the student body,” said Rohrich.
“It’s so important to get students involved in activities, no matter what it is,” he said, ” (and) to get kids to feel like they’re a part of something.”
Pat Opel, Cascade’s head baseball coach, said he’s fortunate to coach a spring sport: “I’m lucky to have them at the end. … This is a group that will be missed after graduation, both on the field and in the classroom.”
So what will be the legacy of Cascade’s 2005-‘06 senior class and its assortment of stellar boys sports teams?
Sieh has high but realistic hopes: “It’s gonna be remembered as one of the best classes to come through Cascade.”