By David Pan Enterprise sports editor
Connor Hamlett and Julia Fjortoft didn’t exactly have a ton of spare time during their senior year at Meadowdale High School.
Hamlett and Fjortoft didn’t specialize in one or even two sports during their high school careers unlike many elite athletes. Hamlett and Fjortoft were among an ever-increasing rare breed of individuals who participated in three sports.
For their versatility and overall excellence in all of their sports, Hamlett and Fjortoft were named Meadowdale High School’s athletes of the year.
Hamlett’s hard work will take him to Oregon State University on a full-ride football scholarship. His success on the gridiron, on the basketball court and on the track, can be shared by many of Hamlett’s fellow athletes and coaches.
“It’s a great privilege to be an athlete of the year,” Hamlett said. “That’s a good thing for all my coaches and teammates. I wouldn’t be here without them.”
Hamlett has plenty of good memories of his senior year as the football and basketball teams both advanced far into the state playoffs. During the spring, Hamlett ran track and he credits his involvement in the sport with helping improve his overall speed.
“I knew I needed to get faster for football,” Hamlett said. “It really helped out a lot.”
Hamlett definitely would recommend other athletes look into track if they are not involved in another sport during the spring.
“If you really commit to running track, it can make you a better athlete,” Hamlett said.
Hamlett likely will redshirt his first year at Oregon State, which is fine with him.
“I know I need to get a lot stronger and bigger to play Pac-12 football,” he said.
The decision to attend Oregon State was based on both athletics and academics. Hamlett liked what he saw from coach Mike Riley.
“Coach Riley is a stand-up guy,” Hamlett said. “He builds relationships among all the players and coaches. … There’s tons of team bonding. He really tries to make it a family environment.”
Hamlett is contemplating studying business. As a redshirt player, Hamlett would attend practice but not have to travel to away games.
Sports was a major part of Hamlett’s life ever since he can remember. He grew up playing basketball, but during his sophomore year he started to take football more seriously. That sport soon became one of his true passions.
“I’ve had a great career in high school,” Hamlett said. “I’m lucky to be blessed with all the opportunities I’ve had.”
Hamlett also took full advantage of his opportunities in the classroom, finishing the last semester with a 4.0 grade-point-average and wrapping up with an overall GPA of about 3.8.
During the school year, Hamlett’s schedule was pretty much school, sports and homework.
“You don’t have much time to do much else,” Hamlett said. “It was school, sports and more school.”
Julia Fjortoft experienced much success throughout her high school career. But her senior year was marked by challenges, including a major injury that hampered her during the track season.
About a week after the basketball season ended, Fjortoft was side-tackled by another player during a select soccer game. The result was a torn ACL and a sprained MCL.
Fjortoft postponed surgery until May and was actually able to compete in track until then.
“I was able to do most of the track season,” Fjortoft said. “I didn’t do hurdles. … I could run on it. I couldn’t cut with it.”
Surgery means that Fjortoft will miss her freshman season of soccer at Gonzaga University. Ideally, Fjortoft wants to wait from six to nine months before resuming her athletic career.
A visit to the campus sold Fjortoft on the Spokane school.
“When I visited I loved the size of the school,” she said. “It has a more intimate community feeling.”
Though sports has played a major role in her life, Fjoftoft’s parents emphasized to her that when she settled on a school, it should be for academics.
“They said to pick a school you want to go to first in case sports doesn’t work out,” Fjoftoft said. “I’m happy to be able to play soccer at a school I wanted to go to. It’s more of a bonus.”
The sports medicine field is a potential area of study for Fjortoft.
While the injury was a personal disappointment, Fjoftoft and her basketball teammates suffered a collective disappointment when the Mavericks failed to advance to the state tournament for the first time since 1995. Fjoftoft learned that it’s better to just move on. Not making it to state seemed like a big deal at the time, but Fjortoft noted that in 10 years everyone will be busy with their careers and families.
“You can’t dwell on it,” she said. “It was frustrating. But thinking about the future helps me get over the present.”
Athletics helped define who Fjortoft is today.
“It helped me get where I want to be,” she said.
Fjoftoft enjoyed passing along what she learned at the school’s annual basketball camps. She welcomed the attention of the younger players.
“People do watch the choices you make,” she said. “I want people to learn and to be able to set a good example.”