Retired UFC fighter, actor and Lynnwood High School alum Randy Couture (left) shares a laugh with Dave McAboy before the Snohomish County Sports Hall of Fame Banquet on Wednesday at Xfinity Arena. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Burt, Couture among legends inducted in county sports Hall of Fame

EVERETT — Some of the top sports legends in Snohomish County history were honored on Wednesday night at the annual induction banquet for the county’s Sports Hall of Fame.

The event, held in the Edward D. Hansen Conference Center at Everett’s Xfinity Arena, celebrated the inductions of five athletes, one coach, one sports contributor and two teams. It was a festive, poignant and at times emotional evening, with plenty of good stories and heartfelt expressions of gratitude.

One of the inductees, basketball player Kayla Burt of Arlington, expressed a sentiment that could well have been uttered by each of her fellow inductees: “Thank you for this great honor. To be present among these distinguished, amazing and great athletes, coaches and sports broadcasters, it’s really overwhelming and inspiring to say the least.”

Joining Burt as a 2016 inductee were mixed martial arts champion Randy Couture of Lynnwood, rower Bob Cummins of Everett, sailor Karen Thorndike of Snohomish, golfer Jack Westland of Everett (deceased), basketball coach Keith Kingsbury of Edmonds Community College, radio/television broadcaster Bill O’Mara of Everett (deceased), and the 1955 Darrington High School boys basketball team and the 1981 Meadowdale High School girls soccer team, both state champions.

Burt went from a standout career at Arlington High School to the University of Washington, where she became a top player on the women’s basketball team. But on New Year’s Eve of 2002, Burt went into cardiac arrest and was saved by quick-thinking teammates who performed CPR until paramedics arrived.

Though she lost basketball for a time and then again later for good, “what I didn’t lose was family, my life and … (other people) who stood by me through the darkest times of my life.”

Then, near to tears, Burt managed to pause and then quip: “Sorry this is so emotional. I had the red wine.”

Couture also choked up during his acceptance speech. “And I didn’t have any wine,” he joked, drawing laughter from the crowd.

“It’s an honor to be here and I’m proud to be here,” Couture said. Though he is known around the world for his MMA successes, “this is where my journey started. I was born at Providence Hospital right here in Everett. I grew up in Lynnwood. And it’s here (in Snohomish County) that I believe I found my vocation.”

Athletics, Couture went on, “has taken me around the world. It’s paid for my (college) education. And it’s given me some of the best friends anyone could ask for, and a lot of them are here tonight.” Also on hand were some of the coaches who “helped me and instilled in me the courage that has led me through this journey.”

This year’s class of inductees will raise the Hall of Fame totals to 40 athletes, 17 coaches, seven contributors (including executives and media), and 11 teams.

Guest speaker Jen Mueller, who is part of the broadcast crews for the Seattle Mariners and Seahawks, gave an entertaining talk about her work with those teams. She recounted the time she went up to introduce herself to Mariners catcher Chris Iannetta and instead tripped over his shoe and toppled into him.

Locker rooms can be interesting and exciting places, she added, but they are also “stinky and potentially really emotional.” But the great thing about her work, she said, is that “athletes are people, and they have stories to tell.”

Also honored at the banquet were The Herald’s Man and Woman of the Year in Sports for 2015 — football player Jacob Eason of Lake Stevens High School and basketball player Mikayla Pivec of Lynnwood High School. Neither was able to attend as Eason is the starting quarterback as a true freshman at the University of Georgia, and Pivec is preparing for her upcoming freshman season with the women’s team at Oregon State University.

In addition, two college athletes were honored — cross country and track athlete Dejon Devroe from Oak Harbor and Trinity Lutheran College, and cross country and track athlete Emily Brand of Monroe and Everett Community College.

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