A look at the three other finalists for The Herald’s Man of the Year in Sports award for 2016:
Myles Gaskin, University of Washington football
Gaskin, a native of Lynnwood who graduated from O’Dea High School in 2015, was a central figure for a Huskies team that reached the national semifinals.
The sophomore served as Washington’s first-string running back and posted his second straight outstanding campaign. In 14 games he gained 1,373 yards on 237 carries and scored 10 touchdowns. The 1,373 yards were the eighth-most in school history. He also added 19 receptions for 137 yards and another score. For his efforts he was named first-team All-Pac-12.
Gaskin had a number of difference-making performances for a Washington team that finished the season 12-2. He set a new career high by rushing for 197 yards on 16 carries and scoring a touchdown in the Huskies’ 70-21 thrashing of Oregon, helping end Washington’s 12-game losing streak to the Ducks. He also was named the coaches’ offensive player of the game after gaining 159 yards on 29 carries in the Huskies’ 41-10 victory over Colorado in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Gaskin’s 2016 season followed up a 2015 season in which he became the first true freshman in school history to surpass 1,000 rushing yards.
Michael Soler, Lake Stevens High School wrestling
Soler, who graduated from Lake Stevens in 2016, joined the elite of Washington high school wrestling last February at Mat Classic when he became just the 13th wrestler to win four individual state titles (a number that swelled to 15 in 2017).
Soler completed the quad when, in his senior season, he defeated Moses Lake’s Hudson Mauseth 14-6 to claim the 4A championship at 170 pounds. That added to his titles at 106 pounds as a freshman, 113 as a sophomore and 132 as a junior. He joined fellow Lake Stevens alum Burke Barns in the four-time champ club.
Soler is already in select company in being a four-time state champ, but even among that group he is unique. He’s the first wrestler to accomplish the feat all four years in the state’s largest classification. Soler also has the widest weight spread (64 pounds) among all four-time champions.
Yet in the wake of his history-making feat, Soler spoke more of team accomplishment than individual accomplishment, as he helped the Vikings claim the 2016 4A team championship. It was Lake Stevens’ third team title in Soler’s four years.
Kyle Bjornethun, Seattle University soccer
For Bjornethun, a 2013 graduate of Glacier Peak High School, 2016 was the final chapter in a collegiate career that was all about sustained excellence as he was named the WAC Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season.
As a senior, Bjornethun had one goal and one assist as he helped the Redhawks go 11-6-2 and finish second in WAC standings at 7-1-2. He was the anchor of a defense that allowed just 19 goals in 19 games.
The season completed a career that was filled with honors. Not only was Bjornethun named the WAC Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight year, he also earned his third consecutive first-team All-WAC honors. He played every minute of all 86 of his college games and finished his career with nine goals and four assists.
Bjornethun turned his excellence into a professional opportunity as in January he was selected in the fourth round of the MLS SuperDraft by the Seattle Sounders. “I told my dad that I don’t care if I’m the last pick of the MLS draft, I just want a chance to get into camp,” Bjornethun said, and Bjornethun did indeed end up as the last pick of the draft.