The United States’ Serena Williams reacts during a 7-6,7-6 win over Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko in a Fed Cup qualifying match on Feb. 8, 2020, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

The United States’ Serena Williams reacts during a 7-6,7-6 win over Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko in a Fed Cup qualifying match on Feb. 8, 2020, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

The stories we told: A crazy year in sports

The pandemic forced many changes to the local sports scene and these were the top-10 most-viewed stories.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 has been a difficult year in all aspects of life. However, this seems to particularly be the case in the sports world. Almost all local sports have been shut down since March, and even The Herald has been affected as the sports staff was severely reduced, including the loss of longtime sports editor Kevin Brown.

But even during a pandemic there are sports stories to be told. Here are The Herald’s top 10 sports stories of 2020 as determined by web views:

Jackson’s Mack Konig practices with her teammates on Feb. 3, 2020, in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Jackson’s Mack Konig practices with her teammates on Feb. 3, 2020, in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

10) A Jackson girls basketball star’s big night

Jackson High School sophomore Mack Konig had one of the greatest individual performances in Snohomish County girls hoops history when she poured in 47 points in the Timberwolves’ 70-48 victory over Kamiak on Jan. 24. Konig made six 3-pointers, 11 2-pointers and seven free throws as she broke Kristi Kingma’s school single-game scoring record. Subsequent record checking uncovered only one greater scoring performance in county girls basketball history.

Monroe’s Blake Rybar rushes during a football practice in 2019 at Monroe High School. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Monroe’s Blake Rybar rushes during a football practice in 2019 at Monroe High School. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

9) Wesco unveils its own startup plan

The pandemic has played havoc with high school sports, as the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) has continually been forced to push back start dates because of surges in case counts. On Dec. 18 Wesco’s athletic directors announced their own plan for the 2020-21 school year, devising a three-season plan that deviates from the WIAA’s schedule. Wesco’s first competitions are scheduled to take place on March 1, which is later than the WIAA’s early-February start date, and fall sports are being played first while the WIAA is starting with winter sports.

Team USA cheers on Serena Williams from their seats during a Fed Cup match against Latvia on Feb. 7, 2020, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Team USA cheers on Serena Williams from their seats during a Fed Cup match against Latvia on Feb. 7, 2020, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

8) The Fed Cup arrives in Everett

The Fed Cup, women’s tennis’ premier international team competition, came to Everett’s Angel of the Winds Arena on Feb. 7-8 when the United States hosted Latvia in a Fed Cup Qualifier. Multiple Fed Cup stories generated big viewership, including the arrival of superstar American Serena Williams and the U.S.’s dramatic final-day victory in the fifth-and-deciding match. However, the story that generated the most views was the primer that explained all the whos, whats, wheres and whens about the Fed Cup.

Washington quarterback Jacob Eason warms up before a game against Colorado on Nov. 23, 2019, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Washington quarterback Jacob Eason warms up before a game against Colorado on Nov. 23, 2019, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

7) Four locals eye the NFL draft

This year’s NFL draft took place virtually on April 23-25, and there was a chance of it having a strong Snohomish County flavor. Four different graduates of county high schools were prospective selections: Lake Stevens grad Jacob Eason, Marysville Pilchuck alums Jake Luton and Austin Joyner, and Glacier Peak product Mosese Fifita. In advance of the draft we profiled the four players, as well as their chances of being selected.

Wes Plate runs along Federal Avenue on Dec. 20, 2020 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Wes Plate runs along Federal Avenue on Dec. 20, 2020 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

6) Local ultramarathoner navigates all Everett’s streets

When the pandemic first hit in March, Marysville native and new Everett resident Wes Plate, looking for ways to train for ultramarathons under the restrictions put in place to slow the spread of coronavirus, got the idea of trying to run every street in the City of Everett. Nine months, more than 500 miles and uncountable revelations later, Plate completed his task when he navigated his final street — Walter Hall Park Road — on Dec. 22 to finish a remarkable project.

Meadowdale’s Kate Houghton throws a pitch during a game against Marysville Pilchuck in 2019 at Meadowdale High School in Lynnwood. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Meadowdale’s Kate Houghton throws a pitch during a game against Marysville Pilchuck in 2019 at Meadowdale High School in Lynnwood. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

5) Uncertainty over high school spring sports

When the coronavirus first hit in March, no one knew how high school sports would be affected. By the second week of March some high schools were beginning to postpone spring sporting events, while others had yet to take any measures. But the overarching feeling among area athletic directors was one of uncertainty over what the future held, as well as the need to be able to adapt to a changing situation.

Funko Field at Everett Memorial Stadium is home of the Everett AquaSox. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Funko Field at Everett Memorial Stadium is home of the Everett AquaSox. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

4) Major changes coming to AquaSox baseball

Throughout summer and fall the fate of the Northwest League’s Everett AquaSox remained in limbo, and not just because of the pandemic. Major League Baseball’s successful attempt to take over administration of Minor League Baseball and contract the number of affiliated minor-league teams resulted in Everett receiving an invitation on Dec. 9 to remain a Seattle Mariners affiliate, as well as jump from the Short Season-A level to the High-A level — along with the resulting benefits and complications.

The forecast for salmon runs in 2020 was bleak. (Mike Benbow photo)

The forecast for salmon runs in 2020 was bleak. (Mike Benbow photo)

3) Dismal forecasts for salmon runs

In March the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife issued its forecast for the state’s 2020 salmon runs, and it wasn’t pretty. In 2019 there were signs that gave hope for the 2020 fishing season. However, the number of migrating juvenile salmon and returning adults was far below projections, leading to pessimism regarding the commercial and recreational fishing seasons, as well as probable restrictions on fishing.

Cashmere’s Hailey Van Lith shoots a free throw during a game against King’s on Jan. 25, 2020, in Shoreline. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Cashmere’s Hailey Van Lith shoots a free throw during a game against King’s on Jan. 25, 2020, in Shoreline. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

2) Hailey Van Lith comes to King’s

On the schedule it looked like a nondescript non-conference girls basketball game between 1A schools. In reality it was the chance for locals to see a Washington high school legend in action. Cashmere’s Hailey Van Lith, a top-10 national recruit and one of the best high school girls basketball players in state history, racked up 39 points as Cashmere beat King’s 65-44 on Jan. 25. The fact the game came one day before the tragic death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, with whom Van Lith trained, turned it into a poignant moment.

Washington defensive back and former Marysville Pilchuck standout Austin Joyner is escorted off the field after an injury during a game against Rutgers on Sept. 3, 2016, at Husky Stadium in Seattle. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Washington defensive back and former Marysville Pilchuck standout Austin Joyner is escorted off the field after an injury during a game against Rutgers on Sept. 3, 2016, at Husky Stadium in Seattle. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

1) Austin Joyner to take a shot at the NFL

Austin Joyner is one of the best football players ever produced by Snohomish County. But the Marysville Pilchuck High School graduate’s collegiate career as a cornerback at the University of Washington was cut short when he was forced into retirement by repeated concussions. However, after more than a year out of the game, Joyner announced in early January his intention to make himself available for the NFL draft, thus beginning the journey in his return to football.

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