Top left: Kraken fans line up for the team’s exhibition game in Everett on Oct. 1. Top right: Lake Stevens resident Austin Johnson stretches while preparing for a 24-hour run to bring awareness to suicide prevention on Feb. 20. Bottom left: Edmonds native and Gonzaga star Corey Kispert celebrates during an NCAA Tournament game on April 3. Bottom right: Lake Stevens defenders tackle an Eastlake ball-carrier during a playoff game on Nov. 27. (Herald file photos)

Top left: Kraken fans line up for the team’s exhibition game in Everett on Oct. 1. Top right: Lake Stevens resident Austin Johnson stretches while preparing for a 24-hour run to bring awareness to suicide prevention on Feb. 20. Bottom left: Edmonds native and Gonzaga star Corey Kispert celebrates during an NCAA Tournament game on April 3. Bottom right: Lake Stevens defenders tackle an Eastlake ball-carrier during a playoff game on Nov. 27. (Herald file photos)

Top 10 most-read sports stories of 2021

Looking back at a year that saw that return of high school sports and a number of locals making big news.

In 2021 the sporting world got back to something resembling normal after 2020 was largely wiped out because of the coronavirus pandemic. But while that meant there were significantly more stories about actual sporting events than the previous year, the effects of the pandemic didn’t fade completely from the headlines. Here’s a look at The Herald’s top 10 sports stories of 2021, as determined by the number of web hits:

10. Amy-Eloise (Neale) Markovc makes it to the Olympics (July 20)

Glacier Peak High School graduate Amy-Eloise (Neale) Markovc had quite the adventure in qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics. Markovc, who runs for Great Britain, found herself at the center of a qualifying controversy in the women’s 5,000 meters at the British Athletics Championships, all based around the placement of cones in a race she’d run a month earlier. After two days stuck in purgatory, she finally received the news that she’d been selected to go to Tokyo, thus fulfilling a childhood dream. Markovc went on to finish 20th at the Olympics.

9. Investigators hired to look into alleged racist remarks at prep basketball game (May 26)

A high school girls basketball game between Mariner and Lakewood, held at Lakewood High School on May 20, ended prematurely when Marauders coach Reggie Davis removed his team from the court because of alleged racist remarks from the Lakewood crowd directed at Mariner’s Black players. The Lakewood and Mukilteo school districts agreed to hire the law firm Simmons Sweeney Smith to investigate the claims. The investigation later concluded that Mariner players were the target of racially offensive comments.

8. Former Silvertip revealed as victim in NHL sex assault probe (Oct. 30)

For months the NHL was embroiled in a scandal involving two lawsuits alleging sexual abuse of players by former Chicago Blackhawks video coach Brad Aldrich. In October one of the players revealed himself as former Everett Silvertips star Kyle Beach. Beach, who played in Everett from 2005-09, alleged the incident occurred in May of 2010 while Beach was a call-up during Chicago’s run to the Stanley Cup. Investigators concluded Beach was the victim of abuse and that the team knew about it, but failed to act on the information so as not to cause a distraction during the playoffs.

7. Local man runs 24 hours straight as suicide-prevention fundraiser (Feb. 17)

Lake Stevens resident Austin Johnson has battled depression since he was a child growing up in Brier. The 26-year-old discovered running was an effective coping mechanism. Therefore, on Feb. 20 he set out to run for 24 hours straight to raise funds and awareness for suicide prevention and mental health. Johnson ended up covering more than 80 miles during his run and raising more than $23,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

6. 91-6: When is a high school sports blowout over the line? (Nov. 29)

On Oct. 16 the Lake Stevens High School football team defeated Jackson 91-6, setting off a firestorm on social media about sportsmanship in scholastic athletics. Lopsided scores are an issue across the spectrum of high school sports, with the gap between the haves and the have-nots seeming to be widening. Therefore, The Herald delved into the complexities of the issue, weighing the need to allow players to compete versus the need to not embarrass the opponent, as well as examining the way coaches try to navigate those situations.

5. Lake Stevens football marches to state championship game (Dec. 4)

Lake Stevens High School football was a big story throughout the fall as the Vikings emerged as one of the best teams in the state, with game stories, previews and features all being well read on The Herald’s website. The big game arrived on Dec. 4, when the Vikings faced Graham-Kapowsin for the Class 4A state championship. Unfortunately, Lake Stevens’ quest for the first football state championship in school history came up just short as the Vikings fell 44-7 to the Eagles in the title tilt.

4. The NHL’s Seattle Kraken come to Everett (Oct. 1)

On Oct. 1 Everett received a first-hand look at the NHL’s newest team. The expansion Seattle Kraken are in the midst of their inaugural season, and their permanent home Climate Pledge Arena was not ready in time for the preseason. Therefore, the Kraken played their home preseason games at various WHL buildings in Washington, including a contest against the Edmonton Oilers at Angel of the Winds Arena. The Herald was on hand to provide live updates throughout the day, showing how the community reacted to the occasion.

3. Everett mourns the loss of longtime athletic director (April 14)

For 17 years Robert Polk served as the Everett School District’s director of activities and athletics, performing his duties with diligence and grace the entire time. Therefore, it was a shock and a major blow to the local sporting community when Polk passed away unexpectedly at the age of 54. Colleagues and coaches reminisced about Polk’s time with the district and the ways he impacted the students’ experiences. The district and the Everett Public Schools Foundation created a scholarship in Polk’s honor.

2. Corey Kispert rises to national basketball prominence (July 29)

King’s High School graduate and Edmonds native Corey Kispert has always been a basketball standout. However, the 2020-21 college basketball season saw Kispert turn himself into a national household name, as the 6-foot-7 small forward led Gonzaga to the national championship game and one victory away from an undefeated season. We chronicled Kispert’s path, in which his work ethic helped him develop from a high school gym rat into an All-American. Kispert went on to be selected 15th overall in the NBA draft by the Washington Wizards.

1. High school football is not immune from the pandemic (Aug. 26)

After an abridged 2020-21 high school sports season was condensed into four months because of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2021-22 season resumed a normal schedule, with football returning to the fall. However, there was an early signal that bumps remained in the road, as Lake Stevens’ football team was forced to suspend activities and cancel its first two games after two players tested positive for COVID-19. This became a running theme through the season, as most weeks saw at least one game involving a local team canceled because of COVID-19 protocols.

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