Knights honor senior leaders

  • Charlie Laughtland<br>Enterprise writer
  • Friday, February 29, 2008 11:31am

Steven Miller, Breyanne Nordtvedt and David Howell etched their place in the King’s community with their warmhearted personalities and competitive spirit.

The recent graduates balanced successful athletic careers with an assortment of extracurricular activities and were widely regarded as campus leaders.

In recognition of their commitment to excellence and Christ-like qualities on and off the field, the three were presented with year-end awards from the private school’s athletics department.

As an underclassman, Miller was a role player on a deep and talented King’s cross country team that captured three consecutive state championships.

When the exit of two former state meet winners created the need for a new lead runner, Miller calmly surged to the front of the pack.

“He was a quiet kid who kind of toiled in the shadows. He was a few steps behind some other guys, but he kept his head down and kept doing the work and he turned out to be just as good as any of them,” King’s cross country coach Rod Wilcox said.

“Steven was one of my favorite kids to work with because he knew that if he kept at it and kept working, it would pay off in the long run.”

Though he assumed the top spot on the King’s ladder at the beginning of the 2003 season, Miller’s true breakout race didn’t come until state. His out-of-nowhere third-place finish last November helped the Knights take second to Charles Wright Academy.

“I didn’t think that was going to happen. It was really unexpected,” said Miller, who received the school’s Linda Montgomery scholar-athlete award.

Miller covered the 3.1 miles at Pasco’s Sun Willows Golf Course in 16:33, a 51-second improvement from his 12th-place time a year earlier. Looking back seven months later, he still considers it the best performance of his high school career.

“I guess you could say I ran a perfect race,” Miller said. “I ran the race Rod had always been telling me about, not busting out too hard at the start and pushing it through the second mile. That’s what I did.

“Those guys that probably should have beat me went out too hard and I caught them during the second mile. I didn’t let off, I kept pushing it and pushing it. I found myself in third all of a sudden and kept telling myself to hold on.”

More racing strategy came into play during track season, as Miller outkicked his opposition to clock personal-best times of 4:27.83 in the mile and 9:53.06 in the two-mile at the Tri-district championships. He went on to score points in both events at state.

“Coming into this season I set my goals high and I got pretty close to them,” said Miller, an Eagle Scout who took a full slate of honors classes and graduated with a 3.83 grade-point average.

Over the years, a number of King’s runners have gone on to compete at the college level. For many, the sport came naturally.

Miller had to work at it. Through dedication and perseverance he landed an invitation to join the cross country and track teams at Seattle Pacific University, where he plans to study science and eventually pursue orthodontics.

“Steven was an average runner who turned himself into a great runner,” Wilcox said.

Miller agreed he’s a late bloomer. It wasn’t until he posted some impressive marks on the Presidential Fitness Test in elementary school that running became part of his routine.

“A lot of schools have kids with a lot of talent that come in and run big times,” he said. “I came in average or so, but over six years of sticking with it and training I went from average to pretty respectable.”

And respected. From now on, when his runners need a dose of motivation, Wilcox will relay the story of Miller’s success.

“He didn’t win many races in his high school career,” Wilcox said. “But it wasn’t about wins and losses, it was about getting better. And Steven got a lot better.”Four titles in four years.

Breyanne Nordtvedt’s sparkling track and field resume certainly speaks for itself. Due in large part to her efforts, the Knights placed first at the past four state meets.

Only two King’s girls accumulated more points at state in their track careers than Nordtvedt, this year’s Ruth Windquist female athlete award honoree.

Nordtvedt reached the 100-meter hurdles finals all four years and placed in the top three in 2001, ‘02 and ‘04. She was part of four 1,600-meter relay teams that finished no lower than sixth.

“It’s not easy for kids to make it to state four times,” King’s track coach Daunte Gouge said. “She consistently got there in multiple events and she was in contention for state titles every year.”

Sophomore year proved to be the most lucrative for Nordtvedt. She won the triple jump, took second in both the 100 and 300 hurdles and guided the 1,600 relay team to a fourth-place finish.

Nordtvedt salvaged an injury-riddled junior season with three top-five placings at state and qualified for the finals in both hurdles races and the 1,600 relay at this year’s meet.

“Track season is always fun, but then state comes and we have the most awesome talks and devotions,” Nordtvedt said. “Not only is it great competition with the other teams, but we make it fun. It’s not all about winning.”

For Nordtvedt, it’s about the hard work and behind-the-scenes hijinx that goes into building and maintaining a successful program. The team dinners, trips and other bonding rituals that unite players and coaches.

One of her fondest sports-related memories is of the girls basketball team’s adventures in Southern California during a holiday tournament two years ago. The Knights used their vacation time to forge a connection on and off the floor that stuck with them for the remainder of the season.

“It’s cool to see a team come together like that,” said Nordtvedt, who graduated with 11 varsity letters in track, basketball and soccer.

Because King’s doesn’t offer soccer, Nordtvedt played for Lynnwood High School. Though victories didn’t come as easily for the Royals as they did for the King’s basketball and track teams, Nordtvedt felt the program made significant improvements each season.

“Our team was always the underdog team,” Nordtvedt said. “People never expected anything from us. We came out and started to surprise teams the past couple years. It took a lot of teamwork.”

Lynnwood made its first playoff appearance in school history last fall and Nordtvedt earned second-team, all-Western Conference South Division honors at midfielder. As an odd twist, she regularly found herself in direct competition with several of her King’s classmates who play soccer for rival schools.

“It’s a change of pace seeing your teammates on other teams,” Nordtvedt said. “I know there’s a lot of soccer talent that goes (to King’s).”

Nordtvedt’s athletic acumen is surpassed only by her musical flair. She has played the piano for 14 years, takes weekly voice lessons and is part of the school’s Living Faith ensemble.

A few months ago, Nordtvedt and her sister Brittany established a group called Eleventh Hour. The sisters supply lead vocals for the all-Christian band and share the songwriting duties.

“We combine multiple sounds,” Nordtvedt said. “It’s more on the pop, hip-hop end, but we like all sorts of music so we have a lot of other sounds mixed in.”

Nordtvedt plans to major in music technology at Seattle Pacific with a concentration in producing and recording. But she doesn’t want to phase athletics out of her life completely.

“Part of me wants to keep playing sports and part of me wants to really focus on the music end of things and do sports on the side,” Nordtvedt said.

As valuable as she was as a competitor, Nordtvedt was also looked at as a spiritual leader by her teammates and coaches. She often took it upon herself to gather athletes from competing teams for a postrace prayer.

“She was a gifted athlete, but we’re going to miss her even more as a person,” Gouge said. “I’d like to have her around for another four years. She’s such a genuinely sweet person, you just have to like her.” If David Howell had an alter ego, the name on the back of his jersey would read Steady Eddie.

The three-sport standout and senior class president seemed to be immune to the ups and downs that impact teams as a season wears on. Coaches describe Howell, the John Clark male athlete award recipient, as a reliable contributor and a positive influence on his teammates.

“David didn’t have good days and bad days. He was the picture of consistency,” said Gouge, who coached Howell in football and track.

At 6-foot-1, 170 pounds, Howell was smaller than the typical tight end or defensive end. Despite his modest frame, he received all-Chinook League honors on both sides of the ball.

“Most people probably underestimated him because of his size. But he’s quick and he plays smart,” Gouge said. “He’d wait for his blocker to mess up and he’d take advantage.”

Howell, who will head to Whitworth College in the fall, put those same smarts to use on the basketball court as well.

“He probably learned the offense faster than anyone else and he made the least mental mistakes. He’s so bright,” King’s basketball coach Marv Morris said. “You could always count on David to be in the right place on the floor at the right time.”

When the Knights lost their leading rebounder and second-leading scorer during the Tri-district tournament, one of the players Morris looked to for a boost was Howell.

The small forward’s response didn’t exactly set the stat sheet on fire, but his presence helped King’s keep its composure en route to its first district championship since 1983.

“He came in and gave us some great minutes,” Morris said. “He stepped up and became one of the first guys off the bench.”

Howell impressed his coaches with his consistent play and won over his teammates with his passion.

“He was one of the stalwarts of our team because he was so dependable. He was a real team guy and extremely unselfish,” Morris said. “He was very much a motivator of the other guys. He was always encouraging his teammates.”

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