Spring sports are officially over, the seniors at Gig Harbor and Peninsula high schools have graduated, and summer is nearly here. Before we move on completely, here’s a look at the best of spring sports in 2014, as decided by myself. With so many athletes competing in the spring, none of these choices were easy and great student-athletes are inevitably left out. Here are my picks:
Best freshman: Alana Ponce, Gig Harbor high school girls water polo.
With three seconds to go in the first half of the state championship match against Curtis, Ponce launched the ball from half pool and it somehow found the back of the net. The absurd shot tied the game at half, giving the Tides all the momentum as they exploded in the second half to claim the title.
Ponce’s shot paralleled her impact on the team: She was an instant spark for the Tides as soon as she walked in the Gig Harbor doors. Ponce proved to be an apt scoring mate for her sister, senior Julia, who earned the state tournament’s offensive MVP honors. Gig Harbor head coach Mike Kelly awarded Ponce with the “Newcomer of the Year” award at the team’s banquet.
Best seniors: Wolfgang Beck, Logan Carroll, Mahmoud Moussa: Gig Harbor track; Noah Hanks, Peninsula soccer.
Carroll, Beck and Moussa will always be remembered for the cross country national title they brought the school in the fall. All three also qualified for both the Class 4A 1,600 and 3,200-meter races in the spring — along with junior Tristan Peloquin — giving the Tides a remarkable presence in both events.
Hanks was the pulse of the Peninsula attack all season long, providing a physical, skilled presence up top that gave the Seahawks their first playoff berth under second-year head coach Brian Lawson. The highlight of the season came in the double overtime period on the road against Decatur. In the final seconds of the game, Hanks sent the ball in on a beautiful chip shot over the goalie’s head to win the game, 3-2.
Best teams: Gig Harbor girls water polo, boys soccer.
The Gig Harbor girls water polo team, although not affiliated with the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, crushed Curtis in the state title game, 15-8, to cap off another spectacular season. The Tides have now won four out of the last five state titles.
The boys soccer team won the Class 4A Narrows title, amassing a 10-1-1 league record. The Tides also won a thrilling game against Issaquah to reach the state quarterfinals, before being knocked out by Kentwood in the semis.
Best coach: Todd Northstrom, Gig Harbor HIGH SCHOOL boys soccer.
Northstrom was blessed with inheriting a talented roster, but talent alone doesn’t win games. The Tides cruised through the Narrows League with a strong junior class, scoring 51 goals and only allowing 14 in league contests. Northstrom preaches practicing with a purpose and has allowed a team loaded with juniors to gel together. They’ll be back next year.
Best athletes: Ben Smith, Peninsula; Brenna Peloquin, Gig Harbor.
Peninsula senior Ben Smith set a personal record in the javelin throw at the Class 3A state track and field meet with a distance of 184 feet, 8 inches. Smith’s throw was good enough for second place in state. Smith was born with a fingerless left hand, making his athletic achievements even more impressive. He was joined by junior and friend Austin Kilcup on the state podium. Kilcup took seventh.
Gig Harbor junior Brenna Peloquin won the Class 4A state title in the 3,200-meter race with a time of 10 minutes, 43.12 seconds, blasting the school record in the process. Peloquin executed her strategy perfectly: hang with the pack for most of the race, and break away when the opportunity arose. Peloquin will look to repeat next year.
My favorite moment to cover as a sports reporter.
With so many spring teams to cover, I’m bound to miss a lot of great moments throughout the season. Regardless, my favorite moment of the season was Gig Harbor’s state soccer win over Issaquah. The game was tied 0-0 heading into the final minute of double overtime. If no one scored, the game would head into penalty kicks. Gig Harbor junior Ike Northstrom got into an advantageous scoring position and was fouled in the box, giving the Tides a penalty kick. Head coach Todd Northstrom picked junior Tanner Stepp to take the shot.
It’s my job and responsibility to remain neutral as a journalist, and I do. But I only cover two schools, and naturally, by covering and interacting with them so much, I feel a certain attachment to many of the teams. When Stepp walked up to take that shot, I felt myself rooting for him. He calmly knocked it in, giving the Tides the win.
There are few things in high school sports that compare to state soccer. The stakes are high and there are no ties. One goal can change everything, as it did there. The celebration was fun to watch — it was pure, uninhibited joy. Moments like those are why I love sports.
Jon Manley: 253-358-4151 firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @gateway_jon