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Soaring Eagles tourney off to good start

by IAN BIVONA
Sports Reporter | July 10, 2024 1:00 AM

SOAP LAKE — The Soaring Eagles 3-V-3 Basketball Tournament was held on the court at Smokiam Park on Saturday, hosted by the Soap Lake Prevention Coalition with assistance from various other groups around the area.

“It was the first year that we’ve held it, and it was quite a success,” SLPC Coordinator Ryan Boldman said. 

In addition to putting on a fun tournament for youth aged 13-19, the goal of the tournament was to bring awareness to the dangers of vaping. Items like basketballs, wristbands, towels, markers and journals were handed out with anti-drug messaging and featured the Choose You campaign, a state-wide vaping and commercial prevention campaign organized by the Washington State Department of Health.

“The reason we chose vaping, it stems from local data suggesting that over three-quarters of our youth have never engaged in vaping nicotine or cannabis, but the average age for those who do is around 11 or 12 years old,” Boldman said. “They start very early, and there’s also evidence that suggests that both youth and adults are not as well informed as they could be about the dangers of vaping.”

Six teams competed in the tournament, held Saturday morning at Smokiam Park in Soap Lake. The eventual champion was the Weasels, who narrowly defeated Elma. The winning team received a chainsaw-carved trophy of an eagle.

“20-19 was the final score — they were neck-and-neck,” Boldman said. 

Preparation for the tournament began in late April, according to Boldman.

“One of the things that came up when we asked the community what would you like to see in the community, what would you want for the youth to be able to participate in, and one of the things that kept coming up was a basketball tournament,” Boldman said. 

That interest in a basketball tournament stemmed from recent renovations to the basketball court at Smokiam Park.

“The Coalition got together and said, ‘Let’s try and make an annual event there and put a prevention awareness spin on it,’” Boldman said. “It’s more than just a game for us, it’s a significant step in a broader strategy that strengthens youth attachment to the community and raises awareness about the dangers of youth vaping.”

Helping put on the tournament were the Soap Lake Chamber of Commerce, the Soap Lake School District, McKay Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center, the Grant County Health District, the Department of Behavioral Health and Recovery, Columbia Basin Hospital and numerous volunteers from around the community.

“They really rallied around this initiative, and we had a lot of participants,” Boldman said. “A lot of the youth said this was really fun.”

The SLPC will discuss ways to improve upon the tournament at its next meeting, to be held July 30 at 5 p.m. at the Soap Lake Community & Senior Center.

“It’s an open meeting, and we’re inviting people that are excited about this event to come and talk about what went well and what can we do better next time?” Boldman said. “How can we expand this and help this to grow?”

Ian Bivona may be reached at ibivona@columbiabasinherald.com.

    The winning team, the Weasels, received a chainsaw-carved statue of an eagle as the trophy.
 
 
    Recent renovations to the basketball at Smokiam Park in Soap Lake sparked interest in hosting a basketball tournament there, Soap Lake Prevention Coalition Coordinator Ryan Boldman said.