Friday, June 14, 2024

Talented on the field, and in the classroom

Sports Reporter | May 17, 2024 2:30 AM

COULEE CITY — The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association announced its academic state champions for the spring sports season Tuesday, with the Almira/Coulee-Hartline baseball and softball teams both posting the highest team average GPA in each sport.

“They take a lot of pride in it, whether it’s athletics or academics, and I think a title like that is a sign of that,” ACH Athletic Director Brandon Walsh said. “They’re hard-working kids and they’re competitive. They want to do well on the field and in the classroom, and it shows when they earn that kind of honor.”

The Warrior softball team, made up of 17 players, posted a team GPA of 3.569 this season.

“A lot of these girls only do softball and school, but some of them are doing FBLA, and they do a really good job at juggling it all,” ACH softball Head Coach Faye Butler said. “When they are in the event they’re in, they give it their 100%.”

Butler credited the team’s seniors for setting a strong example for the younger players on the team; the Warriors have seven seniors on the roster and nine underclassmen.

“They are definitely the leaders in that – my seniors are definitely academically doing great, so by their example, they are leading through that,” Butler said.

Not only have the Warriors been successful in the classroom, but they also finished second in the Northeast 1B league during the regular season and recently won a district title.

“It’s really neat that these girls can work so hard on the field, and all the commitment that it takes to be a good team, but also it’s really cool that they are working hard in their academics,” Butler said. “It’s really neat to see the well-roundedness of it all.”

For the ACH baseball team, the average GPA for the 16 Warriors on the team was 3.655.

“A couple of our upperclassmen take multiple AP classes throughout the day, they just finished their AP testing last week,” said ACH baseball Head Coach Hunter Lee, who also teaches science at the school. “I’m able to see how they are in the classroom every day. We as a school really push academics; athletics too, obviously, because we’re constantly competing for state championships athletically, but we do take pride in our academics.”

Balancing academics and athletics is one thing, but numerous players on both the baseball and softball teams are involved in even more extracurricular activities.

“Our kids are involved in a lot of stuff; it’s not something that’s unfamiliar to them,” Lee said. “I’ve got kids right now that are in our play that’s upcoming next week, so they sometimes have to go to drama after a full day of school and baseball practice. Our kids are involved in a lot, but we’ve got really good community support, and we push them to be well-rounded and not just see themselves as athletes.”

For a handful of Warrior baseball players, this is their third academic state title this season; the ACH football team won the 1B academic title in the fall with a team average GPA of 3.463, and the boys wrestling team won the same award in the winter with a team average GPA of 3.527.

“It’s a credit to just the type of kids they are,” said Walsh, who coaches both the football and wrestling teams. “They’re hardworking, they’re dedicated, they’re competitive in academics and athletics. It’s really neat.”

Upon learning they had once again won an academic title, Lee said he was looking at the banners in the gym dedicated to previous academic state championships; he noted that ACH has had a team win the award every year since 2009, aside from the COVID year when the WIAA did not award academic state champions.

“We found out that we won it a week ago, so I decided to go in there and see how many we have – we’re going to have to add four or five this year between boys and girls sports,” Lee said.

ACH softball (17-3) travels to Spokane for the 1B District 6/7/9 Tournament over the weekend, where four of the eight participating teams will qualify for the 1B State Softball Tournament. The Warriors defeated Inchelium in the Northeast 1B district tournament on May 4 to qualify for the regional tournament, after being swept by the Hornets in the regular season. 

“We came from a double loss, a pretty heavy loss, to Inchelium, and to come back and beat them by one was super exciting,” Butler said. “The girls were super proud of themselves.”

The Warrior baseball team (19-2) begins the 1B State Baseball Tournament with a matchup against Northport on Saturday in Wenatchee. ACH swept Northport in a doubleheader earlier this season.

“It’s something we’re looking forward to again – it’ll be kind of fun to face a familiar foe,” Lee said. “We beat them twice in the regular season which gives us a little bit of confidence, but we’re definitely not taking them lightly … in a single game, where it’s loser-out, it’s a big game for us.”

The WIAA’s Scholastic Awards Program recognizes not only teams and groups with the highest GPA in their classification, but also teams that post GPA averages of 3.0 or higher. Teams with GPA averages of 3-3.49 qualify for the Distinguished Team Award, while teams with an average GPA of 3.5-4.0 qualify for the Outstanding Team Award.

    Almira/Coulee-Hartline’s baseball team posted a team GPA average of 3.655, the highest among 1B baseball teams. The Warriors also won academic championships in 1B football and boys wrestling this school year.