Island sports year in review for 2006: Tragedy, tenacity and triumph

Islanders Murray Longbotham pushes for the finish in the 100-yard Butterfly event versus Issaquah at Mary Wayte Pool on Mercer Islandl ast Tuesday. -
Islanders Murray Longbotham pushes for the finish in the 100-yard Butterfly event versus Issaquah at Mary Wayte Pool on Mercer Islandl ast Tuesday.
— image credit:

The 2006 calendar year on Mercer Island was one of the more unusual sports years in recent memory. At the high school, the name Mahony meant greatness, an Islander went pro, two teams shocked the state by making it to the championship finals, and Island golf fans said good-bye to a good friend and coach. Other notable Island happenings included Mercer Island residents playing in the Super Bowl, an MIHS graduate going pro and the Rockers winning another title.

Golf wins one for coach

In one of the most dramatic state title victories in recent memory, Mercer Island High School golfers Shawn Tonkin, Jason Tolkin and Paul Mitzel teamed to win state for their ailing former head coach Gary Adrian. With little advanced notice, new boys golf coach Tyson Peters stepped in for Adrian and helped the team win the state title for the first time in the school’s history. All three MIHS golfers placed in the top 20 individually during the meet. Adrian died during the autumn from respiratory complications.

The Mercer Island girls golf team also made a strong showing at state by taking sixth overall.

Boys basketball struggles

The year began in turmoil for one of the proudest high school programs in the state. The boys basketball team, struggling to find direction, was just 3-7 at the half-way point of the season during January. Although the team avoided its first losing in-league record (7-7) during the Ed Pepple era (39 years), it could not avoid it over all at 11-13.

A former Islander basketball great, Quin Snyder, resigned as the mens’ basketball head coach at the University of Missouri as a result of ongoing NCAA investigations. No wrongdoing was ever found against the coach who finished with a 126-91 record as the Tiger’s head coach.

Ingram fuels Islander gymnastics’ run

The Mercer Island gymnastics team came 2.525 points away from the team’s first state title following a dominating season that saw the squad win the 3A KingCo regular season, meet and district titles. The dynamic run was fueled by Kelsey Ingram who tied for ninth overall at state and was the KingCo and district meet all-around champion.

The Mercer Island volleyball team also played at state in 2006. It was the third consecutive year the team has qualified for the season-ending tournament, and the Islanders placed eighth overall.

MI boys swim

takes state title

An influx of highly talented freshmen in 2006 pushed the boys swim team to the state title. No one could come close to Mercer Island as it finished the season undefeated and won the state title by 63 points over rival Bellevue. Freshman Beau Riebe stepped up at state by taking second overall in diving, while senior Tad Homchick finished second in state in the 50 and 100 freestyle events.

During the summer, the Mercerwood Shore Club won the Midlakes summer swim league title for the third consecutive year and the Rockers battled their way to the over-55 Senior Softball championship.

Seahawks led by Islanders win NFC title

The Seattle Seahawks, with a heavy Island influence, won the NFC title but lost in a heartbreaking Super Bowl game to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Island resident and team owner, Paul Allen, raised the 12th Man Flag during the NFC title game and head coach Mike Holmgren made the trip to the Super Bowl for the third time in his career. The team’s starting fullback and longest tenured Seahawk, Mac Strong, is also an Island resident.

Former Mercer Island High School running back and University of Southern California fullback David Kirtman was drafted in the fourth round of the NFL college dispersal draft by the Seattle Seahawks during spring 2006.

What a bunch of Mahony

During the spring the Mercer Island boys lacrosse team came into the season with high expectations. The team held a 37 game win streak in Washington state and back-to-back state titles. But the Islanders stumbled from the start losing two of their first three games. The team recovered and made a run back to the state finals. The team’s senior leader Kevin Mahony came up big during the final seconds of the game, scoring his only goal of the contest to lift the Islanders to their third consecutive state championship over Issaquah.

Kevin’s younger brother Greg, who helped lead the lacrosse team to the state title, made his biggest impact on the gridiron. Greg Mahony was named to the second team all KingCo roster as a running back for the Islander football team. The younger Mahony set numerous records in the process including a dominant game against Seattle Prep which included school records for yards in a game (351), most touchdowns in a game (6), most points in one game (41) and all purpose yards in a game (367).

Don Papasedero was also honored as the Washington state coaches association assistant football coach of the year.

Mount Baker

powered by Islanders

The Mount Baker Varsity Mens 8, powered by Mercer Islanders James Olson, Dane Robbins and Erik Buckmiller, took the Bronze Medal at the United States Rowing National Youth Championships held on Harsha Lake near Cincinnati, Ohio, June 9. Islander Jesse Johnson was a part of a national Mens’ Eight team that took fifth place during the Mens’ 23-and-under 2006 World Crew championships last weekend in Hazewinkel, Belgium.

Coaching carousel

One of the most persistent sports stories during 2006 was the turnover in the high school head coaching ranks. Doug Williams (baseball), Lacey Smale (softball), Jeff Lowell (girls water polo), Tim Reed (boys water polo), Brian Mazza (girls soccer), Paul Jackson (wrestling) and Adrian all left their posts at the high school for various reasons.

Water polo earns

number eight

The Mercer Island girls water polo team earned its eighth state title in May, despite a new coach and a big threat by Bainbridge Island. The 10-6 win during the finals was punctuated by a first team selection honor for Danielle Welch. The senior was eventually named female athlete of the year for the MIHS school year. The male athlete of the year was Devin Lewis (basketball, track and football).

The boys water polo team also won state following a head coaching change. Former MIHS girls water polo player Lauren Ayers led the boys team to the title in her first year at the helm.

Boys tennis ties

for best in state

Chris Bailey and the doubles team of Chris Winterbauer and Trevor Fulp tied Seattle Prep for the state title during the spring. Fulp and Winterbauer finished as the third best team in state, while Bailey took fourth in singles action.

Boys soccer takes third

Chuck Vallieres and Alex Haas led the Mercer Island boys soccer team placed third overall during the state tournament in the spring of 2006. The team won the KingCo title for the third time in five years during the regular season.

During the fall, the girls soccer team struggled with a new system, a new coach and very few seniors on its roster. Despite numerous injuries and setbacks the team qualified for the playoffs but eventually lost to Bellevue.

Baseball breaks curse, loses coach

Former Islander baseball standout Sean White was traded to the Seattle Mariners in December.

The Mercer Island baseball team made the playoffs for the first time since 1998. After the season ended, head coach Doug Williams promptly resigned due to pressure concerning his involvement with a summer league team. Williams was the program’s seventh coach in 12 years.

Creighton Laughary led the Mercer Island wrestling team for the first time in 2006. The six-year assistant coach took the helm from coach Paul Jackson, who guided players here for three decades, and took four wrestlers to the state meet.

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