Sports

Coaching vacancies filled - Mercer Island High School softball and wrestling have new leadership

By Matt Phelps

Three positions came open in Mercer Island High School's athletic department at the end of the 2004-05 school year last week.

Two of the three positions, softball and wrestling head coach, were filled this week by the high school. One of the coaches has been at the high school for five years as a teacher and assistant. The other is an unknown to the Mercer Island community, coming from California.

Creighton Laughary's selection as new wrestling head coach came as a surprise to no one within the program. The position came open with the retirement of 27-year wrestling head coach Paul Jackson. Laughary was one of the team's assistant coaches last season and Jackson's choice to succeed him as the head of the program.

``I am excited that he is the person to pursue this position,'' said Mercer Island High School athletic director Craig Olson. ``With a young family, there was some question of whether he would have enough time. But I am very, very pleased.''

Laughary and his wife Laura, who were married in the summer of 2002, had their first child during the 2004-2005 wrestling season. Laughary teaches English at the high school. His five years with the school gives Laughary a lot of background on the program and the community.

The new coach attended high school at Shadle Park and was a three-year letter winner in wrestling. He attended Seattle University and graduated in 1996.

Jackson said that he intends to keep a low profile while Laughary takes control of the program, however, he will be around to help his successor if he needs it. Part of Jackson's decision to retire came from his desire for Laughary to take over the program.

The new coach was not available for comment.

Laughary was a big part of the past two seasons, as the Islanders won back-to-back 3A KingCo wrestling titles and sent multiple athletes on into the post season.

Softball

The Mercer Island High School Fast-pitch Softball program has fallen on hard times during the past two years. A total of just five wins, two in league play, during that time has made the Islanders co-cellar dwellers of 3A KingCo with Interlake.

A young coach from California, Lacey Smale, will take over a program with a bright future and dismal past. Smale graduated from Santa Clara University in California, where she was a scholarship athlete. Her softball career at the college level was shortened by injury. Smale also played on a prestigious Premier Softball Club in Upland California. Coaching the sport has become her life as she has been a private softball instructor since leaving the field.

``It happened really quick,'' said Olson of the hiring process. ``She has a great deal of softball experience.''

Smale moved to Redmond on June 21 and interviewed for the coaching position Thursday morning, the same day Olson made his decision.

``She is absolutely fabulous to work with,'' said Olson. ``She is wonderful to deal with and the choice was easy.''

Smale will have work to do, but a lot of young talent to do it with. Former head coach Dave Gertlar resigned after a dismal year that saw the team win just one league game against Interlake. The team began the season down two strikes as just one senior returned to the team. The result was a lot of inexperienced varsity sophomores and freshmen being thrown into the toughest conference in the state.

One advantage that Smale will have is three up-and-coming pitchers, a situation new to Mercer Island.

The softball program had two of its best seasons under Gertlar, but has never finished a year over .500. Mercer Island softball programs for girls younger than high school age have long been scarce on the Island.

The third coaching position, for girls water polo, was recently vacated by seven-year head coach Jeff Lowell and has yet to be filled.

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